Christopher Nolan has said that The Dark Knight Rises is the end of his time on the Batman franchise. While I don't entirely believe that, and while I think that a fourth film in the Nolanverse is not only possible but likely, we have heard rumblings of a reboot - that Warner Bros would pretty much start over again with a new vision.
What would that vision be like? Here's a hit-whoring list of five things that I think must be taken into account should Warner Bros start a new Batman franchise. And even if they continue in the Nolanverse a couple of these are very, very applicable.
Less Frank Miller, more Grant Morrison.
Frank Miller's Year One is one of the overriding influences on Christopher Nolan's Batman films. Miller's take on the character - gritty, real, psychologically complex - has been the general go-to for the character for decades. But there are other versions of Batman, and I'd love to see them get some screen time. In particular I'd love to see a Batman more closely in line with Grant Morrison's take, which harkens back to the brawling adventurer version of Batman from Neal Adams and Denny O'Neil (who created Ra's Al Ghul, so they did have some impact on Nolan's version).
Morrison's Batman is an almost superhuman planner - his back-up plans have back-up plans. And while Morrison's Batman definitely operates on a street level, he's also at home dealing with the weird and wild and utterly psychedelic. In what was perhaps Morrison's masterstroke on the character he actually managed to work all of the strange, science fiction Batman stories of the 50s into modern continuity without breaking Bats' basic reality. His Batman could be just as comfortable chasing ancient relics as taking down a mob family. This approach also allows the new films to really use Batman's rogues gallery, one of the best and most bizarre in comic books.
We've had the serious and 'realistic' Batman. Let's have a Batman that's a bit more fun, without having to be silly.
Get rid of the bulky rubber outfit.
Over the last seven movies we have seen Batman in a ridiculous, barely mobile suit of thick rubber. We're at the point where simply moving his head is seen as a big victory. Batman is a martial artist and an acrobat - so why is he encased in what appears to be playground matting? In The Dark Knight Rises Batman's first battle with Bane includes pretty much just left hooks, likely because that's the extent of movement allowed by the dumb costume. So let's get him into something that allows movement, that doesn't look like it was sculpted. Check out Captain America's costume - looks good, allows mobility and actually appears to have functionality. The next generation of designers should follow from there.
And while they're redesigning the approach to the costume, maybe they might consider making it grey. And think about that yellow oval. It's cool.
Make Batman a detective.
The full name is "The Dark Knight Detective." Batman isn't just an urban vigilante in a strange getup - he's a master detective whose deductive skills rival Sherlock Holmes. This element of Batman is historically underplayed, and Nolan's Batfilms in particular have ignored his detective element (or, more truthfully when Nolan has engaged the detective element it has been in a way that makes Batman seem stupider, like the fingerprints on the Joker's bullet thing).
Tell a story where Batman isn't just punching guys but where he's engaged in a real mental match-up. Where he's not only riding in his Batmobile but also piecing together seemingly mundane and pointless clues. Where he's seemingly at a loss but is actually one step ahead of the villain. Look to the Robert Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes films for a sense of how to do this.
Have it take place in the DC Universe.
Marvel did it. It can be done. A shared universe is possible. I understand that Christopher Nolan wanted no other hands on his toys, but now it's time to get some fingerprint smudges on them.
Nolan never had the imagination to see how a shared universe could actually help Batman. In a world where there's a Superman and a Green Lantern, Batman suddenly gets put into proper perspective. He's a man among the gods, a guy who through sheer force of will has taken his place in the pantheon. If anything, this reinforces what is unique and special about Batman. You don't need to have The Flash running through Gotham to accomplish this - the crossovers can happen outside of the core Batman movies. What's important is that we know there are other cities defended by superhumans, while Gotham has its own very human protector.
Don't you dare make it an origin story.
Everybody gets it. We know why he's wearing the pointy ears. Move past it. Don't tie the villain into his parent's death. Don't encumber us with flashbacks. I'll allow a visit to the grave of the Waynes, but that's it.