Warner Bros. hasn't been shy about digging into the deeper corners of the DC canon to find a potential hit. So why not dig a little deeper and pull Terry McGinnis off the bench? It might sound crazy, but a shot of Batman Beyond could be just what DC needs to get the DCEU back on track.
It started as a Hail Mary animated series in the early 2000s, looking to bring a younger hero and some fresh ideas to the Batman concept, and succeeded in spades — to the point that elements from the show have since been adapted into the mainstream comics, most notably with the near-future event series Futures End. So, why not sling another pass at the end zone with a live-action Batman Beyond?
It wouldn't be the first time Warner Bros. has looked to Terry McGinnis and Old Man Bruce Wayne in a time of need. After developing — then shelving — a Batman Beyond script that almost went into production around 2001, Warner Bros. opted to hand the reins over to Christopher Nolan for the Dark Knight trilogy. Which, admittedly, turned out pretty well. But still — we were this close to getting a Batman Beyond movie 15 years ago.
With Ben Affleck's long-term role in the DCEU apparently in question, why not consider a parallel franchise with a different Batman altogether? No, it doesn't fix things if Affleck decides to bail after Justice League or The Batman, but it still gives the studio a potentially viable Batman franchise that can stand on its own outside all that drama. Remember: Despite all the new projects, historically, the Dark Knight is the hero who cashes the checks over there — and you'd have to think Warner Bros. would be champing at the bit to potentially double its Batman-related movie output. Right? Even if its not Bruce Wayne under the cowl, the Batman brand still means a lot when it comes to putting butts in seats.
By green lighting projects like Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman, the studio has already shown it's at least open to trying some different things when it comes to the superhero genre (potential quality concerns notwithstanding). There are already plans to dabble in a harder sci-fi angle with projects like Cyborg and Green Lantern Corps. and Wonder Woman's period setting is proof they're not solely interested in telling stories in the present day.
Much as it did in the DC Animated Universe almost two decades ago, Batman Beyond could set the stage for a new take on the DC universe largely free from the continuity of the present — but with enough connective tissue for the requisite easter eggs and callbacks (err, call-forwards?) as needed. As the studio struggles to find a tone that works across its full slate of films, and with pretty much all the pressure on Justice League to right the ship, something set in a different period could give the creative team freedom to try new things without risking something that's tonally off balance.
Then there's the obvious fact that Batman Beyond as a story is as relevant as ever in this day and age. What worked well in the original animated series would work in spades now. We're almost living in Neo-Gotham at this point, in a world where technology and corruption always seems just one year (or less) away from running amok. Terry doesn't just battle villains like the high-flying future version of the Royal Flush gang (though he does that, too) but also corporate corruption and conflicted rogues like Inque, who are sometimes forced into crime for reasons far more complicated than what you'd typically see in a kids TV series baddie. Heck, they could even get another shot at the Joker aesthetic, thanks to the future Jokerz gang, to try to wash Jared Leto out of our collective minds (and explore street-level crime along the way). It's a world with moral wiggle room, following a young hero trying to navigate it all on the fly.
The story of a young man who loses his father and has to find a mentor elsewhere is tried and true, sure, but Terry's life is fleshed out with his mother, little brother and friends keeping him tethered to the world in a way that Bruce Wayne never had. It's one of the best young hero stories out there, and where pretty much every DC movie has focused on grizzled 30-somethings brooding on rooftops, this is a teenager who stumbles his way into being Batman — with all the excitement, terror and fun that comes with it. It could be DC's "Spider-Man," so to speak, with a young hero learning the ropes. Just, you know, with some Blade Runner flair and rocket boots thrown in for good measure.
How is this not already in development?
With pretty much the entire line-up over the next five years, DC is calling shots from the playbook fans would expect. Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman are heavy hitters — so of course they lead the charge — while Suicide Squad was a risky (commercial) success, and other mid-tier properties like Aquaman, Green Lantern Corps. and Cyborg are all in the pipeline. Which makes sense. Those are the heroes being prioritized and finding success going back to DC's New 52 (and now Rebirth-ed) comic line, and it's a sensible approach to take on the big screen.
But sensible hasn't helped DC overthrow Marvel Studios' dominance of both the zeitgeist, and consistent box office success. At least, not yet.
So, why not look outside the status quo to give the line a jolt? At this point, a curveball could be just the thing DC needs to give fans something new to be excited about. Batman Beyond is a property with so much potential upside and freedom, and it'd be a shame if DC didn't give Terry McGinnis a long, hard look as part of its long-term strategy. We've had more than enough Batman movies the past few decades. It's high time DC at least considers looking Beyond.