Batman! Batman! Batman!

Production has begun on the Batman Begins sequel The Dark Knight, and news is minimal. (Director Christopher Nolan recently said that he views making movies like writing novels; you wouldn’t expect an author to release chapters of his book before the release date, would you?)

What we know for certain is that Christian Bale returns as Bruce Wayne/Batman, and man, I can’t wait to see this guy in action again. Bale is the kind of actor who gives 100% physical and emotional dedication to a role, and the reason I love Batman Begins so much is that Nolan and Bale figured out a way to get to the heart of Bruce Wayne without compromising the seriousness of Batman’s mission. Anybody can relate to Peter Parker, whose best is never enough no matter how hard he tries. It’s much harder to make a billionaire accessible, but Bale and Nolan knocked it out of the park.

Sir Michael Caine is back as Bruce’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth, and Gary Oldman wears the Gotham City badge once again as Lt. James Gordon.

The Joker is the big villain this time around, with Heath Ledger slipping behind the white face of Batman’s most heinous adversary. Ledger has said that the Joker will be the ultimate anarchist with a creepy Clockwork Orange kind of vibe to how they’re approaching him. I can’t wait. What I like best about Heath’s casting is that I can’t see him as the Joker. And I like that. I like that whatever we get, it’ll be something we’re not expecting. Bring it on.

Rumors abound that Gotham City cop Renee Montoya will appear; she’s long been a staple of the Batman comics and cartoons. My suggestion would be Jennifer Lopez, who’s one of the best actresses on the planet but gets zero credit for it. She’s so natural on film, and I’d love to see her playing Renee. Cast Mekhi Phifer as her partner, Crispus Allen, and I’ll be in heaven; Montoya and Allen were the Benson and Stabler of Gotham City long before SVU was a gleam in sweet Mariska Hargitay’s eye. Assuming, of course, that Renee’s even going to be in it in the first place.

Unfortunately, Katie Holmes will not be returning as Bruce’s childhood friend Rachel Dawes. Instead, she’s going to make a comedy with Queen Latifah. Um, okay. I don’t mind Rachel not being in the film; in fact, I’d rather see the film not be bogged down by too many characters.


Casting rumors posted right here by the in-the-know cats at Latino Review suggest that even though Katie’s out, Rachel remains in, which means … recasting. And I hope they’re not stupid enough to do that. Rachel was the only female character in Batman Begins, and to recast the part would be senseless and distracting.

Lots of critics and Batman fans went out of their way to trash Katie’s performance in Begins, but I honestly think most of them did so because they thought it made them sound cool and hip to trash somebody connected to Tom Cruise. And that’s such a shame, because Katie delivered exactly what the role asked for. Rachel was a voice of reason and goodness from Bruce’s past, and Katie hit the mark perfectly. I love the scene in the kitchen, when Christian and Katie are playing several-years-younger versions of Bruce and Rachel. Katie totally sells that she’s “younger” in that scene than in the rest of the film; there’s an exuberance in that kitchen scene that’s still there in the later scenes, but tempered by her age and the sadness she feels that Gotham City is slipping away. I love everything about the character of Rachel and I love everything about Katie’s performance. I can’t imagine the role being recast, and for the sake of the film I hope the rumors to that effect prove to be false.

Latino Review also says that Matt Damon turned down the role of District Attorney Harvey Dent. Harvey is kind of like the Batman of the Gotham City judicial system; he stands up fearlessly to the mobsters and corrupt officials who ruled the city before Batman’s arrival. In fact, Harvey is such a bad-ass that Gordon suspects he’s Batman. But when a mobster on the witness stand tosses acid in Harvey’s face, the trauma unleashes a split personality and Harvey becomes Two Face, a tragic, twisted villain who makes extreme decisions about right and wrong based on the flip of a coin. I can really see Matt Damon for this role, and if he did indeed turn it down I hope it goes to someone equally talented. Ed Norton has been rumored, and even Jamie Foxx has had his name thrown around by those in the know. (Though that would probably render useless any “Gordon thinks Dent is Batman” storyline. Hey, it didn’t stop Billy Dee Williams from playing Dent in the first Burton/Keaton Batman. Though Joel Schumacher sure did, when he replaced Billy Dee with Tommy Lee Jones in the mostly abysmal Batman Forever.) Another rumored Dent candidate is Eion Bailey, who auditioned against Bale and to play Batman. This rumor makes a lot of sense, given that Nolan cast another Batman candidate, Cillian Murphy, as The Scarecrow in Begins. (I’m still reeling from the fact that we got a Batman movie with Liam Neeson as Ra’s Al Ghul and a top-caliber guy like Cillian as the infinitely-creepy-because-Murphy-made-him-so Scarecrow.)

I trust everyone involved with the production. I just hope that they don’t recast Rachel and choose instead to turn Katie’s departure into an opportunity to focus more on the other characters.

The Dark Knight will kick your ass and mine on July 18, 2008.