While rumors and discussion ran wild ever since the film’s original villains were revealed, things took an exciting turn this week as early critic reviews of The Batman came swooping in, with one in particular taking the cake for an exciting new teaser. (Or spoiler, depending on who you ask.)
Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, film critic David Rooney confirmed a special cameo in which a new villain was teased:
“Another unmistakable superstar from Batman’s hall of infamy is introduced in a shadowy cameo near the end, indicating a major role in the next movie.” Thanks for not spoiling the fun too much, Mr. Rooney.
That said, with Colin Farell’s Penguin, Paul Dano’s Riddler and Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman already confirmed, we can’t help but wonder – which member of Batman’s iconic rogues gallery is next?
Here’s our top five guesses.
Before deducing the identity of Gotham’s next big threat, it’s important to ask – just what exactly is Matt Reeves attempting to create here?
Going by this week’s reviews, his mission seems to be to return to the basics – and remind fans that while Batman is called the Dark Knight and the Caped Crusader, he also has a much more intriguing moniker – The World’s Greatest Detective.
By leaning heavily into this identity for Pattinson’s version of the hero, Reeves has successfully weaved a new multi-genre identity for The Batman – one that fuses gritty action with brutally stylish film noir, and wraps it all up in a twisted crime mystery.
This is where the Court of Owls comes in – a sinister secret society formed by Gotham’s elite – including Bruce Wayne’s ancestors. Their storyline could further drive home the murky past of the Waynes teased in The Batman, while drawing inspiration from some of Batman’s best detective work in the comics.
The reintroduction of the Riddler into Batman’s live-action film mythos is a massive departure from the character’s previous appearance via Jim Carrey in 1995’s Batman Forever. Reeves ditched the spandex and theatrics for a truly disturbing villain grounded in reality – the director himself has shared how he drew inspiration from real-life serial killers to craft his main villain for the film.
Apart from the Riddler, another 90’s villain who could really use a makeover is the iconic Mr. Freeze. With a heartbreaking backstory familiar to fans of the original Batman: The Animated Series, Reeves himself has admitted his interest in the character during a press event:
“Even the idea of something like Mr. Freeze, that’s such a great story, right?” he said. “I think there’s actually a grounded version of that story, which could be really powerful and could be really great.”
As much a foe of Batman’s as he was Bruce Wayne’s, Hush is one of their most disturbing foes – driven by a riveting story that weaves together the hero’s childhood into his current identity as the Caped Crusader.
Hush was initially one of Bruce’s cherished childhood friends – who held a twisted grudge against his family after patriarch (and surgeon) Thomas Wayne saved the former’s mother. Driven by hatred, cunning, and a sheer power of will, Hush went under the knife to carry out his plan by constructing a face identical to Bruce’s – turning his true identity against him.
It’s just the kind of horrific, close-to-real-life villain that Reeves has shown interest in. While the Riddler, Penguin, and Catwoman have all had appearances in earlier films, the director has an excellent opportunity with Hush – a chance to mold fans’ first onscreen impressions of a terrifying villain that seeks to crush Bruce’s spirit even more than his body.
While most villains are defined by their connection to Batman himself, Poison Ivy is a different beast – or plant – altogether.
With Zoë Kravitz’ Catwoman taking on a major role in The Batman, it would be interesting to see her loyalties and unclear moral compass waver between Batman and Ivy – the latter of whom is often portrayed as a strong ally, especially in the Sirens of Gotham comic series.
Ivy has also usually followed the role of an ‘eco-warrior’ or ‘bioterrorist’ – wreaking havoc against massive corporations (such as Wayne Industries) in pursuit of saving the natural world – even at the cost of human lives.
Reeves has already taken on themes of politics and corruption in his first Bat-flick. In an Ivy-focused sequel, he could also tackle complex questions of environmental agency, forcing Bruce to choose between maintaining his sprawling industrial empire vs. giving it up at great cost to himself and his worldview.
Of course we were going to include the Joker. Come on!
Sure, he’s the go-to Batman antagonist, and a bit predictable. He has been portrayed by over 20 actors, and with Heath Ledger’s near-impossible to beat rendition, maybe it’s not even worth trying?
If 2019’s Joker has any lessons to teach us, it’s that even the most overdone, overhyped characters in history can do with new perspectives and new stories to tell. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the character is his ability to drive Batman to the very edge of sanity – such as in the iconic Death in the Family storyline, where the Joker brutally tortures and murders Batman’s second Robin – Jason Todd – with the help of a handy crowbar.
Perhaps that kind of development needs to be saved for a film beyond the original sequel. just remember – out of every single Robert Pattinson film, the actor has never had chemistry as powerful as his appearance alongside the incredible Williem Dafoe for 2019’s The Lighthouse.
Williem Dafoe as the Joker. Robert Pattinson as Batman. Think about it.
The Batman launches today, March 4th, across cinemas worldwide.
(Featured Image Credits: DC Comics)