5 Choices For Villains In Matt Reeves’ New Batman Trilogy

None of them Joker, for a change.

Court of Owls
Court of Owls

Following the critical and commercial success of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, and the decision to introduce a new Batman into the DC Extended Universe with Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, it was inevitable that talk of a Batman trilogy would arise.

With Ben Affleck cast as Batman for a planned three movies, this would lead to confirmation of a standalone movie to be directed and co-written by Affleck. Unfortunately, over the years, Affleck would step out of the director’s chair and be replaced by Matt Reeves of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes fame. The choice to go with Reeves, who had gathered critical and commercial acclaim for his character-driven work in big budget action movies, would lead to a retooling of the overall trilogy to a younger incarnation of Batman, encompassed by the recasting of Robert Pattinson as Batman. Reeves also made the decision to move the focus of The Batman to a more noir-driven, Hitchcock-inspired detective movie, an element of Batman’s character that has been sidelined in live-action movies.

With The Batman now officially given the greenlight to resume filming in the United Kingdom in an attempt to meet its scheduled release date of 1st October next year (pushed back from its original date of 25th June), it’s unsurprising to see the influx of theories in regards to future villains in the series. In particular, fancasting has begun of who would play Batman’s most renowned enemy, The Joker, with names such as Bill Skarsgard of IT, Michael Shannon, Willem Dafoe, and Jake Gyllenhaal all chosen as favourites.

However, The Joker has unfortunately become a “break glass in case of emergency” fallback for all live-action Batman movies, having had Jack Nicholson as The Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman, the character hinted at in Batman Begins before being introduced by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, the controversial Joker interpretation by Jared Leto in Suicide Squad, and the Award-winning Joaquin Phoenix turn in Joker.

This tendency for Batman films to automatically rely on the inclusion of The Joker as a villain is in danger of becoming redundant and repetitive, an uninspired choice. The Joker also doesn’t seem suitable for the more noir-driven style that both Reeves and Pattinson seem to be aiming for and may be deemed too high a challenge considering that both Ledger and Phoenix have won Academy Awards for their portrayals. Instead, I’d like to recommend five antagonists that might be better suited for the darker portrayal planned by Reeves in his forthcoming trilogy.


Hugo Strange

One of the first ever recurring Batman villains, having been introduced in February 1940 in Detective Comics #36, Strange is a professor with a genius-level intellect whose claim of understanding Batman psychologically would grow into an obsession. Adept with biology and chemistry, as well as a psychiatry degree, Strange has utilised hypnosis and genetic experimentation in an attempt to gain power in Gotham City from behind the scenes. Perfectly suited for more noiristic corruption-based stories, ala L.A. Confidential, his lack of physicality and older age could also allow for more physical villains to appear in antagonistic bodyguard roles, possibly a Solomon Grundy character who Strange has experimented on.

In terms of casting, there are two methods that could be utilised, one where the character is behind the scenes, or my preference, where the character is a major supporting character. Strange would be depicted as a well-known psychiatrist who has public appearances during his analysis of Batman, one who is genial and pleasant in public but has a cold and unhinged persona in private. This type of character could work alongside Commissioner Gordon and the D.A.’s office, so a more well-known character actor would likely be chosen, and to me there is no better choice than Bryan Cranston. Not only did he have a similar look in Breaking Bad, but his ability to switch effortlessly between jolly and cold whilst harbouring a cold intelligence would offer tremendous depth to the character.


James Gordon, Jr

Possibly the least known of the options, Commissioner Gordon’s son was introduced in Batman #407, released in May 1987, but came to prominence as an adult in 2011 with his reveal as a psychopathic serial killer. Possessing tremendous stealth and hand-to-hand combat ability, JJ, as he’s nicknamed, is suspected of murders going back to his childhood. Not only would he suit Batman and Commissioner Gordon investigating a serial killer, à la Se7en, but would add a more personal heartbreak to the story, as well as development for Gordon himself. This could also mean that several other well known serial killers could feature as red herrings, such as Mr Zsasz or Cornelius Stirk (seriously, look him up).

With fifty-four year old Jeffrey Wright having been cast as the first ever African-American rendition of Gordon, we would be looking at a black actor in his late twenties/early thirties to portray his son. There’s Lakeith Stanfield of Knives Out fame, who has admitted an interest in portraying The Joker (https://shadowandact.com/lakeith-stanfield-wants-to-play-this-classic-dc-villain), Michael B. Jordan of Black Panther fame, John Boyega of Attack The Block, Winston Duke of Us and Daniel Kaluuya from Get Out. All five of these would be fantastic choices, but Stanfield’s interest in the role of The Joker could suggest a fascinating interpretation of the character, especially in scenes opposite both Wright and Pattinson. Stanfield has proven himself a capable leading man in smaller films and supporting actor in larger films, but this could be the role that he’s been missing.


Tommy Elliot/Hush

Batman Hush

Introduced in 2003 as a former childhood friend of Bruce Wayne whose abusive upbringing led to sociopathic tendencies, Elliot blames Thomas Wayne for foiling his attempts of parricide. This hatred of the Wayne family, combined with his genius-level intellect and master planning abilities, would lead to Elliot morphing into the criminal Hush, using his tremendous wealth and unparalleled ability as a plastic surgeon. Elliot not only challenges Batman on a physical and intellectual level, but as an emotionally challenging adversary.

In order to legitimise the two characters having grown up as childhood friends, I’ve researched into actors of similar ages to Pattison. Though older than Pattinson by three years, Dan Stevens seems an excellent choice for the role, as not only does he possess similar cheekbones and body shape to Pattinson, allowing the possibility of plastic surgery, but he’s also portrayed similar character traits in the past. Whether in his role as rich and affluent Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey, his physically terrifying depiction of David in The Guest, or his unhinged persona of David in the TV Series Legion, Stevens offers a range that could make him a true challenge for the Pattinson edition of Batman.


Calendar Man

Originally depicted as a joke villain in his September 1958 debut in Detective Comics #259, the character has now been developed as a disturbed serial killer. Possessing an obsession with dates and calendars, his inventions and ruthless manipulation of individuals have led to him being featured as a Silence of the Lambs-inspired Hannibal Lecter-esque figure, ever since The Long Halloween. Possibly suited to a more recurring role, the power balance between Batman and Calendar Man could be fascinating to depict on screen, demonstrating Batman’s growth in the early days of his vigilante role.

As the character requires a cold, calculated manner, there are two different interpretations that could be depicted. If you wanted to portray a much older actor to suggest a possible mentor role, then the educated and kind tones of Alfred Molina would be fantastic, tying into his role as Otto Octavius in Spider-Man 2 before his descent into madness and mourning. However, if the filmmakers wanted a more cold and impenetrable intelligence, akin to the Hannibal Lecter inspiration, then they could utilise the always excellent Mads Mikkelsen in a supporting role to unnerve Pattinson’s Batman.


Court Of Owls

A violent secret society of wealthy families introduced in October 2011, the Court of Owls have existed in Gotham City since colonial times, utilising their money to wield political influence and control the police for centuries.

The Court would also kidnap child performers to train them into Talons, their personal assassins, allowing a physical challenge to battle Batman on behalf of the Court. Offering a possibility of an arc villain for the trilogy to be hinted at in the first two films, especially if depicted similar to the all-powerful cult from crime noir classic True Detective Season One, the Court of Owls would challenge Batman, Bruce Wayne, and Commissioner Gordon on multiple levels. The Court of Owls would represent the ultimate challenge for Batman as he would be vastly outnumbered and possibly outmanoeuvred as he uses his detective skills to uncover who the Court are.

It would also be much more suitable for a darker interpretation of Batman, utilising the Court’s cynical view of Gotham and offering a fatalistic mission for Batman. As Batman feels the walls closing in and being unable to counter such insurmountable odds, it could also allow him to grow as a character, possibly accepting he cannot win the war against crime single handed, and could lead to the introduction of Wayne adopting a young orphan at the end, offering a possibility of an expanded universe focused on the Batman Family. But that’s a discussion for another day.

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