There was a month, a beautiful and orgiastic month, where we didn't have to write about Batman all the damned time. Oh, stop your bellyaching. I love the Batman movies as much as the next bloke – see? – but for years now it seemed that every other day brought a new rumor, or behind the scenes photo, or casting announcement for the most heavily scrutinized superhero franchise on the planet. And for just a few weeks, after the release of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, film critics and journalists everywhere weren't obligated to report on the nocturnal activities of billionaire Bruce Wayne over and over again. That time is over. Now, let's talk about the reboot.
You didn't think they were just going to let the movie franchise die, did you? Christopher Nolan might have no interest in returning, but Warner Bros. is currently prepping its Justice League franchise to compete with Marvel's Avengers, and you can't have a Justice League without Batman in it. Well, not for long anyway. With Warner Bros. currently shopping Will Beall's screenplay for the superhero team flick to directors, it seems like Justice League is on the fast track, while the next Batman movie hasn't really even been discussed yet except in "will they or won't they" terms.
Batman on Film now reports the rumor, which seems like a logical extrapolation from the data we've already been given, that Warner Bros. will debut the next version of Batman, unrelated to the Nolanverse, in Justice League. Just like they'll be debuting the new versions of Wonder Woman, The Flash and any other superheroes who might be included in the cast, except (presumably) for the new Superman, played by Henry Cavill. Questions have been raised as to what kind of bind in which this will put the next solo Batman director, which seems like a non-issue, doesn't it? Any new Batman franchise, even if it debuted before Justice League, will have to be heavily scrutinized to make certain it fits within the framework of the new Warner Bros./DC movie continuity anyway. Giving Christopher Nolan free reign might have worked like gangbusters, but it may be the last time any director is given carte blanche with such a prominent superhero whether we like it or not.
Provided Justice League isn't a piece of crap, this might actually be the best solution to Warner Bros.' problem. Unlike the previous Batman movie franchise, Christopher Nolan's films didn't get crappy at the end, even if you think The Dark Knight Rises wasn't the best film in the series. The next interpretation of Batman won't be welcomed with open arms, it will be placed under a shockingly powerful microscope to see how it holds up to the previous iteration of the character. Introducing the next Batman within an entirely different framework could easily diffuse those comparisons, and bypassing the origin story altogether will only make the pill easier to swallow.
This wouldn't be a new beginning, per se, as it would plop us right smack dab in the fully-formed DC Universe, just like the first comic book you probably read as a kid. The odds are extremely good that your first Batman comic wasn't Detective Comics #27. It was probably decades later, with the character and supporting cast already fully realized, and if you have enough affection for the Batman to care about this rumor in the first place then you must have acclimated pretty quickly. Pitying some "poor" director who has to pick up wherever the Justice League movie leaves off is liking pitying some "poor" comic book writer or artist who takes over the comic book series. It's still an incredible opportunity, and (again) provided Warner Bros. doesn't seriously screw up Justice League, there will be plenty of places to take the character once that movie is in the can.
This is the hand we're dealt as audience members, and the hand the next director will have to play no matter what. The next Batman won't be the same. He'll exist within the same universe as dozens of other superheroes, many of whom are drastically different in scope and tone, and if that's going to work in the slightest he'll actually have to make sense within that universe. That's going to require some control from higher ups who, if they deserve their jobs, are going to take that responsibility seriously and work really, really hard not to screw it up. The next Batman will be a studio Batman no matter when the next solo movie comes out. It's a foregone conclusion, so all we can do – and all the next creative team can do – is make the most of it, and pray they don't ruin everything with more bat credit cards.