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Dear DC Studios, Please Let Batman Fight Villains With Superpowers

It's time to admit that we might've learned the wrong lesson from Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy

2005's "Batman Begins," 2008's "The Dark Knight," and 2012's "The Dark Knight Rises" all depict a version of Bruce Wayne's spandex vigilantism more grounded in reality than anything he'd experienced onscreen before. Bright colors? Gone. Shark repellant? Out the window. Robin? Aged up, with no cape, and wearing full-length pants. 

However, Nolan's most notable change was the removal of all things super. His Ra's al Ghul wasn't a quasi-immortal cultist, just a meaner Qui-Gon Jinn. His Scarecrow dabbled in a generic brand of fear gas, not the Class A stuff that wholly warps perception. His take on the Joker totally ditched all the Joker Venom for a much quicker, knife-oriented approach to spreading smiles. His Two-Face only lived for a few days, avoiding questions about how those open facial wounds could avoid infection for years. And his rendition of Bane dosed up on painkillers instead of a strength-enhancing super-drug. 

Don't get us wrong, the "Dark Knight" trilogy is incredible. To Nolan's eternal credit, every deviation from the source material brought Batman one step closer to believably existing in our own world. The problem isn't so much that Nolan did something wrong with his focus on realism — it's that Christan Bale's tenure in body armor was so overwhelmingly popular that Hollywood codified Realistic Batman as the only Batman. That's a shame. Because while the Caped Crusader obviously works on a gritty reboot level, he's infinitely more interesting when surrounded by gods and monsters, as the world's greatest detective is forced to adapt and overcome in creative, compelling ways. Also? The hyper-realism approach deprives us of some of Batman's best villains, and face it, nobody wants Clayface as a grounded serial killer.

Batman's got a rogues gallery of wonderful weirdos that can't be grounded in real-life

Batman's rogues gallery has always been more than just mob bosses and corrupt politicians, but the 21st century focus on realism locks out some of the best, weirdest bad guys from the comics. The obvious frontrunners to consider are Poison Ivy and Mr. Freeze, both of whom have been notably absent from the big screen ever since Joel Schumacher's "Batman & Robin" almost 30 years ago. Honestly, it kind of feels like they're being punished for existing in the same space as George Clooney's bat-nipples. 

Even assuming that Ivy and Freeze are still out of bounds (a tragedy that deserves its own dissertation), DC Studios could opt for deeper cuts. For instance, why haven't we ever seen a live-action depiction of Man-Bat? Who among us wouldn't pay to see a movie titled "Batman vs. Man-Bat?" In that same vein (a word that's about to feel painfully ironic), Batman seems to fight Dracula an awful lot in the comics. Yes, as in the Count Dracula. There's a 2005 animated film called "The Batman Vs. Dracula" which even sees the eldritch horror vampirize the Joker. So that's neat. And yet somehow there are still more animal-themed monstrosities to cover, because no live-action Batman has fought Killer Croc. Yes, there's the more realistic Croc as he was originally envisioned (and who appeared in "Suicide Squad") but what about that scaly, subterranean version of the Incredible Hulk with an insatiable appetite for human flesh?

But no, we haven't seen any of that. Apparently, the only time Batman is allowed to take on a superhuman foe is if Bruce Wayne is the bad guy of somebody else's story, or sitting on the sidelines.

Zack Snyder's Batfleck broke the realism rule, but in the wrong way

It's worth mentioning that Zack Snyder, progenitor of the now-defunct Snyderverse, created his version of Bruce Wayne with a world of metahumans in mind. Batfleck literally began his cinematic run as an opponent for Superman, the most super Super to ever super. After they bonded over shared trauma, the two heroes battled Doomsday, and later, Steppenwolf. 

By Batman's count, that's three non-human skirmishes in a row, which would totally count as a win, were it not for the fact that Snyder's DC films are ... well, what they are. Love it or hate, pitting the Dark Knight against one of DC's most powerful characters on his first outing, and having him win on his first try, defeats the whole purpose. Think about it like this — if Batman can immediately overcome minor deities without so much as breaking a sweat, then he hasn't really adapted, has he? It's the same one-note problem we started out with, just on the opposite side of the spectrum.

And that doesn't even cover how narratively strange it is to introduce Batman as a Superman villain, or how their ultimate showdown boiled down to a fistfight where Supes conveniently forgot how to use his hilariously overpowered arsenal of abilities and Batsy conveniently remembered to bring his aerosolized Kryptonite gun. It's just a weird situation that left everyone involved looking inept.

Also, framing Batfleck's involvement during the battles with Doomsday or Steppenwolf as anything more than ancillary support would be ... a stretch. He operated as a general would, dolling out orders but staying clear of the fray. Maybe the only thing he learned was to avoid going toe-to-toe with supers?

Clayface is the mega-powerful Batman foe we really want to see

There's a rumor flying around that Battinson's next cinematic adventure will include Clayface. Depending on how Matt Reeves goes about handling that, "The Batman – Part 2" could be the long-awaited answer to our hyper-specific bat-prayers. Reeves could make Robert Pattinson, who has exclusively fought realistic villains so far, clash with Batman's most visually interesting rogue.

For those who haven't watched "Batman: The Animated Series" or "Harley Quinn" recently, Clayface is an overdramatic shapeshifter. He's what happens if you take Sandman from "Spider-Man 3" and add a little water. Admittedly, there's a reason he crops up in animation more frequently than any other medium. Clayface isn't like Beast Boy, who can only shapeshift into animals — no, this fella can literally take on any form. He could morph his right arm into a deadly scythe and his left leg into a picture-perfect bust of Abraham Lincoln at the same time. In a cartoon format, his abilities are only limited by the writing team's imagination. In a live-action setting, there are other factors taken into account, like the CGI budget. Batman movies don't mess around with big CGI bad guys, because they're convinced that even the comic book version of the Joker is too far-fetched.

Let's be optimistic. Reeves already proved that he isn't interested in repeating history when he made "The Batman" into a powerful movie about fighting incel culture. He could make his upcoming sequel about Battinson plunging out of his depth a second time, by facing a powerful metahuman like Clayface. Sure, it's infinitely more likely that, should the rumors prove true, Reeves will fashion Clayface into some kind of "normal" serial killer. But, again, let's cross our fingers. We believe in you, Reeves!

The Brave and the Bold is our best hope for a less realistic Batman

Truthfully, though, the most tangible hope for a Batman who fights supervillains isn't Matt Reeves, it's James Gunn. While Reeves could change up the formula for "The Batman – Part 2," his projects are relegated to DC's Elseworlds, a fancy title for any film that DC Studios cranks out that isn't canon to the interconnected cinematic DC Universe. That doesn't mean Reeves' work is any lesser, far from it, only that it probably will stray further and further from what comics fans expect, as embodied by the almost-certainly comics-inaccurate upcoming Joker sequel from Todd Phillips

Now, Batfleck and Bat-Keaton are both popping up in "The Flash," but that film is all about resetting the multiverse's status quo. And that leaves us with the DCU's upcoming re-re-reboot of Batman, who will be paired alongside Damian Wayne's Robin in "The Brave and the Bold." Which means this is the incarnation of Batman who might, if we're lucky, face off against Clayface, Man-Bat, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Dracula, an electric-powered Maxie Zeus, Solomon Grundy, Doctor Death, or so on. The DCU is our best chance for Batman to become the metahuman fighter we know he can be, particularly since Gunn named the DCU's Chapter One (similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe's phases, probably) "Gods and Monsters." 

Does that sound like an interconnected cinematic universe where Batman will be stuck busting street thugs for petty theft? Of course not, it sounds like an opportunity. So, DC Studios, please let Batman fight his supervillains. Don't make Clayface into another serial killer with a gimmick. Don't let the only cool time that Bruce Wayne fought metahumans in modern cinema be "The LEGO Batman Movie." Please.