The new trailer for Matt Reeves’ The Batman has people quaking in their DC-movie-hating boots. Paul Dano looks terrifying as the Riddler, Colin Farrell has remade himself into Richard Kind to play Penguin and Robert Pattinson is the manifestation of who I wanted to be at 15 years old.
But, geez, man. Aren’t we tired of the stock rotation of Batman villains in movies?
Penguin, Riddler, Joker, Catwoman, Two-Face. Even television shows like Gotham are rehashing this core rogues gallery again and again. They’ve been done to death. We could literally field an entire NFL offense with just actors that have portrayed the Joker.
Matt Reeves’ Batman universe has the potential to be a fresh start for the villains of Gotham. Instead of making Bane the central villain of The Batman 2: Electric Boogaloo, why not try one of these fresh faces?
The Amorphous Antagonist
Clayface is a criminally underutilized character across the DC cinematic universe. He makes appearances in Harley Quinn, but he’s mostly a gimmick. We know from experience with the X-Men films that shapeshifters are doable on screen. They generate both tension and intrigue – a win-win.
Reeves’ Bat-verse is clearly an edgier, more horror-forward kind of universe. Clayface provides the opportunity to play with the same mechanics as Stephen King’s The Outsider. A serial killer with myriad faces? He could be masquerading as anyone and everyone.
Just imagine the moment when Batman comes face-to-face with Clayface/Bruce Wayne and we get to watch Eyeliner Rob Pattinson beat up Tuxedo Rob Pattinson. I’ll pay $30 to watch that on my couch.
And to top it all off, we know – factually – that Matt Reeves does CGI-heavy movies unbelievably well because of his work on the Planet of the Apes reboots.
Alternate Choice: Cornelius Stirk
My Pick To Play Clayface: Andy Serkis, obviously
Man-Bat! Half man, half bat, all action. Gotham is suddenly plagued by a man-sized bat attacking people and forcing residents to keep off the streets at night, allowing criminal enterprises to flourish. The World’s Greatest Detective is forced to hunt down the Man-Bat and convince Gotham that he isn’t responsible for this reign of terror.
Jekyll-Hyde stories make for gasp-inducing reveals if done well. If Reeves were to establish the friendly relationship between Batman/Bruce Wayne and Dr. Kirk Langstrom, there’s a whole level of emotional complexity to the story once the Bats realizes he may have to put the hurt on his pal.
My Pick To Play Man-Bat: Doug Jones (Hellboy, The Shape Of Water)
The Surly Successor
No, not Damian Wayne. The Arkham Knight!
The Arkham Knight is an incredible character across the board, and the good vs. good aspect of this conflict will challenge Reeves’ ability to grapple with morality and vigilantism. Astrid Arkham’s dislike for Batman stems from her interactions with the inmates at her father’s notorious asylum. Her character humanizes the villains, making them more complex in their own right.
As she tries to muscle Batman out of Gotham, Reeves can weave a socially relevant tale about the reality and responsibility of being the people’s protector. Are the villains in Arkham not the citizens of the city he’s swearing to protect? Are his methods too violent? Is he doing more harm than good? How should he be held responsible for his actions?
Alternate Choice: The Victim Syndicate
My Pick To Play Arkham Knight: Summer Bishil (The Magicians)
The Terror Of The Titans
I know that Deathstroke has been played to death in the Teen Titans adaptations and on shows like Arrow, but he’s worth pointing out. Deathstroke and Batman have knocked heads on several occasions but never conclusively. The I-can’t-kill-you-and-you-can’t-kill-me relationship is a proven model for Batman films (see The Dark Knight).
Deathstroke fits the metahuman but not superhuman aesthetic that Reeves seems to be working toward in The Batman. At the very least, we’d get some killer fight choreography out of the two.
My Pick To Play Deathstroke: D.B. Woodside (Lucifer, 24)
The Frightful Femme Fatale
Linda Friitawa is a scientist working for Jonathan Crane, a.k.a. Scarecrow. The film poses Scarecrow as the bad guy, until Reeves yanks the rug out from underneath us and reveals that Colin Farrell’s Penguin has been paying Friitawa – who takes on the name Fright – to sabotage Scarecrow’s toxins and turn him into Scarebeast. It’s a two-for-one!
To avoid giving us a rehashing of Batman Begins, Reeves could skip turning Crane into Scarecrow and just go straight into Scarebeast, bypassing the kind of complaining that served as the impetus to this article.
Fright plays heavily into a horror-forward Batverse and builds on an already-established character in Penguin.
My Pick To Play Fright: Claudia Kim (The Dark Tower, Avengers: Age of Ultron)
My Pick To Play Jonathan Crane/Scarebeast: Benicio Del Toro (Sicario, The Usual Suspects)