There are so many superhero movies out there today. The genre has saturated the market, and moviegoers can look forward to at least a half a dozen films a year revolving around the subject of caped crusaders. The likes of Marvel and DC have established a successful trend that fans continue to enjoy. And if you look at the roster of upcoming films, the industry shows no signs of slowing down when it comes to developing movies based on our favorite comic book heroes.
But there is a change in the air, as the age of superheroes may need to take a backseat to their very own arch-nemesis. That's right, Hollywood is making a shift into the business of villain movies. And as of right now, business is booming. Sony’s Venom film ended up being the studio’s highest-grossing release in China and holds the record for the highest opening weekend in October. The film that revolves around the popular Spider-Man villain of the same name also kicked off its own Cinematic Universe. This ambitious endeavor is set to star classic bad guys such as Kraven the Hunter and Morbius the Living Vampire, who will be getting their own films.
Marvel isn't the only one cashing in on this new antihero fad. Todd Philip’s Joker film, starring Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role, has received all kinds of hype as teases and set photos continue to come out. This film promises to be a unique telling of how the Clown Prince of Crime came to be that is not within the boundaries of the Worlds of DC. Continuity with the other films, like Shazam! or Aquaman, is not a factor here. This baby stands on its own. This looks to be like nothing we have ever seen before with a Batman property. So with that being said, which iconic Batman baddies deserve their own Joker-style origin film?
RA'S AL GHUL
When comic book fans first met Ra’s al Ghul, he had literally been in the game for centuries and had several Lazarus bubble baths by the time he caught up with the Dark Knight. The man goes by many names such as The Demon’s Head and the Messiah of the Crimson Sun. He was famously portrayed in Batman Begins by Liam Neeson, a film that revived the story of Batman and led to some of the greatest films the genre has ever seen. The leader of the League of Assassins is probably one of the Caped Crusader’s most formidable villains, and he has the type of backstory that great films are made of.
Ra’s is a 700-year-old man who was fascinated with science back in the day and was extremely knowledgeable about the germ theory of disease for his time. He then discovers the Lazarus Pit and its power to restore life. This leads to the infamous villain overthrowing a kingdom and losing his wife. Then he uses this immortality to gain wealth, train to be a great warrior, and create powerful organizations that fight crime around the world. A story like this that could span many periods and unveil more mysteries surrounding the immortal villain. That’s something both movie fans and comic book fans can get behind. This mix of darkness and adventure could have fantastic set pieces and would be nothing short of fascinating. Honestly, there is enough material here to make a series of films, so if the Joker film is successful, the next obvious choice is Ra’s, hands down.
THE RED HOOD
Jason Todd has a massive following with fans. The character has seen his time in the spotlight. The animated film Under The Red Hood has become a solid fan favorite, and the character was a significant part of the hit video game, Arkham Knight. Rumors of him popping up in the Worlds of DC films have been circulating ever since it was suggested in Batman v. Superman that Robin had been killed. Unfortunately, he still has not shown up in DC’s cinematic universe, and as of right now, it doesn't seem there are any plans to include him. So giving him a solo film adjacent to the Worlds of DC seems like a no-brainer.
Jason Todd was the second Robin after Dick Grayson went off to become Nightwing. Soon after that, the new boy wonder was savagely beaten to death by the Joker with a crowbar. Then he was resurrected in the infamous Lazarus Pit to become the troubled antihero The Red Hood. The dual-wielding vigilante toes the line between right and wrong and has a much more lenient “No Kill” policy than his former mentor. A film starting with Todd’s tragic demise and the sudden rise to become the Red Hood is not only something that fans everywhere can get excited about, but I’m pretty sure it's been on everyone’s wish list for some time now. The Red Hood has everything needed for a dark, gritty origin story.
Hush is a fascinating individual and has a very strong connection to Bruce Wayne. The villain, whose real name is Thomas Elliot, has had a few mainstream portrayals. He was part of a compelling side quest in the Arkham City game and somewhat touched upon in Fox’s Gotham series. The popular DC comics evildoer just recently released is own DC animated film, showcasing the growing popularity the Batman baddies is currently experiencing. And rightfully so because the character is considered to be one of the best villains Batman has ever fought. His patience and intelligence, combined with an unhealthy attitude towards revenge, makes him a very dangerous opponent for any hero. While most of Batman villains just want to cause mayhem or fill their pockets, Hush’s motivations are entirely personal.
In the comics, Elliot is a renowned surgeon and childhood friend of Bruce Wayne. A meticulous planner, Elliot resents the fact that Bruce's father thwarted his plot to murder his parents. He is aware of Bruce Wayne's secret identity, and he sets out to destroy Batman. Elliot is relentless in his desire to destroy the Dark Knight, even going so far as to take over Wayne’s Identity by getting plastic surgery to look exactly like Gotham’s favorite billionaire. This sounds like a psycho coming of age story that would illustrate a lifetime of preparation to exact revenge on the Wayne family. This could lead to Elliot masquerading around Gotham as Bruce Wayne until he is thwarted and inevitably becomes the villain Hush.
TALIA AL GHUL
Talia Al Ghul is the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul and an ex-lover of the Dark Knight. The two have an illegitimate child together that goes on to take on the mantle of Robin. The Lady Al Ghul Also has a fling with Jason Todd after she resurrects him and has at times been Deathstroke's commanding officer. While she isn't as big as Catwoman, she has been featured in The Dark Knight Rises and several other DC related media. From cartoons to live-action to the comics, this femme fatale has made her presence known as one of the most formidable people in the Batman universe. She has a high-level intellect and is a fierce warrior. She has been trained since birth to one day lead the greatest army of assassins the world has ever seen. Ms. Al Ghul is part queen, part ninja, and 100 percent badass. On top of that, Talia is a proven leader and warrior armed with a backstory unlike any ever told.
A powerful ancient warlord with the secret of immortality creates an army capable of taking over the world and will one day leave it all to his deadly little princess. To see how she grows into the powerhouse she becomes parallel to her taking over her father’s legacy sounds like an amazing cinematic experience to undertake. Talia’s origin would be one of the darkest and grittiest tales of a woman taking power in man's world ever showcased in movies, and it feels like now would be the best time for it. There is so much story to tell without even mentioning the Bat. And after the success of Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel, it's hard to imagine the Daughter of the Demon not resonating well with fans. If the powers that be want a dark Batman-esque story with a female in the lead, look no further than the one they call Talia Al Ghul.
Azrael is a very intriguing character whose origins go back to the time of the Crusades. He is relatively unknown but has been featured in some prominent Batman titles. He had a run on the show Gotham and was in the Arkham game series. The gist of his history is that a Templar Knight creates the Order of Saint Dumas, a group who used King Solomons treasure to fund their secret society to have the edge over the world. To keep this order intact, they would create a warrior named Azrael; this person would be trained using intense brainwashing techniques. After his training is complete, he becomes a fearless fighter able to not only take on Batman but take over for him for some time. The Suit of Sorrow gives this modern-day Templar enhanced strength, and with centuries of information gathered, Azrael has an extreme advantage over all who face him. He is truly a villain, unlike anything we have ever seen.
There is a lot to unpack with this character. And a movie about him would have so many options. The character's storyline involves a mind-bending connection between the past and present. An imbalance occurs, and insanity takes over, resulting in him believing he is the original Azrael. A psychological thriller showcasing the result of an occultist brainwashing program creating super soldiers with mental links to past lives through technology sounds like something Hollywood could really sink its teeth into. A psychic connection to the first Azrael and a struggle to find the truth amongst the centuries-old conspiracy he’s wrapped up in sounds like a very compelling piece of cinema. Or another route could be after a prophecy has been fulfilled, he will replace Batman as Gotham’s new savior. This antihero has it all: history, action, adventure, and crime-fighting. With Azrael, there is a lot of wiggle room for a creator to make the character their own, and with this kind of source material to take from its crazy, to think people wouldn't buy tickets to see this one.
The Joker film will release in theaters this October.