The Dark Detective
At it's heart, the film would be a noir story. The Batman is on the run from the (still corrupt on many levels) Gotham Police. He's being tracked by a scrappy PI and being played by a femme fatale love interest with questionable allegiances, all in the shadow of a vast criminal conspiracy. At the heart of the story is the identity of Bruce Wayne. The detective is seeking the man behind the bat mask, while the looming criminal threat is looking to house themselves in the skeleton of Wayne Enterprises. The young Bruce Wayne grew up to be Batman, and "Bruce Wayne" became a shell that housed him. This movie is about how he reclaims the identity of Bruce, reforms the tarnished philanthropic reputation of his family, and uses his considerable wealth and mind to strike at the heart of crime in the city: poverty and the gross social disparity between the classes. The film would take a critical eye to Bruce Wayne, who epitomizes the real evil of Gotham, the social elite who squander and fritter away their wealth and influence on foppishness while the masses go hungry. One of the things I really liked about the Dark Knight was how it maintained the tone of Batman Begins while being an entirely different kind of film. It avoided the comic movie pitfall of falling into a formula, and TDK felt, in large part, like a crime thriller in the mode of Heat or Ronin. The sequel would similarly carve out a niche of its own, by blending together the themes of urban depression and disparity that resonate at the heart of film noir.
, the de facto dictator of a former Spanish prison colony called Santa Prisca. The descendant of a slave, raised under a brutally oppressive, cartel-controlled regime, he spent the better part of his life in jail. He wore the skull mask to cover his identity as a mugger and thief on the streets before working his way up the ladder of the illegal drug barons, who made a killing on the drug trade and treated the citizens essentially as slaves, and served as the puppeteers of the government's military. Bane took them down one by one, then stepped in as dictator and gave the land back to the people, but maintained steady production of drugs (mostly farmed coca turned into cocaine and chemically produced steroids) for import into the United States, primarily Gotham City. He's a foil to Bruce Wayne, as a man who made it his mission to wipe out organized crime in his homeland, but when the threat was extinguished, he stepped into dictatorship, a personification of the ideal of the Roman consul (which was actually referenced to in TDK). The drug trade seems of actual benefit to his people, feeding them on the misfortune and addiction of Gotham City. There's the ethical questions of import/export and treaty management if you wanted to pursue that, but even more importantly, there's the ideological comparison to Bruce Wayne and Bane. One devotes his vast inherited fortune into a military campaign on the streets of the city, squandering the positive opportunities for philanthropic and social interest that a more prominent Bruce Wayne could inject into the city, while the other fosters the health and wealth of his people through a black market economy. Agbaje is perfect for the role. His most positive quality is the intensity of all his roles (and he‘s a method actor in much the same way Ledger was), which is essential for a character that serves as the foil to Bruce Wayne - driven, uncompromising, and physically terrifying. He's a juicer.
The Joker's legacy is the revolt of the younger working class, sons of factory men and mill workers and dock workers, youth who see nothing but a dead end life and zero opportunities for their future. If you want a blueprint, all you need to do is look at the Boston hardcore scene and magnify it by about ten. They're disillusioned youth cynical to all governments, pissed off at the wide margin of wealth maintained by the city's upper crust, and they just say **** this. **** the world. They put on their war paint and they loot and they murder and they destroy the false icons of the city. Rich socialite Bruce Wayne is the epitome of the lifestyle they loathe. And the Joker is their Che Guevara, merely a presence in this movie, a ghost locked securely away, but his spirit ripples through the city, an icon for them to superimpose their anarchist ideals over. Harley Quinn
is the de facto ringleader of the chaotically nebulous movement. A formerly brilliant psychology grad student with a questionably dark history and now a total obsession with the Joker. She is both manipulator and manipulated, using her brilliant experience with gang youth and cult mentality to twist her acolytes however she needs, while being at the mercy of her own personal insecurities and obsession. She'd be played by Naomi Watts
, who's a simply brilliant actress and absolutely has the range to portray the subtle insecurities of the character while also coming across as terrifyingly lucid.
is Selina Kyle
, thief and corporate saboteur, who's only identified offhand as a "Catwoman" not because of any weird fetish, but because she happens to wear a cat suit for her breaking and entering. She's coerced (perhaps blackmailed) by Cobblepot into stealing Wayne company secrets, hoping to exploit the company's secrets and then pick through Wayne's bones. Her cover is as a rich dilettante, a romantic interest for Bruce Wayne allowing her to work recon for the sabotage. As she digs into Wayne files, the secret of Batman reveals itself to her. In the long game, she plays Wayne and her employers (and eventually Nash), making off with a considerable sum of dirty money and holding the Batman's secret as insurance. Christina Ricci is hauntingly beautiful, somewhat serpentine, and capable of portraying immense cunning beneath a demeanor of catlike languidness.
as Oswald Cobblepot
, a cultured and old school British arms dealer known as the Penguin due to his birdlike silhouette and his affinity for formal wear. Cobblepot is looking to retire in Gotham, setting up the Iceberg Lounge and a comfortable retirement racket of negotiating illegal smuggling into the city. He's an associate of the new threat to Gotham, and together with Bane, controls guns and drugs coming into the city. He is also a counterpoint to Bruce Wayne, a self-made tycoon who's spent the better part of his life making sales in the most brutal of war-torn regions. He funded Bane's overthrow of the Santa Prisca government, seeing the opportunities the situation presented. His experience hocking in the front lines has provided him with a genius tactical sense of modern combat. Kingsley's the pimp. He's got the profile, the chops, and the background for a role like this.
as Talia Al-Ghul
. The girl's already proven she can kick ***. Kill Bill allowed her to let loose and be incredibly vicious physically. This would allow her to just be an absolutely ruthless ***** politically. She's the daughter of Ra's al Ghul but she brings her own bonuses to the table. She has a brilliant business mind. She recognizes that, despite the boozey squandering of the Wayne identity, the company is the heart of Gotham City. A sizable majority of commerce in the city is directed by Wayne interests. Her organization is colloquially quipped "Intergang", a corporate criminal organization seeking to fill the void left behind by the Joker's rampage on the big organized crime families. Using the company Kane Enterprises (referencing the Biblical Cain and serving as a symbolic "brother" to Wayne Enterprises), Intergang begins ruthlessly seizing Wayne investments. What Intergang offers to the blue collar is a consolidated criminal organization which is relatively benevolent to the employees on all rungs of the organization while offering a commendably stable chain of command. They run crime like a business, like a criminal union, and offer tantalizing opportunities to many in the lower class as blue collar job ops take a nose dive. There's a dynamic of revenge involved. Batman killed Talia's father in the same way that Chill killed Wayne's parents. She's fulfilling her father's legacy just as Wayne needs to step up and redeem his family's legacy. The fact that Batman allowed her father to die, while saving the life of the Joker (who has now spawned chaotic social dissidence) would be key. Besides, who wouldn't want to see a wicked martial arts throwdown between Uma and Christian?
makes a brief appearance as Hugo Strange
, a psychologist who was convicted to Arkham Asylum after he was found conducting experiments into the effects of high-strain steroids on inmates of the asylum, creating broken-minded fiendish "monster men". He claims (erroneously) to having served as a therapist for Batman's alter ego. He serves as a Hannibal Lecter (or Calendar Man) to Eddie Nashton. He refuses to reveal the identity of the Batman (since he's hoaxing, and doesn't actually know who Batman is) but surmises some critical revelations into the Batman's psyche. If you want to expand his role, you could tie him into Talia's organization by making him a lead researcher into the production of new strains of steroids, using inmates as guinea pigs.
is private dick Eddie Nashton
, scruffy and antiheroic, a former quiz show whiz kid who turned his inquisitive mind to detective work. Growing sick of videotaping cheating housewives, Nashton's big break came when the police department contracts him to uncover the identity of the Batman. Through the course of the film he plays a game of cat and mouse with the dark detective, communicated through an exchange of riddles and puzzles between the two. He's a large part Philip Marlowe and smaller part Michael Westin (Burn Notice). A large part of Nashton's investigative work involves playing the detective game like a long con, in the same way that Westin treats his intelligence investigations. Sam Rockwell would be perfect - slickly cunning but resonating with a suave sort of sliminess. Incidentally, I think Robert Downey Jr. would also be great for this role.
We start with Gotham City in the throes of a violent class war. Batman has been revealed as a cop killer, and the GCPD is chomping at the bit to take him down. Commissioner Gordon's hands are tied and Batman's only eye into the police force is Anna Ramirez, who suspects the truth given her role in TDK. We open on news footage of the city streets, aflame, steeped in violent looting, curfew in effect, riot police storming the blocks. The dissidents roam the streets in full clown war paint, railing on the decadence and the irresponsibility of the rich. Batman is in the midst of it, as a gang of clowns overwhelms a cargo truck and, through sheer numbers and ferocity, beat the **** out of the heavily armed men onboard. Batman dispatches both parties and uncovers a massive stash of heavy arms loaded in the back of the truck, but before he has time to investigate, the police arrive, and he has to flee. But he's worried. The attack suggests a method behind the seemingly anarchic looting of the clown plague, and the threat of these young lunatics armed to the teeth is simply terrifying. Further, with organized crime in shambles, there's a question of who the men driving the guns were working for. Meanwhile, the GCPD has their hands full trying to contain the threat of these "Clown Disciples", and the city is bordering on martial law. Luckily, Kane Enterprises, a shipping company that's just relocated their headquarters to Gotham City, is taking a proactive hand in civic order. They've hired down-on-his-luck private dick Eddie Nashton to investigate the Batman. He makes the big break when he sifts through the background on the accountant who was looking to break open the Batman story (who's name I don't remember), pulling background on the guy to narrow down the possibilities of who the Batman could be, and after stumbling on design specs for the tumbler, it all clicks in place, and he realizes that whoever is the Batman must be associated in some way with Wayne Corp. Speaking of Wayne Corp, Lucius Fox is in a board meeting with Kathy Kane (cover for Talia Al-Ghul, played by Uma). She's the head of Kane Enterprises, a monolithic international company that specializes in import-export and has cornered shipping in and out of Gotham. She's negotiating a partnership where Kane handles all of the shipping for Wayne goods, and Kane gets stock interest in the company. Fox is reticent, but other investors seem eager. At the end of the meeting, Kane offers her disappointment that Bruce Wayne couldn't make it, although she understands how a meeting like this would be boring for someone like him, and suggests a better place to become acquainted with his future partner may be the opening party of the new Iceberg Lounge. Wayne's dogged, the state of emergency putting its toll on him, and almost all of his time is spent in the cowl. Wayne Manor's been rebuilt, with the cave expanded, outfitted with a massive mainframe, which he's using to investigate entrepreneur and new Gotham resident, Oswald Cobblepot. Alfred's worried about Bruce, gently suggesting that the Wayne personality needs some exercise. He suggests Wayne show up at Cobblepot's Iceberg Lounge - Bruce agrees entirely. We meet Selina Kyle, elegant, rich, mysterious, seen chatting with Kathy Kane. She wears dark, heavy shades, which protect her in moderate to bright light. She suffers from achromatism. She's entirely color-blind, and needs to filter her sight in light to prevent it from all fading to white. But in the dark, she can see with perfect acuity, albeit black and white. She's coaxed to go meet Bruce Wayne, who's certainly charmed. He meets Kathy Kane, as well as Bane (who I'm sure has a real name in the movie. I'm just not sure what it is). He also manages to plant a listening device in Cobblepot's office. Things hit off well with Selina, and after some teasing him in the right direction, he suggests she visit Lucius for a tour of the company. Back at Wayne Manor, he monitors the bug, which clearly reveals the deal between Cobblepot and Bane. Cobblepot is serving as the arbiter between Bane and the mysterious third party, in an open exchange of guns and drugs from the island. Cobblepot's using the Lounge to launder the money and make everything look legit. Bane is heading home overnight: he rarely leaves Santa Prisca, being intensely paranoid and over-prudent, and admits the only reason he agreed to actually come to Gotham was due to his fascination with the city's Bat. Wayne decides that night that he's leaving for Santa Prisca to neutralize Bane. Alfred, incredulous, asks how he's going to wage war on an entire island. Wayne's unsatisfying answer is that he'll simply make it unprofitable for Santa Prisca to continue doing business with Gotham. Batman emerges from the bay into Santa Priscan port. Here, he rigs a number of ships (marked Kane Enterprises, he notes) loaded with coke. He then heads for the President's mansion, a massive fortress on a cliff overlooking the coast. It's been retrofitted from the penitentiary that locked away so much of Bane's life, as a shining emblem of redemption. He works his way through the heavily guarded stronghold until he comes upon Bane's private quarters. Batman shows Bane the detonator in his hand. They talk, about the nature of their missions, about who's right, who's wrong. Batman shows what he's willing to do, detonating the cargo ships out in the port. Bane comes at him, and he monopolizes the fight. He cracks Batman's back over his knee and flings him out of the window. Batman spins to the sea below, his cape unfurling behind him, in a fluttering spiral like an injured sparrow, and he plunges into the water.
Act two again opens with a television broadcast, an execution tape from the clown. It's shot in the university auditorium at night, the whole theater overflowing with weirdos in clown masks and paint - bats and chains, like something out of the Warriors. We meet Harley Quinn in heavy grease paint and a DYI harlequin costume. She was a social psychologist working in the inner city who went native and founded herself a personality cult. She's not enamored with the Joker like the comic book version, but instead recognizes him as a symbol she can use to galvanize a revolution. They make their demands - a list of socialites who must submit to the guillotine, with Bruce Wayne topping the list - and punctuate the demands by executing their trust fund hostage. It makes a counterpoint to the Wayne murders. The Waynes, who were murdered by Ra's for being too responsible; and as an antecedent to that, the rest of the Gotham upper crust who are being targeted for exhibiting zero responsibility. Selina Kyle is taking the tour of Wayne Industries. We see her pull some cool tricks to monitor the place using sleight of hand, selective questioning, and a few interesting gadgets, including one utilizing the sonar technology from Batman's toy in TDK. Fox repeatedly demures the questions of where Bruce is. As she steps out, we her end of a phone conversation, calling her employer Ozzie on the phone and revealing her as a saboteur. Bruce Wayne has been recovered by a poor family of coca farmers, who nurse him back to health. Pastoral, like the Godfather II, in subtitled Spanish. Here he finds a humble man making a living off one of the few crops that can bring in the money to sustain his family. Bruce recovers over a few days to a week, finally gets to a point where he can be moved to a town. Wayne and Alfred arrive on the company roof in a chopper, greeted by Fox and Kyle, who fawns over him. He needs to lean heavy on a cane to walk (I wouldn't have his back actually be broken. I don't want to go the "replacement Batman" route). They explain the injury as the result of a mountain climbing accident. Bruce Wayne finds Eddie Nashton waiting for him in his office, to discuss his investigation into the Batman. I keep picturing that really kick-*** scene in American Psycho
where Willem Dafoe is speaking with/interrogating Christian Bale. The two jockey in the office as Nashton tries to feel out whether Wayne could be the Batman. We get another peek into Nashton's interest in puzzles, we establish his interest in detective work stemming not out of a need to help people, but out of an interest in the roundabout, conspiracy-laden mysteries of film noir. Wayne forwards Nashton to Lucius Fox, swearing to give him access to whatever he needs. Wayne, later, in the manor's basement. The clown disciples are getting out of control, and he can see Kane Enterprises maneuvering, looking to slowly lay pressure on Wayne Corp and swallow it whole. He's frustrated that he can't operate as the Batman the way he would like to, muses that he'll have to approach things differently. And the police and news seem worried that, with as October is wrapping up, a **** storm may be coming. Alfred, noting the poverty at the heart of the city's rioting, gently suggests that maybe the city needs Bruce Wayne more than it needs Batman. Oh, and Selina Kyle is upstairs. She is ever-present, insinuating herself into Wayne's life, doting over him. They have a rapport, and he can't turn her away. He's lonely, hunted, but her presence makes it much harder for him to work as Batman. He works from afar as his back heals. A package shows up at Nashton's door, paperwork implicating Kane Enterprises with the drug and gun trade into Gotham City - vouchers that show a connection between Santa Prisca and the shipping company, paper trails of smartly laundered money, and the last page, blank but for a sentence hand-written, circled, red-inked: "Can you afford to be associated with these people?". Nashton meets with Kathy Kane at the Iceberg Lounge. He insinuates that she's getting him involved in a private duel between her people and Wayne Enterprises. It gets heated. "Maybe it is
time for a class war", he says. Kane tells him to cool his heels, gives him an invitation to her upcoming Halloween masquerade. She retreats to the VIP lounge, which he's been watching. Snaps pictures of Ozzie, Bane, Kane, all retreating into the private lounge. It's Halloween, and the clown disciples arm themselves for an assault as Kane's costume party is getting started. Kyle wears a Julie Newmar style Catwoman costume. Early in the party, we see her slickly pocket Bruce's fingerprints and an ID card. Selina's there to poach what she needs from Wayne. Wayne's there to investigate Kane. Nashton's there to scope for the Batman, who he's convinced is associated with Wayne Enterprises and has a vendetta against Kane. Harley Quinn and her Joker Disciples storm Kane Manor, using their numbers and ferocity to take out the armed guard surrounding the city. A couple of richies get sliced up. She closes in on Bruce. Selina kills the electricity with an EMP triggered in her cell. The lights go out, her shades drop, and in the pitch black, she is a wrecking ball. The spotlights come up, the thugs are found mostly incapacitated, and backup pours in. Wayne is unable to stand against the wall. Kyle is lost in the mess, but so are many others, left unaccounted for by the fleeing, bustling crowd. Quinn's found bound and left for police out on the lawn. Everyone's convinced the Batman saved them, and Nashton is decently convinced that Wayne's not his guy.
Act three opens with news footage, just like the first two acts. A camera crew is filming the immediate aftermath of the attack on Kane Manor. The grateful rich think the Batman is their hero. The clowns being cuffed and loaded into cop cars think the same thing. The Batman is just another crooked cop protecting the rich at the expense of the poor. "What has the Batman ever done for us except break our bones and throw us in cells?" Wayne is trying to sneak away from the police all over Kane Manor as he's pieced together Kyle's story. He gets away with Alfred's help, entering Wayne Towers after hours. Here, he tangles with Selina Kyle, in catsuit and filtered goggles, who's raiding the building of any information on tap. Heavily injured, he doesn't stand a chance, and with her straddling over him, she lifts the mask, and coos in amusement. "Bruce...?" He tears off her goggles and tugs the pin off of a flashbang. In the chaos, he manages to pin her down. He can pay better, he says. The following day, Nashton is at a loss. He believes that the Batman is a weapon being funded by Wayne Enterprises and that a conflict with Kane is at the heart of it, but with Bruce out of the picture, he can't piece together an identity. That is, until he starts looking into the history of Bruce Wayne's butler, a man with decades of experience fighting guerilla battles in various international theaters. He decides to pay Mr. Pennysworth a visit, and Alfred gets the chance to be a pimp. "It's clear," he hypothesizes, with a wink and a nod, "That you're dealing with an organization, and not a man. If there is a Batman, and only one Batman, then he's more likely than not something not entirely remarkable, a cog in a war machine that's veiled by layers upon layers of corporate subterfuge. The riddle isn't 'Who is the Batman?'. It's 'Why is the Batman?'". Nashton walks away frustrated. Just... not for long... Ozzie and his men are waiting at Eddie's apartment. Kane's uses for the PI have run out, and in their last meeting he slipped up by revealing the one clue she needed, the connection to Wayne Corp. Eddie's brutalized, dragged to the basement of the Iceberg Lounge for interrogation. Bruce follows, knowing he needs evidence to pin on Cobblepot. He drops an anonymous bat-sighting on 911: Someone saw the Batman snooping around the Lounge... and when he breaks into the club, he makes his presence loudly known to the people gambling and socializing on the club's floor. As Ozzie's men try to covertly sneak out the back, Batman has their escape route covered, and the police come bursting in through the front, leaving the tied-up Nashton with little recourse but to spill to them the whole sordid story of Kane's connection to the Gotham underworld. Batman leads the GCPD on a wild goose chase, and as the icing on the cake, finds a way to secure a private conversation with Gordon in the midst of the whole mess. There's the talk about whether Batman's presence is really needed, whether what he's doing is right. Batman finally shows his face to Gordon, asks, "Should I turn myself in?" Gordon says, "Maybe I'd like to arrest the Batman, but that would mean arresting Bruce Wayne..." Meanwhile, amidst the chaos, Selina and Kane are in the VIP lounge. Selina's spilling the dirt on the information she gathered from Wayne Corp. "They know everything," she says. There's a whole network of evidence closed tightly around Kane Enterprises, enough to sink the company in criminal court, despite the corruption of City Hall. Wayne's ploy is to disseminate the information to Kathy Kane, knowing he can't fight an open war against her company, and he'll force her to retreat rather than see her empire crumble around her. Talia's not playing that game. She pulls a gun on Selina, and pulling off her glasses, plunging her into white-blindness, she leads her out. An exhausted, aching Batman is heading home. He parks the tumbler in the cave, changes back into Bruce. But the place is desolate. Alfred isn't anywhere. The entrance to the cave is open, and in the Manor he finds Kathy Kane, along with captive Selina and Alfred. There's the exchange you know has to happen. Talia reveals herself. There's the argument about the similarity between their upbringings, about justice, about what's right. There's swordplay. Talia is dead, Bruce Wayne is triumphant, Selina and Alfred are okay. Alfred must deal with the body of Talia al-Ghul while Bruce Wayne is left to come to grips with the fact that he's a murderer.
Coda: Bruce Wayne, press conference. It's hard to admit you're wrong, especially when the people who prove it to you are psychopathic murderers. But something needs to be done about the class discrepancies in the city. The Wayne Legacy, no legacy
should be about the amassing of wealth. The legacy of the Waynes should be the legacy of Gotham City, and Wayne pledges to die a poor man, to spend every cent of his fortune, over the course of his lifetime, towards the advancement and well-being of the citizens of Gotham. Maybe one of his partners in this endeavor is a cameo from Leslie Thompkins, who is helping reform the Clown Disciples locked away into proactive revolutionaries, in the fashion of the Guardian Angels or the early inner city "gangs" before they got swept up in Reagan's cocaine flood. Wayne will, of course, invest the money smartly to insure the dividends increase, to be fed into social and civic rehabilitation programs in the most fiscally responsible fashion. As the evidence of Kane's dealings go public, it becomes accepted that she's fled the country to avoid prosecution, and as the stocks plummet in the aftermath, Wayne Enterprises sharkishly gobbles them up. He slyly tells the company's former partner, Bane of Santa Prisca, that Kane money will, of course, be used to help reform the economy of Santa Prisca before the US sets their eyes on the island nation and decides a US-backed regime change is in order. And Nashton, bruised and beaten, sits in his cramped apartment, covered in codices and esoteric clues, financial reports and police reports, trying to piece together the structure of the organization that funds the Batman.