(*SPOILERS for The Batman*)
After years of anticipation, from Ben Affleck’s original treatment to Matt Reeves’ final vision, The Batman is finally here. Effective as both a standalone story and as the setup to an entire Bat-verse, the new film is as much detective noir as it is superhero saga. That said, Batman is one of the most popular superheroes in the world, and has one of the most iconic rogue’s galleries in any medium. And so, the question is eventually begged: which of those many villains might we see in the Caped Crusader’s next outing?
The first film does an excellent job of balancing origin stories for the Riddler, Catwoman, and Penguin, all of whom survive to the end and could easily return either in the next sequel or in the third of a proposed trilogy. We already know that Colin Farrell’s makeup-laden mafioso will be getting his own spinoff series for HBO Max, and a betting man might say that Zoë Kravitz’s leather-clad cat burglar may eventually enjoy similar attention. So outside of the principal trio of rogues present in The Batman, here are all of the villains that have been hinted at, either by the film itself or by the filmmakers.
This is the most obvious suggestion, not just because he actually appears near the end of the film (in the form of Barry Keoghan’s “Unseen Arkham Prisoner”, who has been confirmed as the Clown Prince of Crime by Reeves), but also because in almost every iteration of the character, Joker is frequently depicted as Batman’s archnemesis. He has been depicted on film by no less than five actors in the past decade alone, between various film and TV appearances, and that doesn’t even include the iconic portrayals by Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, and Heath Ledger.
That said, there’s definitely a growing sentiment that the character has become more than a little overused in recent years. He even had his own Oscar-winning standalone film that doesn’t even include Batman. Reeves has cautioned that his appearance in this film isn’t necessarily an indicator that he will be the main antagonist in the sequel, if he even appears at all. A deleted scene involving Batman interrogating him could suggest more of a Hannibal Lecter-style role for the character, and the forthcoming Arkham-centric series set in this universe would also be an effective place to include him.
A more recent character who’s primarily known for the comic run bearing his name, this killer was originally a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne’s who went mad and even performed surgery on his own face to look like Wayne. His machinations would lend themselves very well to the murder mystery format Reeves has already established, and in the “Batman: Hush” run he even found himself closely allied with the Riddler, who we’ve already seen is somewhat receptive to teaming up with fellow supervillains.
Beyond just being a good fit for this universe, the seeds for Hush’s appearance have already been sown in the subplot involving Thomas Wayne’s ill-fated dealings with the reporter Edward Elliot. Though a fellow billionaire in the comics, Elliot could easily be revealed to be the late father of Hush (whose real name is Thomas Elliot). In the Riddler’s elaborate PowerPoint detailing Wayne’s corruption, the word “HUSH!” even appears in bold letters regarding the reporter, which could either be a knowing easter egg, or a hint of things to come.
This would hardly be the first appearance of Batman’s schizophrenic former ally: the character has been memorably inhabited (for better or worse) by Aaron Eckhart and Tommy Lee Jones in the past, and his alter-ego Harvey Dent was even portrayed by Billy Dee Williams in Tim Burton’s original Batman, albeit pre-transformation. In most stories, the former district attorney personally blames Batman for his disfigurement, and he’s exactly the kind of grounded yet slightly fantastical persona that would flourish in the world Reeves has created.
The biggest hint towards his inclusion comes in the character of Gil Colson (Peter Sarsgaard) who is introduced as this version of Gotham’s D.A. until he is summarily dispatched by the Riddler. With a void now left in the city’s infrastructure, it would be surprising if Reeves and co didn’t take this opportunity to introduce Mr. Dent, even if he doesn’t succumb to his more monstrous side right away. He could even be introduced in the forthcoming Penguin series, since Oz will no doubt have to grease some palms and hobnob with high society if he wants to fill the power vacuum that Carmine Falcone left behind.
There is little in the film to indicate the appearance of Batman’s chilliest opponent, but Reeves has discussed in interviews how he is a character that would be a particularly exciting challenge to adapt. “I think there’s actually a grounded version of that story, which could be really powerful and could be really great,” he said to Collider, using Mr. Freeze as an example of a character who could conceivably work in this more “realistic” depiction of Gotham, despite being considered more fantastical.
The only previous live-action portrayal of the doomed former scientist was via Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a performance that’s certainly memorable, if not exactly menacing. Many fans look to the version from Batman: The Animated Series, which invigorated the previously goofy villain with pathos and a tragic backstory, as a template for how a more humanized version could work in movie form. Plus, the idea of Greig Fraser’s cinematography capturing the city in wintertime is an exciting proposition on its own.
One of Batman’s more physically formidable foes, Bane was most recently played by Tom Hardy a decade ago in The Dark Knight Rises. The performance has proven to be the most iconic aspect of that film, although the quality of his characterization remains a point of debate to this day. Many take issue with the undercutting of his authority by revealing him to be a mere lackey to the far less interesting Talia Al Ghul (Marion Cotillard in her most thankless role), though most would agree this was still an improvement over the mindless thug portrayed by Jeep Swenson in Batman & Robin.
The main reason Bane has been rumored to appear in a sequel to The Batman is a moment during the climax of the film. Batman is recovering from a shotgun blast to the chest and finds himself unable to help Selina as she is attacked by one of Riddler’s goons. In a moment of desperation, Batman pulls an unidentified vial of green liquid from his belt and injects himself with it, giving him a burst of adrenaline and aggression. Fans have theorized that this could be the introduction of venom, a drug most commonly associated with Bane, as it gives him his strength in most incarnations.
Court of Owls
This is perhaps the most popular villainous entity to be bandied about for inclusion in this new Bat-verse. A relatively recent inclusion in the comics, they are an ancient, secret society that runs Gotham City behind the scenes. This might be a little too similar to the vast conspiracy Batman already uncovered in the first film, but then again, the groundwork is clearly laid for such a sinister organization to be operating in the shadows, pulling even the strings of those that the Dark Knight already presumed were the primary string-pullers,
In addition to excitement from the fan community for this group to make their big screen debut, there is similar enthusiasm from the cast. Robert Pattinson and Paul Dano have already gushed about their enjoyment of the Court of Owls storyline in several interviews, and have theorized (seemingly without knowing anything) that they would be a great fit to appear in a future installment. The scope of their operation could be a little much for the second film in a trilogy, but one could easily see them working in the final chapter as the ultimate power behind everything that has come before.
Those are just a few of the villains we could conceivably see in future sequels. We haven’t even mentioned characters like Hugo Strange, Scarecrow, Ventriloquist, or Mad Hatter, all of whom would be perfectly suited to the proposed Arkham Asylum series that’s currently in development. But which villains would you like to see going forward? Do you think Reeves and co would be able to fashion grounded takes on more outlandish characters like Poison Ivy or Clayface? Who would you cast? Let us know in the comments!
The Batman is currently in theaters, and comes to HBO Max on April 19th.