What If - Batman Movies

My attempt at the popular What If articles
April 22, 2009
We've all seen the movies and have all experienced the carnage that they ensued. The beautifully sleek movies that Tim Burton had once done were quickly dashed with the inception of Batman Forever. From there on, we endured subpar flicks from Joel Schumacher that were more about campiness than quality.

Not one in the same...

My question is what would have happened if Warner Brothers stuck with the formula they already had? What if the final two Batman movies were exactly like the first two?

A Stronger Fan Base
Obviously the downfall of the Batman movie franchise was the loss of Tim Burton and the change in direction that Warner Bros. wanted. From moving from the twisted and more mature look that Tim Burton's films usually garner to a more family oriented look, the movies suffered many fan rejections. Batman Forever wasn't as bubble gum as Batman & Robin, but it housed many aspects that just weren't the same as the first two. I often find myself getting the final two mixed up together just because the movies were too identical in production. Big names were used to cast key characters in both, characters were depicted like they weren't in the comics (Tommy Lee Jones' Two face comes to mind), and they didn't have the grit that the others had. If the fans can connect with the movies as well as they did with Batman and Batman Returns, they have desire to invest in them and build on a strong movie franchise.

True Batman fans

WB unfortunately didn't have the desire to invest on what they already knew was the perfect formula.

The Introduction of More DC Comic Movies
With the success of the Batman films, WB chooses to invest into more DC Comics hero stories. Of course, this is assuming that they seriously develop the movies like they did on BM and BM Returns. WB decides to strike the iron while it's hot and produce movies such as Wonder Woman, The Flash (despite the slumming TV show at the time), Green Lantern, and other great heroes.

We saw this happen in the 2000's with the inception of Batman Begins and Superman Returns. WB contemplates continuing the old Superman franchise, but for the 90's. They cast Nicholas Cage who has been long awaiting for the film to swoop in and play Clark Kent.

This is a real pic. Really.

The movie is a success and further fuels the rest of the lineup in the DC universe, ultimately leading up to a JLA movie. We're seeing this type of thing right now with Marvel's movie franchise. They've done or doing practically every hero movie possible to lead up to The Avengers movie in 2012. I'm not sure how fans are taking this strategy, but I would have loved this idea in the 90's with the DC characters because I was just a kid who was getting into comic books.
The Resurgence of Marvel Movies Starts Earlier
To keep up with the budding DC movie line, Marvel Comics dips its hand into the movie making business a little earlier than 2000. They choose to beat DC to the punch in the superhero team thing and release X-Men. The movie tanks without the proper casting and obvious try at competing with DC. The fans see right threw the whole thing. Marvel soon tries at it with other heroes from their books, but they never seem to live up to the hype as they thought. Spider-Man doesn't break box office records, Daredevil just looks like a B movie from the 80's, Fantastic Four is a fantastic flop at the theaters, Ghost Rider is a success (kidding), and the X-Men Trilogy just doesn't happen.

All is going downhill for Marvel who wind up closing their doors after going bankrupt (which really happens) and cannot find a way to redeem itself. The Bronze Age of Comics dies and will forever be remembered as the time when most comic fans cried. DC is the lone company in the comic world, with some underground publishers (Dark Horse, Image, etc). The rights to Marvel's heroes are bought up like a going-out-of-business sale at the local Circuit City. Things would never be the same.

Batman Begins Isn't Made
DC is having so much success with the first run of Batman movies that there is no need for a Batman Begins picture to be made. Why improve on something that is already successful? I always thought of BM Begins as a movie trying to make up for the bad that had already happened, Joel Schumacher's Batman. Fans and critics hated them, so WB had to fix this problem with a great film done by a great staff who directed a great cast who read from a great script which was written by a great set of writers. Literally, the film dripped greatness, but that wasn't needed anymore. DC is shooting up in the movie making business, so their minds are elsewhere at the time. The priority at the time isn't about another successful Batman film, it's making newer hero movies. So, we start to see movies like Lobo, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and other titles that aren't really the headliners of the DC Universe.

DC finds out the hard way and fans start to reject their movies. Who's gonna go see Matter Eater Lad eat a door on screen? In all honesty, I would like to see it, but it's not number one on my movie going wishlist. The DC era of movie making comes to a halt in the 2000's, but not as bad as Marvel's stint.

No Heath Ledger
This is my saddest point in this What If article. I don't know really how to write this one because it's still a very touchy subject to some people. If Batman Begins was never made, then obviously The Dark Knight wouldn't have been made. In turn, Heath Ledger's legendary role as the Joker wouldn't have graced the theater screen.

I'm not sure how things would have panned out, though. Ledger might still be here with us today, or he might not. Rumors circulated at the time of his death that the stresses he faced during the shooting of The Dark Knight were causing the need for psychiatric help. Many still believe that the fact that he was playing a twisted and cynical character manipulated his mind and caused him to rely heavily on prescription medicines. We all know how well he portrayed our favorite smiling villain, and obviously critics did as well with his winning of the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2009.

His family at the Academy Awards

Possibly without his role as the Joker, critics would never take a comic-related movie seriously as they do now. The comic-fans today no longer have to scream for a well made and well acted hero movie. They don't have to worry about people who don't read comics not taking these movies seriously. They are serious, as well as the books. Without Heath Ledger's performance we may have never gained acceptance in a society that is growing up more and more everyday; a society that looks at comics as child's books. We comic fans should all thank Heath for giving us a voice to ask our society, "Why so serious?"

Thanks for reading my article. I'm really enjoying this What If format. I'll try my hand at some others later. Please comment on anything you wish: the subject, some points I might have left out, and anything you found interesting in my article. Special thanks to Echidna64 for making this article style up. Props, man.

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