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Batman’s live-action future should be on HBO, not on the big screen

Matt Reeves’ recent Dark Knight venture is the third major live-action rendition of the character in the last 10 years, and while it seems like a lot to already be thinking about what comes after The Batman movies, Warner Bros. Discovery and DC could do well to look to TV for the next take’s future.

That might be asking a lot, especially considering the company’s chaotic merger laying waste to a slew of streaming projects and DC’s reputation for its use of Batman — and lack thereof — in the live-action TV space. However, while The Batman is an exciting fresh start for a detective-focused, neo-noir Gotham City, a shakeup in the medium of choice could give the next long-term reboot a new and tantalizing creative angle through the HBO brand.

A change of pace from the theatrical format

Robert Pattinson as Batman in a dimly lit crime scene.

On the surface, it’s at least understandable why Warner Bros. and DC have historically saved Batman’s biggest on-screen stories for the movie theaters. The Dark Knight has a massive box office pull thanks to being the second-highest-grossing individual superhero IP behind Spider-Man. And as Matt Reeves’ prospective trilogy-opener has shown, the brooding hero has had more hits than misses in the theatrical space.

At the same time, it’s also reasonable to see why audiences and longtime fans see a lot of potential being left on the table. Warner and DC do like to dance around the concept of Batman on TV by airing a slew of solid-to-mediocre Gotham-centric series that sure enough mention his existence — or depict him in a cameo-level role. Meanwhile, solo outings are reserved for the occasional animated series.

Animation is by no means a “lesser” format and the likes of Batman: Caped Crusader oozes with great potential of its own, but a proper live-action solo TV series seems like free creative real estate begging to be used that would also be a refreshing change of pace from theatrical movies.

Again, this is where the turmoil complicates things at the executive level, as HBO Max has been getting gutted of content since the merger closed. But one would think that a brand with such a level of weight behind it as Batman could make its case on the HBO cable network specifically, as it appears that part of the brand has — thankfully — been left to its own devices.

Movies wouldn’t have to necessarily stop in the meantime either, as the DC Extended Universe — assuming it ever finds its footing — could have its own live-action Batman in a supporting role while also venturing into Spider-Verse-esque animated movies with, say, Batman Beyond on the side.

This would, once again, allow for a more serious solo live-action universe to exist on its own terms through HBO. If there’s one thing to take away from Spider-Man: No Way Home, it’s that audiences won’t find multiple versions of the same iconic character as convoluted as some might think.

The live-action successor to The Animated Series

The shadowy silhouette of Batman standing atop a building in Gotham City.

The aforementioned neo-noir flavor that Reeves has given his Batman universe is an enticing one, as it’s both grounded and lets the character indulge the detective element of his comic book counterpart that even the best movies neglected. Likewise, if Reeves and Pattinson’s comments on the movie are of any indication, it also doesn’t rule out the more larger-than-life characters and villains like Mr. Freeze from being adapted (or redeemed) in live-action.

Even so, what a live-action Batman TV series either as an HBO or HBO Max original offers a unique opportunity that the likes of The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures already have an outline for.

The serialized episodic adventures throughout the revered cartoon were perhaps the best on-screen homage to the Dark Knight’s corner of the DC universe in the source material, comic book fantasy and all. There would be little to no need for exposition as to why these characters exist and how they came to be in a similar way that the animated show dropped audiences into its stylish art deco world.

Better still, it would be a great way to hearken to the ’80s and ’90s era of Batman comics where the World’s Greatest Detective took part in a mixture of single-issue cases and multi-part story arcs. There’d be room for both in a 10-episode season where each episode is around an hour long, and it would be an excellent format for introducing a revolving door of the superhero’s deep rogues gallery.

What creators Paul Dini and Bruce Timm did for the DC Animated Universe, in general, was a fantastic effort in and of itself, and it’s baffling that Warner didn’t use that as a blueprint for its DCEU. Timm and Reeves are among the producers for the aforementioned Caped Crusader aiming to recreate that magic in animation, and it would be remiss if the company’s higher-ups aren’t at least mulling over the idea.

The Story of Batman The Animated Series | The Heart of Batman

A Batman series with HBO’s impressive production value (just look at the impressive visual spectacle and complex dramatic scope of House of the Dragon) would have incredible creative potential, and could practically hit the ground running with a seasoned version of the hero and a proper, realized Bat-family around him. Fans have long since been craving Robin, Nightwing, and co. to get the live-action attention they deserve, which is something even the praised Reeves film and Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed The Dark Knight trilogy didn’t acknowledge.

So long as the superhero genre maintains its immense mainstream popularity, the dense mythos of Batman’s world shouldn’t have trouble finding an audience on the network practically known as the face of premium TV.

DC Films’ The Batman and Warner Bros. Animation’s Batman: The Animated Series are both available to stream now on HBO Max.

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