July 30th, 2012, 9:41 am

3 Places for the Batman Franchise To Go Next

I saw "The Dark Knight Rises" over the weekend, I love it. Whatever its flaws (mainly, it was just so long), "The Dark Knight Rises" is a rare ending in a comic book movie - most franchises are built on the notion that the characters keeps going for an endless slew of sequels ala Superman (and we saw how that turned out, "Superman IV: Quest for Peace", I'm looking at you). But now that Christopher Nolan's vision of the Bat-universe is over, where should the Batman franchise go next? Here are a few ideas.

3. The Adam West Batman
Dust off the Batcycle Sidecar and refill your Bat-shark Repellant! It's not as absurd as it sounds. Actually, never mind - it is as absurd as it sounds. But that's what makes it great! Thanks in part to his role on "Family Guy", Adam West has never been more popular, and even appears in a series of semi-biographical Blue Water Studios comics about his role as a certain campy caped crusader in a 60's TV show. It would be a natural pendulum swing from the gritty realism of Christopher Nolan back to the campy days of "Holy costumed party, Batman!" While it's a remote possibility at best, it does have a certain amount of logic to it. After all, fans embraced the brighter Silver Age-inspired "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" cartoon which ended less than a year ago. Could moviegoers feel the same way about Adam West?

2. The Dark Knight Returns

It's no coincidence that "The Dark Knight Rises" bares the same initials as this seminal Batman comic. Christopher Nolan's finale shares many common elements as Frank Miller's classic comic. In both, Bruce Wayne is retired, with Gotham City's serenity interrupted by a rising criminal threat. In a way, "The Dark Knight Returns" could be seen as natural progression from the Nolanverse into a far grittier setting as the futuristic Mutants gang rule the streets, an over-zealous Commissioner has taken over the police force - and Bruce Wayne is pushing 80. Wayne retakes the mantle of Batman to fight crime in Gotham City with a Bat-tank that makes the Tumbler look like a Pinto. As cool as "The Dark Knight Returns" is though, it might not be in keeping with DC's plans for the "Justice League" movie, as the finale has the 80-year old Batman going head-to-head with a government-sponsored Superman. Still, fans will get to see at least one incarnation of "The Dark Knight Rises" when DC Animated releases a two-part direct-to-DVD feature in October.

1. Batman Beyond

Another futuristic incarnation of Batman, "Batman Beyond" is the sequel series to the 1992 breakthrough "Batman: The Animated Series" by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. Like "Dark Knight Returns", it features an 80-year-old Bruce Wayne, who has since retired from the cape. This time, Batman is a former street thug named Terry McGuiness (voiced by Will Friedle of "Boy Meets World"), with Wayne provided support back at the Bat-Cave via live feed. Batman Beyond's Gotham is more futuristic than the dystopian "Dark Knight Returns", complete with flying cars out of "Blade Runner" and hover-boards out of "Back to the Future Part II". Terry and Bruce face both a new assortment of villains - including new Wayne Enterprises CEO Derek Powers, Inque and Shriek, as well as face-off with some new twists on old rogues, namely a street gang calling themselves the Jokerz. The futuristic setting does provide challenges in terms of budget, but this wouldn't be the first time Hollywood considered a "Batman Beyond" film. Producers Alan Burnett and Paul Dini wrote a screenplay for a "Batman Beyond" feature film way back in 2001, with author Neal Stephenson also consulting and "Remember the Titans" director Boaz Takin attached. The project was ultimately passed up for "Batman Begins", but now that the Nolan's trilogy is over, is it time to look to the future instead?

(That's it for this rant. Check out a new Blue Yonder next week!)

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