By Patrick Kevin Day, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
“The Dark Knight” hasn’t even opened yet and the lines are just now queuing, but can any actual film-going experience top the months of anticipation spent reading clues and rumors from the set online? With the hard reality of “The Dark Knight” staring us in the face, what’s a Bat-fan to do?
Look ahead to the next one, of course.
At this point, we don’t really know anything. Director Christopher Nolan has said he views this as the second part of a trilogy and star Christian Bale has already weighed in on his thoughts on a third film, so it appears they both have an eye on returning.
But as the girl is to James Bond, the deformed freakish villain is to Batman, so we have to ask: Whom will Batman fight next?
In interviews, Nolan has stated his preference for keeping his Batman vision grounded in the crime world instead of the superhero world, so don’t expect to see Batman fighting off aliens, Man-Bats or crazy scientists in the next installment. But after giving us interpretations of Ra’s Al Ghul, Scarecrow, Joker and Two-Face, we have to wonder who’s left in the rogue’s gallery. (Warner Bros.)
Backstory: Aside from Joker, the Penguin, Two-Face and Catwoman, the Riddler is one of Batman’s most famous villains. He’s appeared in every adaptation of the character since the 1960s TV series and already made it to the big screen once before in Joel Schumacher’s semi-reviled “Batman Forever” with Jim Carrey hamming it up in the role.
Why we want to see him: Because the Schumacher films took Batman into a bland, big studio blockbuster world of bright colors and little substance. The gritty Nolan-ized Riddler could revamp his image (and let him wear something than that ghastly green unitard Carrey wore in the 2005 film.)
Casting suggestions: The fanboy world is abuzz with rumors that current Dr. Who, David Tennant, may be interested in the role. (DC Comics)
Backstory: Otherwise known as “The Man Who Broke the Bat,” this masked, drug-addicted strongman is a relatively recent addition to the Batman mythos -- he first appeared in the comics in 1993 -- but he gained lasting notoriety in his debut storyline, in which he fought Batman in the Batcave and succeeded in breaking his back, leaving Batman a paraplegic. Obviously, he’s gotten better.
Why we want to see him: After two movies with Nolan at the helm, we get the idea that the streets of Gotham are really corrupt, but we haven’t seen him address the drug problem. With Bane’s serious use of the performance-enhancing drug Venom, a new dimension of the city’s underworld could be addressed.
Casting suggestions: Believe it or not, Bane actually had a small role in Schumacher’s “Batman and Robin,” though fans were horrified at the changes the filmmakers made to the character. Vinnie Jones already did the super-powered strongman bit in “X-Men: The Last Stand,” so how about fellow Brit Jason Statham? (DC Comics)
Backstory: This masked crime-boss, whose background sounds like a dark echo of Bruce Wayne’s own life (born into wealth, started a company, later hides behind a mask), was introduced in the comics in 1985. He has since gone from just another crime world kingpin to a crazed cult leader, forcing his followers to wear masks of their own.
Why we want to see him: Black Mask was reportedly going to be part of the “Dark Knight” in its earliest phases, but was cut during development. Considering that “Black Mask” was also the title of a 1920s pulp crime fiction magazine, this villain would be a perfect fit with Nolan’s vision.
Casting suggestions: Since Black Mask (real name Roman Sionis) has a similar background to Bruce Wayne, the character needs someone similar, but not identical to, Christian Bale. Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers, better known from Showtime’s “The Tudors,” fits the bill nicely. (DC Comics)
Backstory: One of Bruce Wayne’s childhood friends who only wished his parents had been killed when he was a child. Racked with jealousy over Wayne’s own orphaning, he later sought revenge as an adult after he discovered Wayne’s secret identity.
Why we want to see him: He’s the latest major villain to be added to Batman’s rogue’s gallery -- he first appeared in 2002 -- but he has a strong connection to Wayne’s early years, which were briefly explored in “Batman Begins.” Having him return for the third movie in this supposed trilogy would do a lot to bring the story full-circle.
Casting suggestions: Nolan has worked with many of the same actors multiple times. Michael Caine and Bale came with him to his Victorian-era magician thriller “The Prestige.” So why not bring Bale’s rival from that film, Hugh Jackman, to play his rival once again? (DC Comics)
Ventriloquist and Scarface
Backstory: The meek son of a mafia kingpin who developed multiple-personality disorder, Arnold Wesker learns to act out his homicidal and criminal impulses through a wood dummy he names Scarface. Scarface is a criminal genius who has an abusive relationship with the man who physically controls him. The two have been a part of the Batman world since 1988 and have been in most of the animated series, but have yet to be depicted in live action.
Why we want to see him: Criminal genius and mental illness are the precise themes Nolan has worked with in his first two Batman pictures. So why fix what’s not broken? Plus, crazy ventriloquists are really creepy.
Casting suggestions: Anthony Hopkins has already demonstrated his adeptness at playing a crazy ventriloquist in the 1977 film “Magic.” It would be fun to see him return to one of his pre-Hannibal Lector fame roles. (DC Comics)
Backstory: Dr. Kirk Langstrom develops a serum meant to give humans a sonar sense similar to a bat’s. Instead it transforms him into a hideous bat-like creature that can’t control his animalistic urges.
Why we want to see him: We realize this is a pipe-dream and goes against all of Nolan’s stated goals with his films, but come on -- who doesn’t want to see Christian Bale fight a giant bat-like creature?
Casting suggestions: Another “Prestige” holdover, Andy Serkis, would look great in bat makeup. (DC Comics)
Backstory: Young Waylon Jones was born with a condition known as Epidermolytic hyperkeratosis -- a real disease -- that left him resembling a human crocodile. Looking more animal-like as time passes, he indulges his baser desires.
Why we want to see him: Nolan ruled out super-powers, but he didn’t say anything about unfortunate skin conditions. Killer Croc is weird and savage enough to provide a different kind of threat to Batman.
Casting suggestions: Ewan McGregor’s toothy grin seems sort of crocodile-like. And after doing all those “Star Wars” movies, he’s primed for the rigors of big-budget superhero filmmaking. (DC Comics)
Backstory: She started out as a villain and gradually became an anti-hero and Batman’s long-running love interest. She nearly stole the show in Tim Burton’s 1992 sequel “Batman Returns” and even got her own film in 2004, “Catwoman” starring Halle Berry, but the less said about that, the better.
Why we want to see her: Nolan has expressed a preference for keeping his Batman films planted squarely in the world of crime fiction, and a whip-cracking, leather-wearing cat burglar is as lurid as it gets. Plus, Catwoman really deserves better treatment than what she was dealt in “Catwoman.”
Casting suggestions: At last summer’s San Diego Comic-Con, Kate Beckinsale expressed great interest in playing the part. And with Nolan’s seeming affinity for casting foreigners as Americans (Bale, Gary Oldman, Heath Ledger, Cillian Murphy) her participation seems to fit. (DC Comics)