Saturday, November 17, 2012

Guest Post: Batman Villains That Could Have Been

I'd like to welcome Zack Mandell and thank him for contributing this post to On Page and Screen. Zack is a movie enthusiast, writer of movie reviews, and owner of which has great information on actors such as Philip Seymour Hoffman. He writes extensively about the movie industry for sites such as Gossip Center, Yahoo, NowPublic, and Helium.

It’s a real shame, but as of July of this year, Christopher Nolan ended his attachment to the Batman franchise.  Since 2005, the famed British auteur has delivered a trio of films about the caped crusader, all of which many fans would argue rank as some of the greatest comic book films of all time. Indeed, many critics have even gone as far as to say that the second film, “The Dark Knight,” ranks among the greatest films of all time no matter the genre.

One of the reasons that film succeeded so well was in no small part due to the performance of the actor playing the villain.  Heath Ledger’s performance as the mischievous and anarchic Joker earned him a posthumous Academy Award, and a spot reserved on every list of the greatest movie villains.  Tom Hardy had big shoes to fill in “The Dark Knight Rises” as the hulking Bain, but he received glowing reviews.  Of course, there will be no one to follow Hardy.  It’s a shame really: Since there were only three films, Nolan barely scraped the surface of Batman’s villains.  Here are five Batman villains that didn’t appear in Nolan’s franchise, and the actors that could have played them.

Calendar Man

Probably not the first entry that you were expecting.  Calendar Man possesses no supernatural abilities, which is a plus in Nolan’s Gotham.  He simply plans out crimes for holidays and other significant days throughout the year.  Utilizing Calendar Man as a villain would have allowed Bruce Wayne to employ his superior investigatory skills, which he never really did in the Nolan films.  If “The Dark Knight” was an homage to “Heat,” a film with “Calendar Man” could have been an homage to “The Silence of the Lambs.”  Calendar Man’s physique is consistent through several interpretations, so a casting director would look to highlight his intellect and creepiness.  With the right wardrobe, an actor like John Hawkes would have been great.

The Penguin

The Penguin might just be the most filmed Batman villain there is.  He was a mainstay on the old Adam West series, and Danny De Vito played him pretty exquisitely in Tim Burton’s “Batman Returns.”  It’s not hard to understand why Nolan passed on incorporating the disfigured Oswald Cobblepott into his franchise: It’s simply redundant.  That said, The Penguin is one of the most famous Batman villains, and it was really hard not to get excited when rumors popped up around 2009 that Nolan had recruited actor extraordinaire Philip Seymour Hoffman to play him in “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy is another villain that’s been filmed before, most famously when Uma Thurman played her in Joel Schumacher’s “Batman & Robin.”  Of course, most Batman fans want to forget that film ever happened.  I’m sure George Clooney wants to as well.  Nolan used a villain Schumacher used in his Batman films when he used Harvey Dent, and not surprisingly, Nolan did it better.  Thurman actually did a credible job with her performance back in 1997, but in 2012, no one could play the poisonous temptress better than Rachel McAdams.

Professor Hugo Strange

The secrecy of Batman’s identity was an important theme throughout Nolan’s trilogy, so it would have been interesting to see Nolan use a villain that knew that Batman was Bruce Wayne.  The drama that Nolan could have conjured from Hugo Strange lording over Batman with that secret could have been pretty spectacular.  In the comics, Strange thrives off of his intellect, his mad scientific experiments and his ability to disguise.  He may be a little old for the role now, but it’s still hard to imagine better casting for the role than Robin Williams.

The Riddler

Another villain that has been oft filmed, and one that was widely speculated would end up in Nolan’s franchise.  However, one can understand why he would dump The Riddler after having used The Joker so effectively.  Not that the two are precisely the same, but I can understand the thought process.  But wouldn’t it have been great to see Johnny Depp tackle the role, like the rumors suggested?

Christopher Nolan is moving on, and Batman fans will have to as well.  It’s fun to speculate what the films could have been like, but let’s be honest: Nolan always found a way to exceed our expectations.


  1. Great post! I like your casting picks -- I'd be up for watching John Hawkes and Philip Seymour Hoffman in just about anything. I'm not particularly a fan of Rachel McAdams. It's not that I don't like her -- I just haven't yet seen her in any roles that blew me away. :-)

  2. These are great casting picks! When I started the post I had some ideas of who you might include, but your casting picks were much better than what I came up with. While I'm glad Nolan didn't repeat some of the recently done villains -- The Penguin, Poison Ivy, The Riddler -- I also think it would have been fun to see them in his darker, grittier Batman films.

  3. I had no idea Nolan bowed out of the series. That's a shame. Christian Bale made one of the best Batmans on film, and you are 100 percent correct on Heath Ledger's The Joker. I would have LOVED to see Philip Seymour Hoffman tackle Penguin. That would have been amazing indeed. Oh well.

  4. I think that Malcolm Jamal Warner should play Clayface.

  5. Thanks so much for the comments, guys. Yeah, it has been a personal wish of mine to see Calendar Man in a big-budget Hollywood flick. I think there is so much you could flesh out with that character given the right treatment. I agree, Kim. Penguin, Ivy, and Riddler have been overdone, HOWEVER, anyone who has seen read the Batman comic series "Hush" would love to see a Nolan version of that, which features The Riddler in a very unique role.


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