The Top 5 Best Villains For ‘The Batman’ Sequel

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Writer-director Matt Reeves made the welcome announcement at the theatrical industry trade show CinemaCon that he, Robert Pattinson, and Zoë Kravitz will return for a sequel to The Batman. The main supporting cast including Jeffrey Wright and Andy Serkis are also expected to return. Now everyone is asking, who will be the Dark Knight’s next nemesis? Read on for the top five best villains for The Batman sequel.

The Batman just passed $760 million at the box office, despite debuting on HBO Max nine days ago to the second-biggest first-week audience of any film on HBO Max. With numbers like that, it’s no surprise a sequel has been greenlit. And we always knew Reeves was wanted for more than just one film, and he had bold ideas for building out an entire bat-world beyond just a single film.

But The Batman still had to be a hit for the rest to happen, so now that it’s official I expect we’ll see the spinoff series really fast-tracked — including any Catwoman film, or perhaps a series alongside Arkham Asylum (which replaces the Gotham PD project) and Penguin on HBO Max — and a Batman sequel going into production as soon as Reeves’ schedule, Discovery’s retooling of studio leadership, and the Covid pandemic surges and variants allow.

Now, before we get to who the next main villain might be in The Batman sequel, let’s first talk about who is unlikely to show up as Batman’s antagonist in the sequel.

The Riddler already appeared, played by Paul Dano, so I think he’s off the table this time around. That doesn’t mean we won’t see him if there’s a scene at Arkham Asylum (similar to the deleted scene of Batman visiting the Joker for insights into the Riddler, in The Batman), or perhaps on trial at some point, if the film spends much time addressing the events of the first film. But I don’t expect that, since I think Riddler is going to appear in the HBO Max series Arkham Asylum alongside certain other villains, which I’ll get to momentarily.

Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman is more an anti-hero and ally to Batman, so even though she has been announced as returning for the sequel she doesn’t really count as a “villain” and I don’t expect her to take a heel turn next time around. But if the romance angle between her and Batman cools — perhaps in tandem with the introduction of another potential love interest for Bruce Wayne (like maybe Vicki Vale or Silver St. Cloud) — then perhaps she could wind up at odds with Batman. However, I fully assume she will get a spinoff series or film of her own, adapting some of her most popular solo stories. and will remain on friendly (if not romantic) terms with the Caped Crusader.

Likewise, Barry Koeghan’s Joker cameoed in The Batman and has a terrific deleted scene, but I think we’ve seen so much of the Joker already in film and animation. Granted, the Joker is probably the most famous and beloved bat-villain, and he’s one of the fan-favorites to show up in the sequel. However, six different actors played the Joker in seven live-action movies so far (Batman 1966, Batman 1989, The Dark Knight, Suicide Squad, Joker, and Zack Snyder’s Justice League, The Batman), five of those appearances coming just in the last 15 years, and two of them won Oscars.

This feels like plenty of good reasons to let Joker sit a few films out, especially since he’s likely to show up in the HBO Max Arkham Asylum series that’s now in development — hopefully with Dano reprising his Riddler role as well, and perhaps a few other rogues dropping in. Add to that the fact Reeves said he wasn’t sure if he’d ever even use the Joker again when he was filming Koeghan for The Batman, since there are so many other villains who’ve yet to get their time in the spotlight. And as I’ve said before in this space and elsewhere, I think Joker would work best for a while as a value-added element rather than main villain of the next Batman film.

Colin Farrell’s Penguin has his own spinoff series coming to HBO Max as well, but I think he’ll at least show up in a cameo or supporting role in The Batman sequel, as one of the recurring faces of Gotham City. Much depends on what transpires in Penguin’s miniseries, but I’d expect him to remain a major organized crime figure in Gotham, and maybe eventually he’ll team up with another villain to take his shot at Batman. So while he is likely to return in the sequel as a permanent fixture in Gotham’s underworld, I doubt he will be Batman’s main antagonist next time around.

Four other villains I don’t include on my list are Ra’s al Ghul, Talia al Ghul, Scarecrow, and Bane. These characters all appeared in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, and due to the similarities between Nolan’s and Reeves’ approaches to Batman, I think it’s better to wait a bit longer before revisiting those characters. That said, I won’t be surprised to see Doctor Jonathan Crane working at Arkham Asylum as a supporting character at some point, so maybe he’ll get introduced in the sequel.

Two-Face also appeared in Nolan’s movies, of course, and I think it’s also too soon to revisit that villainous origin story, but I do think Harvey Dent should show up as a new district attorney in Gotham City and remain Batman’s ally for a few films before he is transformed into a villain. If I had to guess, though, I’d expect him to be added to the cast in the sequel, and then transform into Two-Face in a third film or in the next trilogy (assuming as I do that this series will continue after the initial three films).

I’m also excluding Deadshot, Killer Croc, and any other villains who appeared in Suicide Squad or other DCEU movies featuring Batman in the past half-dozen years, because again it’s too soon to revisit them and I think they have potential to show up in the continuing DCEU movies anyway. Deadshot was planned as the villain in Ben Affleck’s cancelled Batman solo film, and I think there’s at least a slim chance that script will be adapted into an animated film for HBO Max or maybe a comic book. The point being, I don’t think Deadshot needs to show up in the second entry of Reeves’ saga, when he appeared in different form so recently and might again.

Hush and the Court of Owls are two of the most popular suggestions for The Batman sequel, but Hush was already semi-adapted into some of the Riddler’s portrayal in the first film, and it would feel like a rehash of the same story and ideas. There’s also simply not enough history to revisit, nor anything approaching the big twist element of Hush’s famous comic book storyline, so this is a character who doesn’t really fit well into this Batman revival — at least, not yet.

The Court of Owls is also a story concept that would be too similar to The Batman — revelations of a secret history in Gotham, with corruption reaching the highest levels in a conspiracy that even touches on Bruce Wayne’s family legacy. And Batman has only been active for two years, while the Court of Owls story specifically benefits from the fact Batman thinks he has mastered Gotham City and knows it better than anybody, which is why the conspiracy and secret history are so shocking. Batman’s hubris and ego, and the idea of a new threat emerging after he’s finally getting into a groove of dealing with “the freaks,” are key ingredients — ingredients that should be added and built up before attempting that story.

Lastly, I want to mention Man-Bat since this is a villain who not only seems to most obviously violate the concept of “illusionary realism” and grounded noir storytelling, but also a villain Matt Reeves specifically said he doesn’t think fits into this version of Batman. I know many fans love the character and want to see a live-action adaptation, but for right now the idea of a human who transforms into a giant animal with different DNA is way outside the scope of what Reeves is trying to accomplish. Man-Bat, then, seems to be a non-starter for the sequel.

(That said, I will note for the record that the film and book Altered States offer a concept that, while fantastical and rooted in pseudo-science, could still work and fit into a faux-realistic world, especially if introduced later in the series after the boundaries have already been pushed for a while.)

So that’s a look at some of the most prominent villains who I think shouldn’t and won’t appear in a sequel to The Batman. But there are still plenty of rogues gallery and other opponents to consider. So let’s get my suggestions for the top five best Batman villains for The Batman sequel…

The Batman already filled out a lot of the hero’s rogues gallery and supporting cast of allies and , establishing most of the top tier players — Joker, Riddler, Penguin, Catwoman, Jim Gordon, and Alfred — as well as some of the other recurring supporting cast like Falcone and Maroni. But two of the top tier rogues — Two-Face and Mister Freeze — remain. And one of those has been specifically mentioned by Matt Reeves as the sort of more fantastical villain he wants to adapt into his illusionary-realism bat-world.

I’m speaking of Mister Freeze, and he’s the first villain on my list of the best choices for a sequel to The Batman. While Freeze might seem too fantastical to fit into Reeves’ bat-world, there are good ways to adapt him and make him fit into a faux-realistic movie. Freeze is the villain I most expect to appear in The Batman sequel.

Go here if you want to read my own full example of how to make Mister Freeze a grounded villain in a pseudo-realistic noir setting. Suffice to say, concepts like cryogenics, cold fusion, Ice-Nine, and other scientific or pseudo-science concepts can easily be worked into a Batman story that treats Freeze as a tragic villain.

I also think Freeze works best with some other villain(s) pushing him into whatever scenario turns him into the “freak” known as Mister Freeze. For example, the mob (specifically, Penguin) and military pressuring him and threatening him from different sides, while his main concern is always saving his wife, would put him in on course to try to save her while freeing himself from whatever threats the mob and Pentagon pose, until he finally becomes ruthless and puts his creations to dangerous use.

The next villain on my list is considered by Batman to be the most dangerous man in the world — Hugo Strange. This is perhaps the easiest character to adapt from my list, as he is a mastermind whose experiments and crimes — especially in the best stories, which I assume would be the inspiration for any film appearance — primarily involve hypnosis, mind-altering drugs, and manipulating other people into doing his bidding.

Hugo Strange also did experiments that turned people into beasts called “Monster Men,” but even that aspect of his character can be adapted so it doesn’t involve literal giant monsters. The villain Solomon Grundy could even appear as one of Strange’s experiments gone wrong, a large man whose mind is destroyed and who is used in a realistic manner similar to traditional “voodoo” zombies (live people drugged, brainwashed, and abused into thinking they are living-dead slaves of the person controlling them).

In particular, I’d like to see an adaptation of Hugo Strange that takes inspiration from several comic book stories — the Monster Men reboot by Matt Wagner, the Strange Apparitions arc by Steve Englehart, and Doug Moench’s Prey. In fact, I’ve long wanted to see Strange as a recurring character in Batman movies, going on TV to denounce Batman, to turn public and police sentiment against Gotham’s vigilante. But only the people he manipulates to do his bidding should be stopped, leaving Strange free to seek revenge for the ruination of his grand schemes.

Poison Ivy is another example of using pseudo-science and real-life advanced scientific theories to ground an otherwise fantastical character. For example, she could be a botanist working on military projects developing biological and chemical substances to attack only certain genetic traits — even specific to one person or family’s DNA, for example. Maybe it’s a military project, or a foreign government is funding her behind the scenes.

And by the way, if this sounds too crazy, be aware DARPA (and no doubt other government agencies in other countries around the world) has been looking into race-based and genetically-targeted biological and chemical weapons for years.

So Ivy creates modified plants that give off chemicals, spores, and toxin targeting humans and animals in specific ways, which attract and interact with other plants and organisms. But Ivy could actually be a radical environmentalist who signed up for the work as an infiltrator, using the funding and resources for her own secret project — to “save” Earth from humanity by creating plants capable of eradicating our species. And Gotham City is her first target, as a beta test for what she plans to unleash on the rest of the world.

A villain who might seem too fantastical, but whom I think can work beautifully within illusionary realism, is Clayface. Yes, Matt Reeves did say Clayface was one of the villains he considers too fantastical to work in the world he’s building (another being Man-Bat), but I believe there is a way to pull it off as one of the best fits for a noir detective approach. A mob hit-man and master of disguise is the simplest version Clayface as a supporting villain, and would fit easily into the films.

But let’s push the boundaries of realism further: Doctor Preston Payne seeks a cure for a rare condition (perhaps hyperpituitarism). Experimental drugs cause his muscles to soften and hang limp on his face, allowing him to temporarily reform his muscles and skin using electo-shock stimulation, but his face looks different each time. He creates a cast of his face and wears it to hold his face in place for shock treatments, but this “freezing” of muscles and skin wears off, making his face shift.

The freezing technique works less well each time, and the increasing “liquification” of his facial muscles leads him to seek more radical research, including skin grafts and drugs to freeze his face after sculpting it to a desired appearance (like the film Darkman). This requires him to steal money, drugs, and equipment. His physical situation can be merged with the killer/gangster version, so he uses his physical condition to change his appearance for his crimes.

Mad Hatter is the final villain on my list, and while it might seem an odd choice, once again the combination of crime thriller and pushing the boundaries of science and the fantastical will prove how versatile Batman and his world can be.

Jervis Tetch could be a neurologist who helps paralyzed patients regain motor control by rewiring portions of their brains to take over those functions, using implants in the brain to stimulate nerve function. However, the electrodes damage their brains, so Tetch creates a way for patients to remote-control their motor functions with an external device instead. But the brain damage still leads to him being disgraced and run out of business.

A complication could be a corporation or government agency wanting his technology for a “Manchurian Candidate” type of covert application. Maybe a “trial run” (assassinating Jim Gordon?) fails due to Batman’s intervention, so Tetch realize Batman is investigating and send a team of mind-controlled children to kill Batman (and Batman won’t want to injure the kids, hamstringing his self-defense).

An alternate version might have Tetch as a psychiatrist experimenting with neurological drugs and hypnosis on young patients. He could be extorting their parents, blackmailing wealthy businessmen and politicians to do things like provide insider-trading tips, vote on legislation favorable to Tetch, or simply provide him with money and creature comforts (like living in his rich clients’/victims’ own homes, even).

And there you have it, dear readers, my suggestion for the top five best villains to appear in the sequel to The Batman.

\These aren’t the only villains I think can work in the sequel, or more broadly as villains in Reeves’ new bat-world. There are plenty of others who would be great to see as well, including most of the ones I took out of the running earlier in this article — just because I don’t think they’ll appear in the second film doesn’t mean I don’t want and expect them to appear later, in films or spinoff series.

And of course, Matt Reeves might have wildly different plans, and I learned long ago to trust Reeves. He gave me the ultimate Batman film to date, the one that is closest to the Batman in my head as a fan, and the movie overall itself was exceedingly close to exactly what I’ve wanted for years in any eventual reboot of the franchise.

So whatever is in store for The Batman sequel, the character and his city are in the best hands possible, and I can’t wait for what comes next.

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