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Well, it's official: on the eve of The Dark Knight Rises' release, Christopher Nolan has announced (via The Associated Press) that he is done with Batman. But of course, DC and Warner Brothers aren't done with Batman. Superhero movies tend to make money these days. They've rebooted before; they'll do it again.

Nolan was, of course, gracious enough to admit that some future filmmaker might decide to do something different and even worthwhile with the cowled crusader:

“Batman will outlive us all, and our interpretation was ours. Obviously, we consider it definitive and kind of finished. The great thing about Batman is he lives on for future generations to reinterpret, and obviously, Warners will have to decide in the future what they’re going to do with him."

Well, they could maybe think about finally making Frank Miller's landmark Batman story, The Dark Knight Rises. (Bits of Miller's Batman: Year One were of course incorporated into Nolan's Batman Begns.) Yeah, it's dark, but Nolan's already shown that audiences are willing to go dark with the Dark Knight. And it was a huge, huge event in Batman's pop-cultural history: Batman as an old man, dragged out of retirement by his outrage a world that is afraid to distinguish between right and wrong, struggling to save Gotham one last time even as Gotham hesitates to embrace his brand of salvation. Batman subjected to pop-psychological analysis, Batman judged from all sides, Batman tossed into the media newshole. (The Internet wasn't around when Miller wrote the story, but could be used to great effect here.)


Why should this be the next Batman movie? Well, the moral ambiguity is certainly in season, especially when the story brings Bats up against Superman, here toiling as a government stooge. But the best reason, I think, is because, while Nolan is a gifted director, his first love is not for characters, but for stories - plots. As a result, Christian Bale joins the long list of actors who have played Batman without making Batman their own. (Will anybody argue that Bale's Batman persona is not completely overshadowed by his Batman voice?) Michael Keaton, star of Tim Burton's Batman and Batman Returns, came close, if only because he was such an iconoclastic, idiosyncratic choice. But so far, only Adam West has created an indelible Batman, and he did it in a jokey TV series. The time is ripe for a riveting big-screen embodiment - a Batman that has more people talking about Batman than about his villainous counterparts - and Liam Neeson has only so many years left in him.

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