The Dark Knight (Returns)

I'm not going to write a review, no point. Everyone loved it.

What I'd like to do is get out an idea I had for what will likely be a third movie. Christian Bale has signed for three so there's at least going to be one more.

And in order to do this, I have to ruin some things for you, so don't read if you haven't seen the movie yet. Come back after you have.

Nolan isn't going to bring the Joker back. Ledger's death has pretty much sewn up the fact that the character will not be returning during Nolan's rebooting run on the franchise. Later directors, fine, but not now. Rachel Dawes is dead and even though Hollywood demands love and sex, I believe the third one should be devoid of that. There have been many runs of the comic where Batman doesn't have to worry about his heart-strings.

Also dead in the movie was Harvey Dent a.k.a Two-Face. Now, I'd be ok with him not being dead, in fact I'm counting on it. Eckhart played him so well and the effects on his face were so good that it'd be a shame not to see them again. Plus, Two-Face/Harvey Dent is still freshly tied to the Gotham mythos, the idea of someone taking a stand on crime. With him gone and the cops using Batman as a scapegoat, it's going to be the perfect time for the mob to step in. Now in The Dark Knight, Harvey is in the car with the mob boss Salvatore Mironi (Eric Roberts) when it wrecks. Dent survived; no reason Mironi didn't. It was assumed he's dead, but I don't know if it was ever actually confirmed.

So, here's where part three comes in.

One of Batman's oldest enemies is Clayface, so much so that there have been several incarnations and retoolings of the character including two of them getting married and having an offspring who would become Claything. For the purposes of this exercise I'm going to take the idea of the Clayface from the animated series, Matt Hagen; an out of work actor desperately trying to recreate his career. He ends up in an accident that horribly disfigures his face and is approached by a chemical manufacturing magnate who offers an experimental new skin cream that allows you to reshape your face like putty. Hagen owes money to the mob and when he doesn't pay, they subject him to dangerously copious amounts of the cream, changing his look to that of a monstrous lump of clay. He's able to use this to turn himself into anyone he sees but also turn himself into weapons.

All these things add up to what I believe would be a good part three of the series.

Harvey Dent goes into hiding. He disappears after his last encounter with Gordon and Batman. His wake in Gotham eulogizes him as a hero and the citizens lock in the memory of him as one of a good man and strong character. No one knows who Two-Face is publically. The Joker is locked in Arkham Asylum. The cops were able to get him safely put away without Batman. Rachel Dawes is dead, but Bruce is tortured by the memory of her and how he was unable to stop her death. Bruce makes the excuse of shoring up business ties with the firm in Hong Kong that was shown to be doing dirty bookkeeping but lost its CEO to get away from Gotham. He feels he's lost his focus and with the city wanting Batman's blood, he sees no reason to stick around. He uses the time to seek solace in a Buddhist monastery.

Meanwhile in Gotham, we meet an out of work actor. He's used loan money from the mob to invest in myriad plastic surgeries to keep his appearance up to Hollywood standards. However, while he isn't past his prime, he's definitely no longer action hero material. The surgeries have had the reverse affect and he's both without prospects and in debt to the mob. He's approached by a Wayne Enterprises representative to be a test subject for an experimental new rejuvenation therapy called Radical. It's based off current DNA/aging studies that claim free radicals destroying DNA is the reason we age the way we do. This therapy eliminates this natural cellular devastation and keeps people looking and actually BEING young for much longer as the body is allowed to regenerate itself. Hagen accepts and the transformation is incredible. He looks and feels young again.

However, the mob doesn't want to wait Hagen's career to pick up again and they money he makes from the testing isn't enough to pay them, so he's attacked in his home and in a cruel show, given too much of the medication that helps his cells heal. The overdose doesn't kill him, but it changes his DNA from merely regenerative to synaptically malleable; he can change his appearance at will. He becomes Clayface.

Of course Clayface is now pissed and the change not only affects his body but affects his mind. He blames Wayne Enterprises (and thusly Bruce Wayne) for his ordeal and the mob for making him go through it. The mob in this case is the Chechen (whose leader we see prominently in The Dark Knight.) After Hagen discovers his ability to change shape, he uses his powers at first to avoid the Chechen. Later he plots to get back at them by assuming the mantle of the Mironi family leader Salvatore. We find out Savlatore is not dead, but critically wounded from the car crash. He's in no shape to run the family, but is revered enough not to be killed. Hagen assumes the identity of a caretaker, kills Mironi, and then assumes his likeness - the family thinks he's miraculously cured. Running the Mironi family, Clayface wages war on the Chechens to get back at them, and he's very successful in killing their top man. But he also does something quite unexpected. He knows (somehow) that Rachel Dawes and Bruce Wayne were an item. To get back at Wayne, he changes shape to be Rachel and shows up at Wayne Manor, shocking Alfred and prompting Bruce to return home. However, Clayface doesn't realize that Harvey Dent/Two-Face is not dead. Two-Face sees Rachel and Bruce (news? paparazzi?) and comes out of hiding to exact revenge. In his rage he doesn't understand that it could be a trick.

A mob war is raging across Gotham and Batman is asked by now Commissioner Gordon to help fight it. At first Batman refuses as he's still trying to figure out how Rachel and Harvey could be alive. But then a tragic accident/mob killing at a carnival on the outskirts of town brings him back to his old ways. (The incident leaves two dead and an orphaned boy, and that's as close to Robin as you're going to get.) Batman figures out it's not Rachel with some scientific help from Lucius but he uses it to his advantage in getting to both Harvey and the Mironi family. Clayface drops his guise and assumes his "relaxed" state which is that of a pretty heinous monster with the ability to change his shape into anything, including blunt weapons. Harvey flips his coin and decides he's got to die, but Clayface has the upper hand and Two-Face is killed. Now Batman is forced to fight this nearly indestructible creature. Another nod to the animated series, he'll beat him using water and dissolve Clayface's body.

With the both mob leaders dead and the other mobs not strong enough since the Joker's incarceration to put up much of a fight, the police are able to gain some control in Gotham and Bruce is able to go back to regular patrols, now the hero that helped clean up the city when the city didn't want him. His last act is to ask Alfred what happened to that boy at the carnival.

That's it. That's my idea. And I'll bet you even money Nolan and the producers will instead bring in a new love interest (Talia al Ghul maybe?) and bring in either Catwoman or the Riddler or both. Batman will open up to Catwoman and she'll use it against him and side with the Riddler as he hatches some dastardly plan to drown Gotham by blowing up a levy system or something equally mundane. But I'm sticking to this story. It works in terms of a reboot. It keeps characters similar but not over used. It gives the three movies a complete arc. It gives the story enough time to have growing pains and resolve into enough open ends that another retelling could be done.

Carry on.

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