Nolan out for third Batman? Who could step in?

Posted by · 8:54 am · June 17th, 2009

Christopher NolanBill Ramey over at Batman on Film has posted a rather disconcerting report this morning regarding the status of Christopher Nolan’s involvement with a third film in the lucrative Batman franchise.  The info, which is hardly concrete, comes from one of the numerous Bat-related sources Ramey has acquired over 12 years of focusing his site on the development of these films.

Ramey hedges his bets and writes what we all know, that “it is far from a given” that Nolan will return for another go.  But he offers a few bullet-pointed reasons from his source that certainly make a lot of sense.  Among them, says Ramey’s guy, “the death of Heath Ledger rocked Mr. Nolan hard,” and the project is back to square one with a virtually non-existent story due to the initial planned inclusion of the Joker in the third film.

It has been reported that Warner Bros. has a shortlist of preferred directors to step in should Nolan decide to walk away from the director’s chair.  The studio is going forward on this whether he is or not, we can all be sure of that.  “Watchmen” director Zack Snyder was one of those names, but Snyder’s people told Ramey he has no interest in tackling the project (thank God).  But if not Nolan, then who?

Before I start this wave of spit-balling, I have to say at the top here that nothing is settled.  Nolan may be content to move from “Inception” to the next stage in his career and leave the Caped Crusader behind, or he may eventually come back around to the project, rendering all of this moot.  But if the studio finds itself in the unenviable position of seeking out a replacement, I think all involved should think a little harder about this.

Snyder, after all, has too stylized a sensibility to seamlessly step in and continue this story.  Someone with a combination of visual storytelling panache and commitment to realistic imagery is what we need.

David Fincher was rumored to be in the hunt in those pre-“Batman Begins” days, and though he can have a definable thumbprint as a filmmaker, he’s also proven he can be slightly more anonymous in that role.  Darren Aronofsky was developing an awful “Batman: Year One” project years ago, though I think the scale of these films is a bit beyond him for now.

A completely outside-the-box possibility is Fernando Meirelles, but that would be a risky move.  Then again, tapping Nolan from the outset was risky, so maybe the studio is willing to gamble just a little on a proven artistic talent.

Paul Greengrass would be a real coup.  He had his sights set on “Watchmen” for a time and he straddles the line of art and commerce nicely.  With some level of involvement from a skilled screenwriting team (rather than streamlining the narrative into one long set piece like he did with the last two “Bourne” installments), he could really spark yet another franchise.  But there’s really only one guy on my mind for a gig like this.

Even though he’d never do it, I think the folks at Warner Bros. owe it to themselves to approach Michael Mann.  Mann makes films about people defined by what they do, molded by their professions, and in some sense, trapped by them.  I’d say that describes the Dark Knight to a T.  Furthermore, Mann has a similar (though certainly superior) cinematic vocabulary to Nolan’s.  Even if it becomes as simple as “Mann needs a paycheck” in the wake of “Public Enemies,” all I’m saying is, he would bring a lot to the table.

Anyway, like I said, this is all worthless speculation for now.  Best case scenario, Nolan returns and we get another film in a couple of years.  But in lieu of that, I certainly think there are options and I hope people in a position to seek out those options are actually thinking about this and not just throwing money at it.

Who do you think would be a good replacement should Christopher Nolan decide to walk away from the Batman franchise?  Have your say in the comments section below!

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70 responses so far

  • 1 6-17-2009 at 8:37 pm

    martin said...

    Martin Scorcese could finish the job. He would be perfect for this type of film.

  • 2 6-17-2009 at 9:00 pm

    Some idiot said...

    I’d select John Frankenheimer. He’s an excellent action director.

  • 3 6-17-2009 at 9:20 pm

    A.J said...

    Does anyone else find it odd that the next film would have focused on the Joker as well? That just seems odd to me.

  • 4 6-18-2009 at 12:01 am

    Douglas said...

    I think I speak repeatedly here in saying that lets just hope that Nolan goes away and focuses on “Inception”, clears his mind of TDK and comes back with fresh inventive ideas.

    Oh and if someone did come in and replace Heath with the same Joker from “The Dark Knight” then does he deserve an Oscar too??
    Oh and what if this new actor instead took a different approach to The Joker – it would not match up from the TDK.
    The Joker was for Heath and should remain with Heath.
    Maybe in 20 years someone else can have a go but for now, leave it alone.

    There are so many other characters and storylines you could bring into it.
    For example: did anyone notice that at the end of TDK when Batman and Gordon were talking, Gordon mentions that because of Harvey Dent 5 (I think) people are dead… well we only witnessed 3 deaths – Detective Wuertz at the bar, Maroni (it is assumed) and his limo driver.
    This could be the possible storyline for the next film! Who are the other 2 people that Harvey killed?? And Batman is now accused for their deaths – Batman on the run!
    There are obvious storylines Nolan could bring in – he can’t give up just because Heath died.

  • 5 6-18-2009 at 12:02 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    If Frankenheimer was somehow able to direct this from the grave, I’d lay down money to see it in a heartbeat.

  • 6 6-18-2009 at 12:24 am

    Joker said...

    Total fabrication!!! stop with this nonsense!! Nolan will be back. No need for replacement!! W e don’t need another crap to mess around with Nolan vision!!

  • 7 6-18-2009 at 12:40 am

    Why I Oughtta said...

    The next film is set up for a rather odd conflict, i.e., the accusation Wayne insisted be made at the end of TDK. Just speculating but consider: segments of Gotham’s population will never believe it, some will say they knew it all the time, Fox will be floored and will want to know what the hell is going on (I envision a great scene between Mr. Caine and Mr. Freeman), Gordon will certainly struggle with keeping up the pretense, etc.

    The point is, as with the first two films, this will not be just another action movie–it’s going to be a DRAMA, folks, with a lot of plotlines and emotions crossfiring every which way, and the list of directors who are good at this is short.

    I hope Chris Nolan finds it in his heart to return–I don’t care how long it takes. Barring that, several great suggestions have already been made, and I’d go with James Cameron, Martin Scorcese or Paul Greengrass. Two more not yet mentioned are Andrew Davis and John McTiernan.

  • 8 6-18-2009 at 6:17 am

    Alex said...

    Cameron wouldn’t direct this. Could be another ‘Aliens’ if he did.

    Scorcese – never in a million years.

    Greengrass – could be good but a little too verite for this material.

    Meirelles – Constant Gardener was overrated, Blindness was awful, of course City of God was brilliant, but I don’t know if he is a director for hire…I wouldn’t trust him with $200 million.

    Cuaron – perfect.

  • 9 6-18-2009 at 8:19 am

    Mark Kratina said...

    Haven’t been in here since TDK got shafted for Best Picture, but here’s my two cents as to why Nolan will be back:

    1. When he held a BD-Live event with fans back on Dec. 18th, someone asked him (Nolan) who Gordon was referring to when he said, “5 dead, 2 of them cops.” Nolan reportedly said he would prefer to answer that question at a later date.

    Maybe its just me, but when I read that, it screamed to me that it was something he would address in Batman 3, as if it could have some bearing on third story.

    2. Nolan said he wasn’t sure if he would come back for TDK, too.

    3. This part is just speculation, but like Bale, I think Nolan appreciates the fact that the Batman films broadened his fan-base and perhaps helped to greenlight other projects that he might not have been able to make had his Batman films not been so successful. My guess is that he will remain loyal to the character and finish what he started.

    4. How would he feel if someone else came in, picked up the story where his left off, and did a crappy job?

    Nolan will be back, but 2012 will have to be the date. I just don’t see WB waiting until 2013- the momentum from TDK will have weakened by then.

  • 10 6-18-2009 at 8:39 am

    LeBron Mexico said...

    Quit tinkling in your panties, ladies.

    Nolan will be back. All this talk from his camp about him being through with Batman is strategic. He and his people are creating leverage so he can negotiate for more money to direct a third film.

    Ooh – and don’t believe everything you read in the tabloids, either.

  • 11 6-18-2009 at 9:44 am

    Chris said...

    I suppose they could always do something like this:

    The Joker claimed that he brought down Harvey Dent to his and Batman’s level, and there could be some part where they bring in another villain (like the Riddler) who was not as notorious of a criminal during the time TDK was taking place. That villain could also have been ‘brought down’ by the Joker like he did to Dent, and continue on with evil plans that the Joker had, while he is in prison.

    May sound kind of confusing, but in a sense, I could see it working. The Joker influenced more criminals to do evil and test Batman; TDK could have just seen as the beginning of escalation.

  • 12 6-18-2009 at 10:54 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    “He and his people are creating leverage so he can negotiate for more money to direct a third film. ”

    That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Nlan can write his own check at WB these days. Try again.

  • 13 6-18-2009 at 11:09 am

    Mark Kratina said...

    Agreed, Kris. Nolan had a blank check after TDK, anyway.

  • 14 6-18-2009 at 2:32 pm

    darkknight01 said...

    This will depend on whether the Nolan brothers and Goyer come up with a good to great Batman story to tell onscreen with or without a small role for the Joker.

    And what are rthe the chances of talents like the Nolan brothers and Goyer not coming up with a good to great Batman story??

    Zero to none….this is all worthless speculation, and the money bet is that Nolan will return. We won’t know anything concrete for at least another six months to a year.

    Try not to panic folks….

  • 15 6-18-2009 at 5:03 pm

    tim said...

    I don’t think most directors would touch this franchise with a 10 foot pole after what Nolan has achieved. Same goes for any actor that would try to tackle the part of the Joker after Heath. It has to be Nolan and there would have to be a new villain. I still think Philip Seymour Hoffman would make a perfect Penguin. Maybe the obvious choice, but is that such a bad thing?

  • 16 6-18-2009 at 9:11 pm

    Alex said...

    Mr Ratner, a threequel is waiting to be ruined.

  • 17 6-19-2009 at 8:30 am

    Matt said...

    Alfonso Cuaron… couldn’t agree more. Children of Men and Azkaban were works of art.

  • 18 6-20-2009 at 1:55 am

    Marco said...

    If Chris Nolan decides not to helm a third movie i hope that warners doesnt push for a new director too soon. I really dont wanna see the best 2 batman movies ever made ruined just to make a profit.
    I think i’d be happier without a third movie, that way the story that continues could be whatever i want it to be… I mean look at the first Matrix, that was an awesome film with an ending setup for sequels, but would’ve been much better without them. Not just cos they were pretty bad, but more because you could decide for yourself where the story went afterwards.
    So we’ve got people on here who suggested ra’s taking over the eastern seaboard or the joker training and apprentice then committing suicide – where the dark knight picks up is always something interesting to them, it can be whatever people want it to be . It always exciting to the individual.
    I’d rather see batman, a character i’ve been a fan of since childhood, go out on a high note. I dont mind if there are no movies for a while, i’ve still got the comics to read, even the new game coming out.

  • 19 6-24-2009 at 8:40 am

    Melvin White said...

    These kind of things are done in this industry to keep the public interested while the project rests in limbo. If the Joker did initially play a role in Batman 3, then he should still play a role. The character can be recast with a good or even great actor. We will not forget Heath Ledger giving us the most complete performance of the Bat’s greatest adversary, but the Joker himself is something of a chameleon, so allow the character to live even if the actor is gone.
    Other than that the story should center around Gordon, as he tries to convince his superiors that he’s on Batman’s trail, learns his identity, and yet still assists him taking on the mob, the Joker, and perhaps, as a silent partner weapons dealer/designer, the Penguin. Keep Riddler, Catwoman, and all the other third rate Bat-villians out of it. You need an easy one for Bats, let him kick the crap out of the Scarecrow for a hat-trick. Maybe introduce Dick Grayson as an ending motif.

  • 20 1-17-2010 at 6:24 pm

    Purple Green said...

    Michael Mann? Are you kidding me? Public Enemies already showed that he’s not the same director as the one who inspired The Dark Knight’s opening heist in the first place! He may stylistically still have his game but good lord if he plays Batman 3 to Linkin Park’s Numb (Encore) than we are in for a mob riot!

    Besides, Mann already has DONE a movie in the same visual and even (in many places) similar narrative theme as The Dark Knight. For him to step in – he’d bring only a repeated feel but without the Nolan touch of brilliantly skilled editing and use of cross-cutting.

    I would definitely welcome Mann as cinematographer but as DIRECTOR? Not if we want another disappointing unison of two legendary actors:

    “I’ll see you on the road.”
    “No you are not. The only way you’re leaving this jail cell is when they take you out to Arkham Asylum.”

    Agh! The “mann” needs to re-discover his sense of poetry and stop acting like an old man trying to be hip.