“The Dark Knight Rises” is the most highly anticipated film of the entire year. The film will mark the conclusion of director Christopher Nolan’s epic Batman trilogy. While story details are still being kept under wraps both Nolan and star Christian Bale have made it clear that this will be their final Batman movie. So what will become of the caped crusader after the release of the film? Batman most profitable property that Warner Bros. has so executives aren’t about to let it sit idle.
There are a few options open to Warner Bros. First the studio could take the approach done in the earlier film series: recast and keep going. The first Batman series of movies went through three different actors over the course of four films. So with both Bale and Nolan leaving the studio could bring in a new director and star but keep the series going with some of the same supporting cast. For example the previous series kept the same actors as Alfred and Commissioner Gordon for all four films to maintain the continuity.
However this may not be an option depending on how “The Dark Knight Rises” ends. The marketing of the film implies a great deal of finality. Given that it would not be surprising if Bruce Wayne either dies or is completely incapacitated by the end. The use of the villain Bane lends credence to this as he broke Bruce Wayne’s back in the comic book. If Warner Bros. still wanted to keep the same continuity the studio could have another character adopt the mantel of Batman. While this does have precedent in the comic book it would probably not be the best way to go. Even when other characters replaced Bruce Wayne as Batman in the comics it was always as a temporary fill in until Wayne could take up the cowl once more.
A full reboot would also be a mistake. Sony Pictures is already suffering backlash for its upcoming “The Amazing Spider-Man” which reboots the continuity of that character from scratch. Many fans complain that it’s too soon since the previous “Spider-Man” films. Warner Bros. would likely suffer a similar reaction if they did a hard reboot of the franchise right away.
There’s always the possibility of the studio reviving the live action adaptation of “Batman Beyond.” The popular cartoon was set in the future and featured an aged Bruce Wayne mentoring a new young Batman. The live action version was planned but stalled some time ago. On paper it’s still a solid idea but by now the cartoon has been off the air for a number of years and has largely faded from popular memory.
Perhaps the best option would be to introduce a new take on Batman in a film that isn’t actually about him. For instance a “Justice League” film could introduce a new actor in the role of Bruce Wayne. At the same time because he would be part of a larger team it wouldn’t draw unnecessary attention to the changes. There had been talk of a “Justice League” film before but it was wisely put on hold. Had it been made at the same time as the current Batman series with a different actor it would have confused audiences. But now the time seems right for a team film to give Warner Bros. a backdoor method of introducing a new Batman.