I don't need to review The Dark Knight as many, many others have already done so and have said just about all I could say on the subject. Yes, I think it is the best comic-based film to date.
Moving on, I have strong opinions on things that I want to see from further Batman films and after sharing a few of them in recent discussions I thought it might be fun to catalog them in one place and open them up for debate. I'll actually focus on my more controversial choices and hopefully someone will be willing to argue that I'm crazy. Plus I'm not going to follow any one Graphic Novel line-up, and I know that drives some people crazy.
I doubt that this is where the next film will actually go, but if someone actually involved in the films wants to use these ideas (and I doubt they'll spread that far), I hereby offer them for free with only the request that I get a small "inspired by" credit. Heh.
The big tenet that I want to get across, the theme to what I'd like to see in the next Batman is that I think its finally time that we see "The World's Greatest Detective" side of the character finally make it to the big screen. Both of the Nolan films offer glimpses, but I think it would be cool to see a good "puzzler" film that attempts to leave the audience guessing just as much, if not more, than Batman. (I think Nolan has the chops for that given Memento and The Prestige.)
The only other thing that I would want to do is establish "the reign of the Joker". I realize that it may seem too early to recast the role, but I think that even sight unseen the Joker should still seem to have some influence on Gotham City. It's something that I've criticised Tim Burton specifically for because in killing the Joker in his Batman film he essentially eliminated one of the biggest catalyzing forces in the Batman world. As a fan of the animated series I wouldn't mind if the Joker were portrayed entirely off-screen, perhaps with a few small lines from, for instance, Mark Hamill.
Here's the villain slate that I think would work very uniquely:
A Plot: Mad Hatter/The Riddler
The Mad Hatter and The Riddler more than any other two Batman rogues, to me, seem cut from the same cloth. Even beyond the obvious passion both have for dressing in green, in recent variations at least, there is the fact that both are generally written to be extremely smart, deft challenging foes to Batman's intellect.
But it's the differences between them where I think an interesting story can develop. The Hatter is more insane, but more apt to use devices, of which he seems to have some skill. The Riddler is more well known from his 60s appearances and Jim Carrey's bizarre turn at the role. I could see using one as the foil for the other. For instance, set up a small puzzle with the Mad Hatter and follow it with a wilder one from The Riddler. If you do it well you get an interesting segue from the mania of the Joker (as expressed through The Hatter's Lewis Carroll fixation) to the no less OCD but all the more cerebral Riddler.
I could see recasting The Hatter in more of a "digital hacker" light and getting good play from that... something of a cyber-terrorism avatar of chaos and mania, the Joker of high technology if you will. (The only issue here being the need to avoid obvious comparisons the Matrix's non-scholarly usage of Carroll, but I could see using that to some advantage as well.
B Plot: Scarecrow, establish Harley Quinzel?
I'll admit that I'm a bit of a Scarecrow fan and think the character deserves more screen time. I think that the character could become very useful to pushing the "asylum insanity" to the next levels, particularly given the loss of Ledger. I've always seen it somewhat fascinating the dark role of Arkham in Gotham City, as it becomes the "rest stop" of just about the entirety of Batman's rogues gallery. Unlike just about any other superhero, we know where Batman's villains hang out when they aren't around, they are left to pick their wounds and plan their next escapade in Arkham. There's the dynamic that as Gotham gets cleaner and safer Arkham twists crazier and in Batman's Gotham crazy is something of an infectious disease. Just having the Joker locked down in Arkham in a straight jacket would send entire wings into sniffles of insanity.
What better way to explore that powder keg than to do a small bit on the attempted rehabilitation of Dr. Crane, once a well regarded psychiatrist of that very same institution?
I think that leads well to introducing another psychiatry-based villain, the young Dr. Harley Quinzel. There's an interesting contrast between Dr. Crane's origin story and Dr. Quinzel's. Harley follows the Joker's madness in a hideous combination of Nightingale Syndrome and Stockholm Syndrome. The pair end up exemplifying the worst elements of the abusive relationship, and yet, at least in the animated universe, there is some small temperance of the Joker's worst qualities by the influence of Harley, in so far as his mania can even hope to tempered. On the other side, Harley's relative sanity to the Joker gives her a better ability to blend in with the rest of Gotham, and the Joker's influence can send her to doing violent chaos in more structured environments than Joker himself could manage.
I would think that it would be just a bit of a nugget to simply establish Harley Quinzel within Arkham, perhaps foreshadow her later fall under the Joker's wing through a working relationship with a rehabilitating Dr. Crane, who might serve as something of a mentor of her psychology work. But just set the character up for that film when people will mind a recast Joker less, because to truly build the character you want to tell her determination and single-mindedness building to her helping the Joker escape Arkham. You probably want a good Bat-girl to act as a stronger counter-point to Harley. In fact, if you wanted to propose a brilliant Bat-girl starring vehicle, Harley seems like the perfect choice for the major villain.
C Plot: Hint at Scarface
To somewhat resolve the Mafia plotlines of the first two films I think it's time for a new Mafia boss to rise, on the outskirts of the film, in rumor and perhaps with very little actual screen time, and I think that boss should be Scarface. There are a lot of people that don't think that Scarface has the realism necessary to fit in the Nolan continuity, but I argue that Scarface has precisely the mania necessary to succeed the Joker in destabilising the Gotham City Mafia. Scarface and his "handler" The Ventriloquist are actually quite frightening Mafiasos, particularly because the sum is much scarier than the parts. There's something chilling about the man whose violence has migrated to a puppet extension of himself. There's something more chilling about a Mafia head that ultimately cannot be destroyed because he literally is a figure head, a puppet...
If done subtly and "in the wings" I think things could be quite interesting. The difficulty would be in skirting "Mr. Hat" campiness, but I think it would be easy enough to achieve "Penguin-levels of almost-non-camp".
So that's the villains that I think might lead to good Batman storylines in the Nolan continuity. Feel free to tell me where I'm crazy or steal my ideas for fan fic or movie scripts...