Deadline Hollywood Daily has broken the very intriguing news that Joseph Gordon-Levitt (500 Days of Summer) is in talks with director Christopher Nolan to join the cast of The Dark Knight Rises. This is in itself is not a surprise, as Gordon-Levitt starred in Nolan’s superb Inception– as did Tom Hardy – and Nolan is a director who favours a company of actors whom he utilises from film to film. However, with Hardy recently cast in TDKR as Bane – ostensibly the main villain – the mere confirmation of Gordon-Levitt’s appearance in the third film has prompted frenzied speculation about who he will be playing…
A quick glance at the major film gossip sites sees their talk-back forums heaving with familiar suggestions: The Joker! The Riddler! Robin! Hugo Strange! Here’s a reasoned dismissal of those excitable notions:
ROBIN: Ludicrous. Absurd. No chance in Hell. Nolan, quite correctly, feels that Robin, as a concept, is very hard to pull off cinematically and is far simpler to do in the comics. And, besides, Gordon-Levitt is thirty years old!! Obviously, some fans see pictures of J-GL in 3rd Rock From The Sun circa 1996 and thought “Hey…!”. Mad.
THE JOKER: Utterly doubtful. Nolan has been on record to say that, following that late Heath Ledger’s incendiary turn in The Dark Knight, the role would not be recast. And if for nothing else, Ledger would be a bloody hard act to follow. If the role was recast, JG-L would be a very strong replacement, but would it be worth it just to have an extended cameo for the sake of continuity? It would be a waste of such a powerful character.
THE RIDDLER: Possible, but, again, the immediate danger is overloading TDKR with villains – the now-familiar danger zone of the third films in superhero franchises (see X-Men: The Last Stand, Spider-Man 3, Batman Forever) and The Riddler, being one of the most high-profile Bat-Villains, would be inevitably under-served if you have the iconic Catwoman and the ripe-for-revision Bane already there.
HUGO STRANGE: There’s a lot of fans – myself included – very keen for this great villain be utilised by Nolan, but I just don’t see J-GL as Strange, primarily on a physical level. If you look at Matt Wagner’s Batman & The Monster Men series,featuring Strange, he was diminutive, but still very buff. In Doug Monech’s Prey, Strange was essentially the same body-type as Bruce Wayne. It’s possible, but I very much doubt it.
There is one recent Batman villain that Gordon-Levitt does look a lot like, though: Alberto Falcone.
Alberto Falcone was a pivotal character in the highly-acclaimed 1996-97 Batman series The Long Halloween, written by Jeph Loeb and with art by Tim Sale which is well known to have been an influence on both Christopher Nolan and his screenwriter brother Jonathan for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The son of Gotham crime boss Carmine Falcone – played by Tom Wilkinson in Begins– Alberto is deemed to be a weak and unimpressive heir who has no direct involvement in the Falcone crime empire… but who silently yearns for respect and power. He’s eventually – and shockingly – unveiled as the serial killer “Holiday”, who committed his murders on national holidays. Now, even if they don’t use the characters explicit persona in TLH, he does create an overarcing link back to the first film and, potentially, provide a new leader for Gotham’s teeming gangsters, seeing as they were mostly wiped out by The Joker in TDK. Consider that the “Rises” of the films title may also refer to Gotham’s criminals, raising their game to match their nemesis (maybe utilising Bane to do so…?? Ooooh…)
Not convinced? Okay: Alberto Falcone has a potentially very potent contribution to the plot of The Dark Knight Rises, insofar as he is actually ‘mi famiglia’ with one Selina Kyle, a.k.a Catwoman. In The Long Halloween, and more explicitly in the “midquel” Catwoman: When In Rome (2005), which is set between the events of TLH and its tacit sequel Dark Victory (2001), it is very heavily implied that Kyle is the illegitimate daughter of Carmine Falcone, giving her an underlying motive for her continued attacks against his crime empire, which inevitably brings her alter-ego into conflict with Batman. If, say, the Catwoman of TDKR employs similar attacks against organised crime, then the revenge theme could be reflected in the younger Falcone, given that Batman was essentially responsible for the downfall of his father.
Now, I know I am setting myself up for a fall here – see my earlier confidence about Tom Hardy as Hugo Strange – but, despite this theory being complete guesswork (If educated guesswork) I maintain that this theory makes more narrative sense than Gordon-Levitt being in a flashy and potentially plot-unbalancing villain role. To my mind, Falcone, if he were involved in TDKR, would be a strong mid-level support role – much like the one Gordon-Levitt effectively plied in Inception– providing Nolan’s Batman trilogy with a nicely overarcing plot device that complements the crime drama tone of TDK as well as potentially contributing a further infusion of Nolan’s favoured psychological themes (in The Long Halloween, Loeb crafts the thematic distinction of Alberto and Bruce Wayne being the sons of formidable fathers who go to extreme lengths efforts to “honour” them…).
Damn. I’m going to be wrong again, aren’t I… ?