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5 Controversial Choices to Play the New Batman

3. Chris O’Donnell


Of all the entries on the list, this one promises to raise the ire of Bat-fans around the globe more than any other. “Chris O’-freaking’Donnell“, I hear you cry, “holy rusted metal, nipple-adorned, whiny, punk-ass Robin Chris O’Donnell?” To which I would respond, “Yes, the very same.” It’s easy to dismiss actors because of past sins – his pun-tastic interpretation of Mr. Freeze would surely result in Arnold Schwarzenegger being left out in the cold *obligatory groan* – but it’s sometimes worth remembering the good work they’ve put in along the way. O’Donnell first came to public attention back in 1992 in Scent of a Woman alongside Al Pacino – Pacino walked away with his first Oscar, long overdue, while O’Donnell received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

In fact, to mount a true defense, the character of Robin on screen – excluding Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s debatable incarnation – has been unlikeable. Robin is there, to an extent, as wish fulfillment for the audience: he’s the brave, tragic kid who gets Batman out of scrapes. In practice, however, the Schumacher take on the character was fundamentally annoying. In any case, it’s been more than 15 years since Batman & Robin in which time O’Donnell has grown up, raised a family, and is now turning in respectable work as NCIS Special Agent G. Callen on NCIS: Los Angeles. He’s 43 (Robin is 43!), and, when all is said and down, could provide a more down-the-line, rough-and-ready approach in the role to which he once played second fiddle.


2. Joseph Gordon-Levitt


This one’s sort of a gimme. The end shot of The Dark Knight Rises is of Joseph Gordon-Levitt‘s Robin John Blake standing in the Batcave as the platform he’s on slowly rises from the water. Given the title of the film, this could be taken to mean that it’s not referring to Bruce Wayne’s “resurrection” but the birth of a new Dark Knight. All the logical problems aside that would surround Blake’s taking on the mantle – he’s living alone beneath a care home with no funds apart from a police pension (maybe), no training, no equipment, etc., etc. – recent statements by both Nolan and Snyder suggest that’s the last we will be seeing of the Nolanverse. In any case, it’s clear that Batman vs. Superman requires the real McCoy, Bruce Wayne himself, instead of just an impersonator.

Taking this into account, though, there’s no reason why JGL couldn’t simply play Bruce/Batman himself in this new continuity. It might take audiences a moment to get over his presence in Rises, but that’s something for the marketing team to worry about and JGL is a more than capable/bankable enough actor to carry a Batman film himself (well, Batman/Superman). The case could be made that he’s too wiry, too slight, for the part, but tell me this: while watching Looper, were you at any point concerned by his physicality (or lack thereof)? JGL went toe-to-future-time-traveling-self-toe with Bruce Willis in that film and if someone can convincingly take on John McClane and not end up looking like a chump, that guy might just, perhaps, be Batman material.


1. Idris Elba


Idris Elba‘s inclusion here shouldn’t really be controversial. He’s an up-and-coming face who seems likely to become an out-and-out star any day now. He won a Golden Globe for his performance as the title character in the second series of BBC’s Luther while his supporting role in HBO’s The Wire made him a cult figure in the States. He’s shortly to play then freedom fighter Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which, if done right, has “Oscar bait” written all over it. In the last two years he’s starred in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Prometheus, Pacific Rim, and soon Thor: The Dark World. Following his casting in the original Thor, however, there was a collective freakout by particular comic book purists and, well, racists that Heimdall, the fictional personification of the Norse sentry to Asgard, was being played by a black dude.

Fortunately – for Marvel and for mankind in general – that seems to have blown over (although similar comments surfaced when Michael B. Jordan was rumoured for the role of Johnny Storm/the Human Torch), but could DC’s fear of a backlash prevent a bloke with the credibility and, indeed, suitability of Idris Elba from being cast as Batman? Hopefully not, because he might well be the best man for the job: magnetic and brooding, Elba’s not only proven he can play American but could bring an understated, self-effacing humour to the role that could do a lot to counter Bale’s portrayal as the character as an (understandably) moody bastard. We’re not saying it will happen, we’re not saying it should happen; we are saying that there’s no reason for Elba not to be one of the front runners to play Batman in Batman vs. Superman, apart from perhaps 60 years of comic book history and when did breaking from that ever pay off for a comic book film? Oh, wait: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Rises, Thor, The Avengers


Well, that’s our list, take it or leave it. So, what do you think? Are there some nice, perhaps somewhat out-of-the-box choices on there or does each any every one of them make your hackles rise? Would you like to give Chris O’Donnell a second shot in the DC-verse? Do you think Taylor Kitsch should be barred from the set of every major movie franchise for the foreseeable future? Whatever you think, we want to hear it!

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Robert Wallis

You can also read Rob's work at www.ofallthefilmblogs.blogspot.com.