Joker has not even hit theatres yet, and I am already exhausted by the discourse around it. Ever since it screened at Venice, where it won the prestigious Golden Lion, and TIFF (read Victor’s review) the film has been stirring up heated debates. While some of the discussions, such as the film’s problematic portrayals of mental illness and society’s obsession with violence, are worthy of unpacking, the nuance needed for such conversations gets swept away in a sea of screaming voices on twitter.
Granted director Todd Phillips has not helped matters much by adding his gasoline-soaked words to the raging fire. While there are several valid points to Phillips’ defence of the film, his poorly thought-out arguments and dismissive tone has only succeeded in causing everyone to dig deeper into their various trenches.
Honestly, Joker is not even worth this sudden sky is falling panic. Besides, there are better films this year that are far more deserving of attention, and I say this as someone who likes the movie.
So instead of adding another brick to the wall of division, let’s take a breather from the mudslinging and unnecessary online harassment of critics, especially those who are LGBTQ+ and/or people of colour (POC), who gave the film a negative review (seriously, WTF internet!). With a new Robert Pattinson-led Batman film on the way, here are some villains from the Caped Crusader’s extensive rogues gallery that I would love to see get their cinematic close-up.
If you have not read Batman: The Long Halloween then stop what you are doing and head over to your local library or comic book shop immediately. A great crime saga set during an escalating war between two of Gotham’s most prominent mob families, the story follows Batman’s quest to track down the mysterious Holiday. As the name suggests, Holiday systematically murders his victims each month on holidays.
A film with Holiday in it could carry a The Silence of the Lambs style allure as Batman would need to seek the advice from the criminal Calendar Man whose murder pattern Holiday is mimicking. Furthermore, a film with Holiday would also feature key appearances from fan favourites Harvey Dent and The Riddler.
One of the problems with many modern superhero films is that they rarely take risks. They often lean heavily on existing source material to satisfy hardcore fans and forget that cinema allows plenty of room for growth and interpretation. Which is why Red Claw is a perfect character for adaptation.
Little is known about the origins of this femme fatale from Batman: The Animated Series. The head of a terrorist group, and a deadly fighter in her own right, there is plenty of room to flesh out the character and the organization that carries her name. Frankly, I would love to see a kick-ass female villain who does not have romantic ties to Bruce Wayne. Plus, Batman could use a new criminal organization on the level of Ra’s al Ghul’s League of Assassins to save Gotham City from.
The Court of Owls
Speaking of criminal organizations, the Court of Owls make an excellent candidate for the big-screen treatment. Part criminal entity and part secret society for the uber-rich, they have the wealth, ego and muscle to make Batman’s life a living hell. The personification of the evil 1%, the Court of Owls uses murder and money to sway political influence. Factor in that they have an army of Talons (abducted children trained to be assassins) and you see that they have what it takes to push Bruce Wayne and Batman to the limit.
One of my all-time favourite arcs in Batman: The Animated Series was the two-part “Feat of Clay.” To be honest, I would be happy if someone just adapted those episodes. In “Feat of Clay,” a disfigured actor, Matt Hagen (voiced by Ron Perlman), gets addicted to a cosmetic product that not only allows him to mask his scars but ultimately turns him into the monstrous Clayface. Given the ability to impersonate anyone, including Bruce Wayne, Hagen turns to crime to feed his addiction. If there is one villain who can both scare audiences and evokes sympathy from them, especially when you factor in the commentary on drug addiction in America, it is Clayface.
For those conflicted about whether you want to see classic Batman villains or be introduced to a new one, Hush serves as the best of both worlds. A mysterious villain with an in-depth knowledge of Batman’s numerous secrets, the character is great for several reasons. First off, Hush is smart enough to manipulate everyone from Poison Ivy (and by extension Superman) to Joker into doing his bidding. Hush’s devious tactics open a whole new can of worms for Batman to deal with.
Furthermore, with Batman racing to unravel who the bandaged villain is, fans would get a film that truly showcases why Batman is one of the world’s greatest detectives. A live-action Hush film would also allow for a Justice League-style collection of heroes and villains under the guise of a Batman film. Hey, if Captain America: Civil War can be an unofficial Avengers film, then Batman: Hush could be the DCEU’s equivalent.
Listen, we all love the Joker – okay maybe not everyone judging by the recent online debates – but it is time for the Clown Prince of Crime to be placed on the cinematic bench for a while. Those wanting a chilling villain to take his place need to look no further than Professor Pyg.
Introduced as a one-shot villain in Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert’s great Batman comic book run in 2007, Pyg disturbed his way into my heart via his sadistic quest for perfection. Wearing a pig mask and aided by his gang of lobotomized humans, known as Dollotrons, the professor is a demented character who is terrifying and compelling at the same time. Honestly, if DC wants to continue dipping its toes into the lucrative R-rated market ala Joker and Marvel’s Logan, then a Batman film blending elements of the horror genre would be the way to go.