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A hero is only as good as their villain. And no big screen villain is quite as scrutinized as a Batman villain.
The fever pitch caused by the casting of Jack Nicholson for 1989’s Batman is the stuff of legend as was the fury (and subsequent eating crow) that followed Heath Ledger’s casting is equally legendary. Tom Hardy’s hard-to-understand Bane caused controversy months ahead of the release — and Jared Leto’s Joker in Suicide Squad was preceded by more than a year of non-stop speculation about his clown prince of crime leading up to the movie.
It’s safe to say choosing a villain for Ben Affleck’s upcoming standalone Batman film, which he is starring in and directing, is as important as it gets for the DC Extended Universe.
Below we let you decide who should be facing off against the Dark Knight. (For more from the debate, see what two Heat Vision writers had to say, or weigh in yourself in the comments of Heat Vision’s Facebook page.)
Bane: 1997’s Batman & Robin showed a non-verbal Bane (Robert Swenson), while Hardy’s Bane broke the Bat in The Dark Knight Rises. That got part of the famous Batman: Knightfall storyline right — but it may be risky to touch again as fans didn’t quite take to a broken-backed Batman in TDKR.
Catwoman: You can’t have a conversation about potential Batman villains without listing Selina Kyle, his sometimes nemesis, sometimes ally and sometimes love interest. She’s been portrayed three times on the big screen to varying highs (Michelle Pfeiffer) and lows (Halle Berry) — with Anne Hathaway playing her in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises. In the DCEU, it’s unlikely this would be the first meeting of the pair, which opens up a lot of possibilities to show an even more complex take on the character than we’ve seen on the big screen.
The Court of Owls: We’ve seen Batman go up against both organized crime and the League of Shadows in The Dark Knight trilogy. The Court of Owls, introduced in the comics in 2011, has elements of both — with this organized crime group also happening to raise dangerous assassins after kidnapping them as children. They were once obsessed with Dick Grayson, who was supposed to be one of their leading assassins before Batman turned him into Robin.
Deadshot: Will Smith’s Deadshot was considered by many to be a bright spot in Suicide Squad — though others complained the assassin was a little too likeable in this incarnation. But it’s hard to deny the brief fight between Batman and Deadshot left viewers wanting more — and the DCEU version of Deadshot certainly has a bone to pick with Batman.
The Joker and Harley Quinn: Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice have done the leg work of establishing the twisted backstory of the Joker (Jared Leto) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) — with it revealed that both were responsible for the death of Robin. Squad director David Ayer has said the backstory goes deeper than what’s hinted at on screen. Nicholson and Ledger’s Jokers had no previous history with Batman (though Nicholson killed Bruce Wayne’s parents in his previous life before becoming the colorful villain). A big screen fight reuniting a Batman with a Joker he’s tangled with — and even lost to — would make for a fantastic way to differentiate this version from the greats of the past. Ledger’s Joker says in The Dark Knight that he believes they “are destined to do this together” … now we can finally see what that looks like.
Hush: A mastermind with a talent for manipulating the Gotham underworld against Batman, Hush could be a way to bring in multiple bad guys from Batman’s past. After all, Affleck’s Batman is a guy who has been doing this for 20 years, so it’s hard to imagine he hasn’t met most of his classic rogues gallery already. Hush could be the new guy on the scene who can pull the strings, allowing us to see classic characters before Batman goes up against Hush.
Killer Croc: The reptilian villain, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, wasn’t particularly well-received in Suicide Squad, but hey, the Batman staple is in the DCEU, so he’s got to be on the list of contenders.
Mr. Freeze: One of the most complicated villains in the entire Batman world, Mr. Freeze’s motive are more comprehendible to audiences than the typical world-domination tropes of many comic villains. His motive is basic and relatable: love. Victor Fries deserves to get his day in the sun (forgive the pun). The character is too fantastic not to be featured in a good Batman movie. We dare not speak the name of the 1997 incarnation. Let’s just say it can get to the chopper and stay there … forever. If only Patrick Stewart hadn’t aged out of the character he was rumored to be in contention for back in the 90s — sigh.
The Red Hood: 2010’s Batman: Under the Red Hood is one of the most acclaimed DC Animated films and could provide a solid template for how this vigilante from Batman’s past could challenge him on the big screen — while also bringing in the Joker.
The Riddler: Before Bane and Catwoman were brought into The Dark Knight Rises, a strong contingent of fans were clamoring for the Riddler to join the Christopher Nolan trilogy. It wasn’t meant to be, but the villain — last seen on the big screen in 1995’s Batman Forever — could truly test Batman’s reputation as the World’s Greatest Detective. We could finally see Affleck’s Batman doing some investigating (that doesn’t involve getting emailed security footage of future Justice League members).
Two-Face: No character tests the dichotomy of Batman’s duel identity better than Two-Face. He was played by Tommy Lee Jones (who had to be convinced to take the role) in 1995’s Batman Forever and Aaron Eckhart in 2008’s The Dark Knight. By the time Affleck’s film comes out (there is no release date yet), it will be at least ten years since the last time we saw Harvey Dent on the big screen — perfect timing.
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