By James O’Connor, Caesar Martini, and Leo K. Moncel
Snidely commented on by Doug Nayler
Here at MONDO there’s a reality that we all try to ignore. It may surprise the reader to learn, but there are deep-set truths about this webzine that we try very hard to disguise from you. We use elaborate verbiage, complex run-on sentences, and ironic commentary (just count the number of snide comments in ellipses on this site) all the time to keep you off the scent, but the truth is that MONDO is basically an 11-year-old. We may have traded in Spiceworld for the Sun 0))) and Boris In the Fishtank collaboration, or Pee Wee’s Playhouse sober for Pee Wee’s Playhouse on mushrooms, but really, we’re all just little kids wanting to play with our action figures. And I, for one, am sick of the sham. And I present to you what I’ve decided to do about it.
It really wasn’t that hard. All I had to do was ask our noble comics and film staff one simple question: “With the most realistically plausible Batman villains now exhausted between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, who do you want to see if there’s a third one?” And I’ll be damned if everyone didn’t expose themselves for me. So desperate was the response that I even have to split it into two parts, a MONDOfilm first. So, with no further ado I present you with MONDO getting dangerously close to a fan-fic site.
The Case for Tony Zucco
So, let me preface this by saying that part of what makes Nolan’s approach to these movies great is the fact that he treats the characters like actual people, with real, believable motivations. And as a result, I think he could probably bring any villain we could think of to the screen pretty easily.
That said, who would I like to see in the next movie? Tony Zucco. Which is really a way of saying I’d like to see Robin, but hear me out. One of the best parts of The Dark Knight, to me, was Scarecrow’s cameo. It showed how Gotham’s status quo was changing, with the freaks slowly taking over the underworld.
So, in the next flick, the mob’s even worse off than it was in Dark Knight. And as a result of their desperation, they’re hitting places they normally wouldn’t. Enter Tony Zucco, an up-and-comer desperate for cash and cred. It’s almost impossible for a regular mobster to survive in Gotham at this point, so he has to hit something small-time at first. Something no one’s going to notice. And hey, the circus just came into town.
One of the main pluses to this approach is that, with the freaks taking over, there’s no real limit on the villains you could drop into it. You could have a cameo from the Riddler leading a new gang, or Firefly running an arson racket, stuff like that. Not only would this approach please fans, it would move the franchise in an organic, logical direction. Plus, by centering the story on a regular mobster, you keep it grounded in reality.
The Case for Bane
The end of The Dark Knight sees Batman’s relationship with the Gotham Police Department more strained than ever, so there’s always the idea of Batman vs the GCPD. But that’s not a very specific threat for Batman to tackle. And with the death of Heath Ledger and the brilliance of his performance, it’s doubtful that they would use the Joker again in the third one, regardless of what happened to his character at the end of The Dark Knight. The idea of using Two Face again is the biggest question mark.
Director Christopher Nolan definitely prefers more realistic Bat-villains in his pictures, so that rules out characters like Clayface or Mr Freeze. Catwoman and Poison Ivy are good characters, but don’t exude a real quality of menace that Nolan seems to like. The Mad Hatter and Victor Szasz are too obscure. The Riddler would be decent, except he shares a few similarities with the Joker but lacks the psychotic terror; so there’s a danger of him being perceived as a Joker-lite.
I think the best choice for the next Batman villain is clearly Bane. Here’s an adversary that can challenge Batman mentally and physically; someone who can outplan him and someone who can definitely out-muscle him. It’s true his strength is mainly fueled by a chemical called “venom” that makes him superhumanly powerful, but that can be dialed down a little, and an exotic steroid cocktail is not so far out of the realm of possibility as to seem out of place in Christopher Nolan’s Bat-universe. [Note: Certainly not any more than Verizon-sponsored sonar... –ed.] Bane is the man who, in the comic books, used strategy to break Batman down mentally and emotionally, and then finally broke him in a very literal, physical sense by snapping his spine. I think this is clearly a character who can pull his own weight and can be an awesome presence on the silver screen.
The Case for the Riddler
The Dark Knight has shown us just how crucial casting is. While role-related burnout has cost Bale his basic human decency and Ledger his life, the general consensus is that it was worth it for those performances. So, it is with great trepidation that I recommend that Sam Rockwell sacrifice his well being, accept the Batman curse, and play The Riddler.
If you don’t know Sam Rockwell, please have a look at Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, one of the most criminally underappreciated movies ever. Rockwell’s dark charisma and showy presence make him a clear choice for a villain. However, it’s the layers in his work that make him worthy of being a Nolan-series Batman villain. Rockwell has the ability to be slippery and nasty, yet simultaneously exude an unsettling wounded quality that’s even evident in this trailer for Choke. Now, if you question whether he’s got the gravitas for a more serious role like this, I direct you back the scene in Confessions where he meets with Hans Keeler (Batman Begins alumnus Rutger Hauer) to talk about their old work.
So, now I’ve argued for Rockwell, why the Riddler? I think Batman is most interesting when challenged by mindfucks. The insinuation with Bruce Wayne/Batman is always that he hasn’t got it all together upstairs, so the more his antagonists can attack him not just physically but psychologically, the more interesting. We need to see Batman pushed to the brink of really losing it.
What would Riddler do? It goes without saying we’re ditching the spandex and donning something a little simpler. Riddler in the new series could be less of a constructor of elaborate puzzles and riddles and more of a liar, a conman, a fraud. I think he could have a public life where he’s worked his way up to Bruce Wayne’s social echelon through charm and deception. Learning Bruce Wayne’s secret (liars always spot their own) would infuriate him as he’d found a man who had contrived the greatest lie imaginable. As we’re going to have Batman as an outcast and fugitive in the next movie, I’d like to see a villain who specializes at villainizing Batman. The Riddler could frame Batman, disgrace Wayne, and run them both through the wringer — all because he couldn’t stand that Wayne was a bigger liar than he was.
-Leo K. Moncel
Well, that’s enough post-Dark Knight Support Group exercises for one update, so tune in Monday and see if anyone actually thinks that they can take a stab at making Mr. Freeze believable. Hey, The Animated Series didn’t do too bad a job if I remember correctly…