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The Batman was a triumph – but now it’s time to give the hero a rest

Between Robert Pattinson and the imminent returns of Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton, the Dark Knight is suddenly everywhere. But – especially on the heels of one of Batman’s best movies yet – it’s also the perfect moment for him to take a break, writes Chris Edwards

Wednesday 09 March 2022 06:26 GMT
The superhero has featured on the big screen 12 times since 1989, including the Lego movies – that’s one Batman every two and a half years
The superhero has featured on the big screen 12 times since 1989, including the Lego movies – that’s one Batman every two and a half years (Jonathan Olley/Warner Bros)

The new Batman film is genuinely good enough to warrant the definite article in its title. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was great and all, but this is the Batman. The proper one. The one fans recognise. The one who actually uses his detective skills to solve stuff before rearranging a criminal’s face with his fists. Yes, it may be a tad overlong, The Riddler’s riddles may not be the hardest to solve, and the ending may be a little underwhelming, but overall, this is the Batman film we’ve been waiting for – a dark noir thriller that just so happens to feature a psychotic billionaire who dresses up as a bat. So, now that they’ve nailed it, we can finally give this franchise a rest, right? Wrong.

While The Batman doesn’t resort to Marvel’s method of teasing a sequel with a post-credit sequence, it does hint that there’s more to come. If you haven’t seen the film, this is a spoiler and you should definitely look away now. If you have seen it, I’m talking about Barry Keoghan’s cameo as The Joker, who will undoubtedly return at some point to square off against Robert Pattinson’s Batman. Sure enough, both Pattinson and director Matt Reeves have already expressed a desire to make a trilogy of films in this gritty new Gotham, which should keep us in bat content for the rest of the decade. But with Ben Affleck still to make his final appearance as the Dark Knight in this year’s The Flash, and Michael Keaton reprising his version of the character for the same film and a forthcoming Batgirl movie, we’re well and truly approaching the bat-limit.

Over the past few decades, Batman has barely had time to breathe. He’s featured on the big screen a staggering 12 times since 1989 (that includes both Lego movies), if you don’t count the vast number of feature-length animations released to home video. That roughly averages out as a Batman cinematic film every two and half years. That’s more frequent than the World Cup. And what happens when you cram so many sequels and reboots into such a short space of time? You end up with your fair share of disappointment. You end up with Val Kilmer and George Clooney wearing nippled batsuits.

Christopher Nolan’s revered Batman trilogy – Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – made up for most of that. For a while, it seemed as though his films had quenched our bat thirst once and for all, his philosophical and realistic take on the source material appearing to be the best approach possible. But just a few years later, after the relative trauma caused by Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, the character once again found itself in need of a fix.

Now that The Batman has provided just that, what the hero really needs is a nice long break. Contrary to the ever-suffocating demands of comic book movie fan culture, there isn’t an obligation to always have an incumbent Batman waiting in the wings. The same can be said of Superman, who’s about to receive a JJ Abrams-produced reboot before the Snyder era’s Henry Cavill has even officially left the role. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we were made to wait just a little bit longer before being thwacked in the face with yet another iteration of the same character?

The Batman may be a triumph – it’s also performed well at the box office, raking in $128.5m (£97m) in its opening weekend, making it the second highest earning title of the pandemic after Spider-Man: No Way Home –  but it’s not a film that needs a sequel right away. It most certainly doesn’t need to be rebooted in five minutes’ time with a new actor. The eight-year gap between 1997’s franchise-nadir Batman and Robin and 2005’s franchise-rescuing Batman Begins was exactly what the Dark Knight needed. Now we’ve got the definitive interpretation we’ve been waiting for, it’s time to retreat into the Batcave once again.

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