I still remember anxiously waiting in line at the movie theater during June of 1989. It was the weekend for Tim Burton’s “Batman”, a movie I had been anxiously waiting for. Warner Bros. had done an excellent job building up the film in an era (unlike now) with no easy access to the internet and other modern methods of promotion. The film was a huge success and it ended up raking in over $400 million dollars. After it came “Batman Returns” in 1992 – a movie that had its moments but still fell terribly short of the first film both in quality and in money earned. Joel Schumacher took over the franchise with 1995’s “Batman Forever” and although the box office take went up, the quality went down even more. Schumacher then finished his execution of that Batman series with the hideous “Batman and Robin”, a movie that made considerably less money and remains completely unwatchable.
After a lengthy layoff, Warner Bros. brought Batman back in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, a series that has already been heavily discussed on this blog. The Warner approach was a good one – place the character in the hands of a capable visual and intellectual storyteller and let him share his own vision of the Dark Knight. It worked wonderfully both in terms of box office revenue and the quality of the films. For my money, the Nolan trilogy features the greatest superhero story ever told on film and it’s a rousing cinematic accomplishment.
But now Nolan is done. “The Dark Knight Rises” has hit the theaters and once again Warner Bros. has no strong chess piece on the superhero movie board. “The Man of Steel” is due out next year but we all know how their last attempt at bringing back Superman went. I was a fan of that picture up until the end where Bryan Singer and company completely blew the entire film. “Green Lantern” was the studio’s most recent attempt at getting another major superhero franchise going. And while I enjoyed parts of the movie, it was a cramped and poorly conceived story that both fanboys and casual moviegoers couldn’t latch on to.
So the question remains, what’s next? Warner Bros. and DC Comics are both desperate to tap into some of the success that Marvel Studios has had through a series of highly successful and genuinely good superhero flicks. And while “The Man of Steel” is on the horizon, questions certainly remain about it. Other DC Comics properties are in the works but let’s face it, now that Batman is gone, Warner Bros. doesn’t have a single heavy-hitting superhero film franchise to call their own. And when it comes down to it, Batman has been shown to be the studio’s anchor in the genre. So when Batman returns (and he most certainly will return), my advice would be to follow in the footsteps of the Dark Knight trilogy not in terms of the story but in how the studio approaches it. Find a creative visionary – someone with a unique but intelligent visual storytelling style – and let them share their vision. But (and this is a huge but) they had better choose wisely.