Batman 3 [Working Tittle]. A Villain has to be as important as a Hero and unfortunately for the current Batman franchise they have been pretty abysmal.
Yes Heath Ledger portrayed his Joker with a certainly personal flawed repose but Batman is essentially a two dimensional character facing two dimensional enemies in a stark two dimensional world. This "mismatch" of director Christopher Nolan's Gothic Nightmare and colorful camp arch enemies does not quite work. It did work in the hands of Tim Burton but Burton's mind consists of charcoal pastels, a perfect Californian dystopia. Its only when the series in comicbook form got dark in the nineties that it became interesting. The death of Robin at the hands of the Joker [Jason Todd: A Death in the Family] the rape of Batgirl [Barbera Gordon; The Killing Joke] the emergence of very classical tragedy in comic form works wonders. Nolan has to look for a new reality in a worn out franchise but unfortunately this story is draped in nostalgia one that we are all to familiar with. When your faced with establishing a new fresh reality inside a concrete familiar universe you have to break everything down.
There's going to be several options for Nolan now, but the mishandling of several great characters such as Bane has cost the franchise in the past. The culminative direction Nolan took with the first film was overtly psychological, -almost oedipal so that must ultimately culminate in a worthy adversary, hence we have the Riddler. Nolan is good with highly complex characters. [Memento] There are rumours that in fact some characters may be merged such as the Riddler and the Cluemaster. Nolan did break down Bruce Wayne effectively but I never buy that concept of Batman out of his natural environment be it Indo-China and so forth. Batman must always be subject to his flaws and a slave to his environment for ultimately at the end of the day Batman is a monster to himself and in my opinion his destiny is the path of madness. He operates by controlling his immediate environment and is subject to its natural law, this was perfectly realised in Frank Miller's Year one. But what could possibly be a worthy adversary? Personally I think Batman has enough conflict within himself to create repercussions, flawed creations and so forth. The truth is the basic flaw of Batman is that it is still congurent to a 1940's America in prime characterisation. Why? Nostalgia.
The problem is Ledger's Joker did leave a legacy and one not easy to live up to. So the easy way out may be to overwhelm Batman with so many adversaries that he and Bruce Wayne will be near exhaustion. I have heard mutterings about one particular idea; to have the story take place over several weeks where Bruce Wayne will be suffering from intense sleep deprivation. Arkham Asylum was a good graphic novel and it may fare well in a 120 min structure but Batman is never about the microstory. Batman is epic.
The idea of Superman is something that is being thrown around at the moment. IESB earlier confirmed that David Goyer and Jonathan Nolan have completed at least a first draft of Batman 3.
It started with Goyer as he is also in talks to write the new Superman Reboot zzzzzzzzzzzzz.. Since the ongoing lawsuit prevents them from telling Superman's origins, they may just set the story in a time where Superman is already established. This Superman/Batman cross over will never work in Cinema because its thematically redundant. It works well in comic book form because thats where Superhero's exist in their heightened reality where Cinema treatment attempts to place them in our medicorce world. They are both safe franchises that nobody will take a risk with unless you let Frank Miller write the script.
One source claims the Superman/Batman cross-over story is essentially supposed to be a time travel story. It's hundreds of years after a great apocalypse and Superman is the last survivor on Earth. Everyone he knows is gone and he is praying for Earth's son to go supernova so he can finally die. An extra-terrestrial observer grants him the power to send his consciousness back in time into the body of his younger self to prevent the apocalypse, but something goes wrong. He has little memory of why he has been sent back or what causes the apocalypse and has to piece together the clues before its too late. The Apocalypse was due to Darkseid searching for the "Anti-Life Equation" who was inadvertently lured to Earth by Lex Luthor. Thats epic but is it even remotely interesting? Find a copy of Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns".
Michael Caine seemed to confirm rumors with an interview with MTV that the next installment of the franchise will feature two very well-known names playing the roles of The Riddler and the Bumbershoot Bandit, The Penguin. "They've already got them in mind,” said Caine, when asked who he would like to see take up arms against the Caped Crusader.“It's Johnny Depp as The Riddler and The Penguin is Philip Seymour Hoffman. I read it in the paper.”
We will see..
Update: 04/06/10 Christopher Nolan has confirmed no presence of the Joker /recast etc in Batman 3 [working title]... no brainer.