BATMAN ON FILM, since June 1998!



Friday, October 14, 2005, 12:00 PM CENTRAL TIME
Kris Tapley

© Copyright 2005 Kris Tapley and "BATMAN ON FILM," All Rights Reserved.

All news is good news when it comes to the sequel to “Batman Begins,” but I simply have to comment on the recent swell of progress.

First and foremost, it’s becoming fairly obvious that the filmmakers are utilizing the mob, the Joker and the Penguin as part of a large, plot-heavy element to this latest endeavor – which I love. Why do I love it? Because it’s the same route I would take the material. In fact, it’s the same route I have taken the material in my own ponderings and treatment preparations out here in Los Angeles, dreaming the big dream of someday getting my foot in the door of Warner Bros.’ story department for Nolan’s Batman series.

As the train seems to be chugging forward full steam, allow me to throw out some of my own, personal ideas of what ought to be done with this material.

First and foremost, I like the idea of making Oswald Cobblepot an arms dealer on some level – of course, that is if we’re going on the assumption that “The Penguin” is this mysterious figure of the Dark Knight’s rouges gallery we’ve been made privy to in recent updates here at Batman-On-Film. However, on the other hand I think that the Penguin’s greatest role in the Batman mythos is within the realm of the mob.

Portraying Cobblepot as an arms dealer does keep him an underground element, which is imperative. Frankly, he never was interesting enough to be a true major villain in the Batman canon if you ask me, and the only reason for his mass appeal as a rogue came as a direct result of Burgess Meredith’s performance in the television show from the 1960s. But in so much as it relates to the overall world of Gotham and Batman, the Penguin functions much better on the level of a street-wise mob threat. His characterization in Brian Azzarello’s “Broken City,” for instance, is, to my mind, one of the most succinct portrayals of the villain we’ve seen in the books.

I assume the plan is to integrate Cobblepot’s role into the mob on some level, but my suggestion would be to give the Penguin ulterior motives throughout. Position him early on as something of a non-issue in the fraternity of organized crime – a numbers cruncher for Sal Maroni or Rupert Thorne, a money man, or a “smart man” character within an organization of thugs and killers. Play up his feebleness. And in one fell swoop, offer up an intense scene in the final act that stands as Cobblepot’s clenching of the throne of organized crime, eliminating a bevy of thugs with his own band of henchman in a shootout sequence that could recall Flat Top’s raid at the beginning of “Dick Tracy.” It would perfectly position the Penguin as central mafia villain of the third film, I think, and would be thematically resilient as a comment to the final act of “Batman Begins.”

You see, at the beginning of the sequel, we have a vast mafia empire that is essentially up for grabs in the wake of Carmine Falcone’s removal. The stage is set for the entrance of a Sal Maroni or a Rupert Thorne – which could lend itself quite thoroughly to Harvey Dent’s story thread – but it also sets the stage for an interior upheaval of sorts. The Penguin and his manipulative ways is perfect fodder for such a scenario.

All of this brings me to Roman Sionis.

If this is indeed where the studio is going, I have to say I think it is quite brilliant to bring Sionis in as a villain in this film, given the thematic comments the appearance of such an individual will make concerning the character of Bruce Wayne. Here again, Sionis is an element I have also considered in my ponderings and treatment sketches.

Bringing about Sionis’ transformation to Black Mask is a potential lead into the mob world of this sequel, and there is an unlimited amount of potential where that is concerned. Though, with that in mind, if the plan would indeed be to tie Sionis to organized crime, it might be a mistake to make his as large a part of the formula as Cobblepot’s. I wouldn’t say the solution is to use one or the other, but staggering the level of involvement of these two will be of the utmost importance, I feel.

Now, let’s talk about the villain we KNOW is going to be in the film – the Joker. If you ask me, this is THE opportunity to do with the Joker what no other incarnation of Batman on film has done, and that is to utilize the character as a dark reflection of Batman – take the stand and announce him as this caped crusader’s true arch nemesis.

If it were up to me, I’d paint the Joker as a nuisance not only to the public and to the police force, but to the world of organized crime as well. Here is this loose canon doing God knows what night after night, upsetting the balance of business and “organization” within the criminal infrastructure of Gotham – an infrastructure that is already picking up the pieces post-Falcone. To boot, I would place the Batman in a position of being considered a nuisance by the Gotham City Police Department. I would, in fact, make this a central issue. It would shed a lot more light on his relationship with James Gordon, as well as his subsequent relationship with Harvey Dent, but more importantly, if taken the route of my suggestion, it would place the hero in a similar boat to the Joker’s.

Here you would have a major villain who is the bane of both the law’s and the criminal element’s existence, and then you have a superhero that is towing the exact same line. It makes it seem as though they NEED each other in order to make sense of their existence in this mythos. It’s PERFECT!

Maybe the mob wants to take out the Joker? Perhaps they put up a large sum of money to be collected by the individual that puts the Joker out of their misery? Perhaps someone named David Cain takes this bounty, an element of the story that could tie into Wayne’s past training prior to his meeting Ra’s al Ghul? And perhaps the Batman prevents Cain from assassinating the Joker, proclaiming quite loudly his stance against killing, rather than tip-toeing around it with a line such as “I don’t have to save you” as seen in the first film. I’m just thinking out loud here, but seriously, steal these thoughts, Warner Bros.! Or hire me!

Much of this article obviously runs off the rumor mill as of late, but I think there’s a rather obvious line of development happening here that can logically be followed. I have my own passions surfacing here, but I am as nervous as the next guy that this series continue to get it “right.” And the building blocks are right under our noses. A vast structure of storytelling greatness is waiting to be told from the wealth of material printed in the last 60 years.

Ultimately, I truly feel that the most important element that needs to be woven into the thematic fabric of this next installment is lifting the character of the Joker from individual to fully functioning symbol. He can’t be mere eye-candy. He can’t be mere entertainment or terror (if taken in such a direction). He can’t merely be the antagonist of the film. He must, must, MUST be utilized as a device to further elaborate the characterization of Batman/Bruce Wayne. That is his purpose, and that is, in many ways, the character’s destiny. He is the German Expressionistic reflection of Bruce Wayne’s inner deterioration. It’s high drama of the most elaborate and resilient regard.

Warner Bros., you’re in a sticky situation. To my mind you, Mr. Nolan and Mr. Goyer have hit it out of the park with “Batman Begins.” Now you’ve got your work cut out for you because you’ve placed the bar quite high. This is not news to you. But there should be no hesitation in climbing past that bar at this stage, because you’ve proven in one film, finally, that Batman reaches past mere superhero/comic book genre entertainment and into the realm of character study.

Please, oh please continue that stream.

Kris Tapley is a Los Angeles, California based scribe and writes for MOVIECITYNEWS.COM, as well as his own blog, IN CONTENTION.

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