A week ago, the folks at HitFix said that “according to sources,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt was going to pick up the cape and cowl and assume the mantle of Batman in the planned Justice League film. The legal minds and representatives for JGL pretty quickly pounced on the story, saying that Levitt was not attached to the production, a vague denial at best.
If you haven’t seen The Dark Knight Rises you should probably stop reading. To avoid putting any spoilers, no matter how dated, on the front page, I’ll first briefly talk about another section of the HitFix article which put forth an image of Batman showing up at the end of the upcoming Man of Steel film as a segue into the Justice League flick.
While that is certainly a possibly and also certainly just one man’s guess at how the new Batman would be revealed, I’d like to throw out there that it is an entirely bad idea. DC should be taking notes from Marvel and with as much as Marvel has done right on the screen, the one big thing they did wrong was Iron Man 2, when they took the focus away from the titular character and used the movie as more of a lead-in and introduction to The Avengers. With these two separate characters, DC would do well to keep them separate until they’re sharing the screen, rather than one just poking his head in.
Now then….At the end of The Dark Knight Rises, Robin Blake (Gordon-Levitt) is the heir apparent to all of Batman’s goodies and, presumably, the Bat-mantle. He had shown himself (awkwardly) to be anti-gun, like Batman, a capable detective and fighter, and someone with the right moral compass. All in all, he’d make a perfect Robin or Nightwing.
Again, he’d make a perfect Robin or Nightwing. Not Batman. As great as Joseph Gordon-Levitt is at virtually anything he does, the Batsuit is not a good fit for him.
Batman is a very physical character, drawn in the comics as a hulking dude in the realm of 6’0″ and 220lbs, this gives him more in common with Arnold Schwarzenegger than Joseph Gordon-Levitt. While Christian Bale ultimately became a slimmer Batman, no one can deny the raw physicality he brought to the role in Batman Begins, measuring in at 6’0″ and more than 200lbs.
JGL, on the other hand, measures two inches shorter, at 5’10” and a good deal thinner, at maybe 170lbs. Are the physical dimensions of the character important? I think so, but if grown men can be hobbits, then maybe JGL could be made to appear bigger as Batman.
So, if we overlook the bulk issue, is JGL a good choice? Meh, not really. Levitt, who is in his thirties, still has the look of a very young man. No one would take seriously a boyish Batman, not compared to the gruff and growling versions that populate the comics and films.
Batman is supposed to be a rough character, kind of like Clint Eastwood stuck inside of a iron jawed playboy who could break your hand while shaking it. Levitt, while an extremely talented actor, doesn’t bring that kind of presence with him. Sure, smaller actors have taken the roles of beefy characters (and vice versa), but we’ve often scorned the productions for those choices so this should be no different, despite how beloved the charming JGL is.
Take, for example, Tom Cruise being cast as Jack Reacher in Jack Reacher. For anyone familiar with the book, Reacher is described as being a massive mountain of a man and his physicality is a mainstay of the books and the character. When Cruise was cast, the internet was boiling with incredulity – and rightly so. If a guy the size of Arnold Schwarzenegger comes at you, you get the fuck out of Dodge. If 5’7″ Tom Cruise threatens you and four of your boys, you give him a wedgie, spray water in his face, and take his girlfriend out for street dogs.
No one thinks that the Batman franchise is over – I think we all have assumed for some time that when Nolan stepped away, and Bale with him, that the Batfranchise would just pick up with a different actor and things would be a-okay. New Bruce Wayne, new Batman, new stories. That’d be a smart play.
However, if DC decides to move forward with JGL as Batman, they’re basically grounding their entire universe in the Nolanverse, one that was decidedly more realistic and most likely at odds with aliens, Supermen, monsters, and all that other associated crazy shit. DC and Warner Bros have a chance to break from the Nolan world and despite how popular it was, that’s the right call.
Gordon-Levitt should not play Batman (he could play Nightwing, though they still face the idea of setting the entire DC universe in Nolan’s world) and DC/Warners should plan for the future of all the franchises, not for the continuation of one Nolan is leaving behind. Anything else will potentially bungle not only Batman, but the Justice League movie, maybe the Superman movie, and perhaps the entire DC Universe. Which would be a shame. So if JGL as Batman is the domino that starts this catastrophic fall, you can bet your ass I’ll be past my boiling point.