Congratulations on the avalanche of rave reviews for “The Dark Knight” as well as this staggering box-office success that’s unfolding right now. It is, in my opinion, the best comic-book movie ever, and I’m genuinely happy for you and your team. Now, though, you have a big problem: What can you possibly do for an encore?
Warner Bros wants to keep this gravy train running, especially since the “Harry Potter” is moving toward a franchise expiration date and the fact that Bryan Singer’s Superman reboot fizzled. But where should you start? That’s easy: Call your best wardrobe designers and have them start envisioning Angelina Jolie in Catwoman’s black-leather body suit. (What about the recent birth of her twins, you say? No problem. I’m guessing that new-mom Jolie will be back in lean, cat-suit shape by, oh, next week or so.)
I’m not sure anyone can actually top Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker (and you don’t dare bring any other actor in portray the Joker) but it would be catnip to fanboys everywhere if Jolie was lured to your Gotham to be Catwoman opposite Christian Bale’s Batman. And frankly, you have some serious limitations on where you else to turn for your next Bat-baddie.
When I visited with you a few weeks ago at the Warner lot in Burbank you told me that the franchise was best served by villians without supernatural or wild science-fiction origins. That eliminates Man-Bat, Mr. Freeze, Bane,Killer Croc and Clayface, as well as Poison Ivy’s large-scale, killer-shrub tricks. Maybe you could turn to Hugo Strange and his monster men; they have some science-fiction elements, certainly, but the lurching, feral monster men wouldn’t require the big CGI scenes that you’re trying to avoid in your taut crime films. And, as one of the very first Batman villains (Detective Comics No. 36, way back in 1940, pre-dating the Joker), Strange would dovetail nicely with your push to take the hero back to the unsettling spook-show qualities of his earliest incarnations. If you do go Strange, how about handing the lab coat and spectacles to Ben Kingsley, who showed in “Sexy Beast” that he can match anyone’s glower?
What other villains? I know we won’t be seeing an flame-throwing umbrella: You mentioned when I saw you that the Penguin is “not very interesting” to you and the sour look on your face summed up your disdain for the waddling Oswald Cobblepot. I guess you could go with the Riddler (maybe Eddie Izzard, who has untapped menace beneath his eye-liner?) if you jettisoned the lime question-mark suit.
The best option seems to be Catwoman and the best Catwoman seems to be Jolie. I’m guessing we won’t be seeing the Rachel Dawes character in the next film (ahem) so it’s time to get Bruce Wayne a new most “Wanted” woman. Hey, maybe you’ve already got the litterbox ready: I caught that quick line in “Dark Knight” about the danger that cat-claws pose to the crevices in Batman’s body armor. Nice. Here’s hoping she and her lover-foe Batman end up fighting their way out of Arkham Asylum together or some such fight-and-flirt scenario.
Thanks for listening and, again, congrats on “The Dark Knight.” One last thing: If for some reason Halle Berry’s agent starts clogging up your voicemail with messages, don’t bother returning the calls. Just trust me on that one.
– Geoff Boucher
Photo by Martin Schoeller, from Los Angeles Times archives