All that is wrong with the world…

March 12, 2010

Christopher Nolan’s superhero universe(s)

Filed under: Entertainment — Tags: , , , , , — allthatiswrong @ 1:01 am

Recently it was announced that Christopher Nolan and David Goyer, the team behind Batman Begins and The Dark Knight will be in charge of overseeing the next Superman movie. When I first heard this, I thought it was great news. Instead of the loveletter–travesty that was Superman Returns we would get a proper Superman movie true to the comics setting up the DC universe series of films to counter the Marvel universe films that have just gotten off the ground.

Alas, this was not to be. In a recent interview Christopher Nolan shed some light on his plans for the next Superman movie. The most interesting point revealed was that there was no intention to have the Superman movie set in the same universe as his Batman movies. Wow. This seems like a missed opportunity to say the least. Marvel have only just started getting the rights back to their characters for the main purpose of being able to have all their characters in the same universe and in each other’s movies.

Much like in the comics that these movies derive them, the universe is not limited to one character but is complex with all of the characters influencing or affecting each other in some way. Instead, Nolan has stated he thinks it is a better idea to have the movies set in a universe where the respective superhero is the only superhero of that world as it assures the integrity of the story. This seems like such a huge mistake that I’m surprised, and very confused as to how he could have made it.

Many comics are known for having some of the most detailed and complex stories out there while maintaining integrity at every stage. Saying keeping the characters alone in their own universe helps assure the integrity of the story seems like a very poor excuse that is contradicted by the very medium the movies are derived from, and also disregards a lot of what makes comics comics. I’m sure the Superman movie will still be amazing, but if it is actually setup in a way that prevents any crossover with the other DC movies it will be a horribly missed opportunity. I actually wonder if DC would even allow that.

The other interesting point raised in the interview was regarding the third Batman movie in development. When asked where he thought the franchise was heading, Nolan said he was basically hoping to finish the story. This is a bit worrying, because I think it is likely that in Nolan’s mind he views Batman in a very specific way. Batman was created to give hope back to the people and inspire them, and now that that has been accomplished there is no reason for Batman to continue. I think it is a strong possibility that the third movie will be completing one final task so order is restored and Batman can cease to exist.

Sigh. This is simply the wrong approach to take, hands down. A Batman story over 3 movies where Batman can cease to exist in a few years is not a proper Batman story and does not do the character justice. Batman needs to exist because in a city as huge and fucked up as Gotham, law and order is not enough to keep the baddest parts of humanity in check. What’s more, it was because of Batman’s emergence that many sueprvillians arose. As such Batman has a certain responsibility to continue fighting. Everything that defines Batman as a character as well as the world he lives in would prevent him from hanging up the cowl just because the situation was mostly acceptable. On the other hand the Nolan Batman has not been shown to have all the same qualities as his comic book counterpart.

Ultimately I think Nolan’s decisions and views on where to take the Batman franchise and how superhero movies should be handled show a massive lack of foresight and lack of familiarity with comic books in general. I know he did his homework with relevant comics for both the Batman films so far but I think he has a poor grasp of what makes comics unique. Batman is such a complex character that there is no way to finish the characters story in just three films. Instead, by doing so, we have a story about Gotham where the Batman character plays a main part, but the story is not about him. This is just wrong.

I do hope that he does not deliberately do anything that prevents this movies from sharing the same universe (or the Green Lantern universe) even if he does not make it apparent or acknowledge it. I am very grateful for the universe Christopher Nolan has given us, finally a realistic superhero universe with an emphasis on story. Given his view of how superhero movies should be handled I don’t think he is the correct person to continue the franchises. I hope DC would realize how important it is to have a shared cohesive universe and prevent Nolan from doing anything that would jeopardize that.


  1. Actually, as a comic reader, my biggest issue with superhero sagas is simply that they never end. There is no closure. They started long before I was born and will keep going long after I’m dead.

    The definitive stories – certainly for Batman – are the two that sidestep this convention. Year One (the beginning) and The Dark knight returns (the end). They tie together neatly and offer a story of a character regardless of whether you’ve read every Batman story ever published.

    If Nolan can tell the definitive Batman story in three movies (and it’s quite possible), then good for him.

    PS – I doubt he’ll “end” Batman (kill him or retire him or so forth), simply bring closure to the themes of his run. Basically give us a self-contained trilogy.

    Warner Brothers will probably pick up the franchise from where he left off (like Schumacher after Burton, for example – but hopefully better) and then start integrating Batman with the DC universe.

    Comment by Darren — March 12, 2010 @ 3:51 am

    • Hi Darren, thanks for your comment.

      I don’t think it’s fair to say the sagas never end. Dc and Marvel have their own methods of rebooting, that the have done quite a few times throughout the series. E.g. the crisis on infinite worlds storyline.

      Even so, I don’t have a problem with telling a particular story and definitely ending it…movies can’t and should not go on forever.

      What I have a problem with is ending the character of Batman. Batman is very complex and I think it is wrong to reduce the character anymore than is necessary.

      There is no reason the end of the story would have to mean the end of Batman…in fact I would think the story ending with Batman continuing to watch over Gotham would be very fitting.

      Comment by allthatiswrong — March 12, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

      • Cool – appears to be a misunderstanding on my part then. As I said, I don’t think Nolan will kill or retire the character, just bring a conclusion to his character arc during his first three films. With the themes of the first two being ‘fear’ and ‘escalation’, I imagine the third one might be ‘acceptance’. But we’re too far out to know anything for sure.

        Comment by Darren — March 14, 2010 @ 11:24 am

        • I do hope you’re right, but I can also see him as having Batman retire as a fitting end to the story.

          As good as the film might be, I feel that ending would negate the film, and possibly the two films before it. We will just have to wait and see I guess.

          Comment by allthatiswrong — March 14, 2010 @ 2:31 pm

          • I do agree that it will be a tremendous mistake to exclude Big Blue from the Bats stories and vice versa. Nolan has some pretty particular ideas about how to interpret Bats…but then that’s true of any writer. All whom have put pen to pad for the Dark Knight saga from Kane to Loeb have brought their own sensibilities to the mix. A character that is equal parts misanthrope and humanitarian is tough to pull off. You take the good with the bad in each interpretation. By and large I think that Nolan’s interpretation has been phenomenal. Sure he killed Two Face he also reportedly hates The Penguin. Still, I can think of no reason that he’d do something as irresponsible as retiring Batman. Think about it, each story ends in a way that reinforces the fact that Bruce Wayne can never escape Batman and that in his heart of hearts he doesn’t really want to.

            Comment by Spence — October 21, 2010 @ 5:42 pm

            • Hey Spence,

              I guess I just find it curious that Nolan has said that Batman’s story will be finished in the third film. I mean…this is a character that has been around since the 30’s, so it seems odd that Nolan will finish his story. Unless he means Nolan’s story, and the universe won’t be closed off.

              I really don’t get why he doesn’t think Superman could work in Batman’s universe and vice verse….because they do, and very well. Indeed, such a movie would be a great study in characters. Kevin J Anderson wrote a book of their first meeting which was awesome, seeing a film version of that would be amazing.

              Hopefully they won’t deliberately break anything, and in a few years we can have a JLA movie with Bale as Batman.

              Comment by allthatiswrong — October 22, 2010 @ 2:56 am

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