If you haven't heard already, The Dark Knight Rises (the next Batman flick) is filming and all over the internet you can see a leaked photo of some green liquid on one of the sets. This isn't pointless slime - it's bright green so it can be picked up from footage easily and altered or animated somehow. So what?
It suggests a Lazarus pit* could be involved. If you don't know the comics the Lazarus pits of Ra's Al Ghul are able to sustain/strengthen life or even bring someone back from death. It also seems to bring on a form of madness, although this isn't totally consistent in the comics.
The fun of having this supernatural thing happening in Batman's adventures was knowing this just does not fit with his view of the world. He works all the angles and needs to know how all the mechanisms work. But what of souls? And if they come back into lifeless bodies, where did they go in the meantime - what science could he use to deduce this? He can investigate but not get to the bottom of it: in the end it is more that he has to accept it.**
Where could director Christopher Nolan and his increasingly impressive cast take this? Here are a few possibilities:
1) Surely this means that Ra's Al Ghul is returning - or possibly a successor like his daughter Talia, who was unseen in Batman Begins. The ninjas Bruce faced in his mansion were from a long line, and that line is bound to have continued somewhere. And Ra's could be resurrected through use of the pit, or perhaps Batman will stop him just in time?
3) The new film is called The Dark Knight Rises - so could Batmen die and someone resurrect him in one of the pits? This would fit with the previous film's theme of the city of Gotham needing someone like the Dark Knight, and be a nice counterpoint to the start of the film which I imagine will be about the police and/or army hunting Batman for the murders everyone thinks he committed in The Dark Knight. Could be quite cool, and a related idea was used in the recent comic Batman and Robin issue 7 and 8: Blackest Knight, with the question being - is the Batman who emerges from the pit going to be the right one, and in his right mind? (Batman and Robin stars a new Batman, as Bruce Wayne apparently died in the comics recently***)
On a related note, the villian Bane is set to be in new movie I hear - and I hope this is done well. In the comics he is often used very poorly and has little or no character. He is just famous for a dark epic story from the early nineties where he broke Batman's back and totally defeated him.... wonder if this could be where the film goes?
Either way I'm sure the writers will love to play with the idea of questioning whether it's possible to rise from death and live in a kind of mad power-mad immortality that many villains in comics seem to want to achieve. What messages might come through about what real living is, I wonder? Or about relinquishing power and serving a city of other people? Furthermore there was always something Satanic about the pits, which are in the belly of the earth and perpetuate the life of a centuries-old manipulater and murderer whose legacy is a cult of warriors who obey his every word. Perhaps the film will bring out the horror of this monstrous and unnatural battle for supremacy over the world from below.
With Marvel taking another step in the right direction with Thor and then Thor, Iron Man and Hulk joining the Avengers film next year****, Batman faces stiff competition in the superhero movie department. But I have confidence The Dark Knight Rises will prove to be more thought-provoking and mature than the others (much as I like them)!
*Presumably named after the biblical Lazarus, an ordinary man Jesus publically raised from death.
**Over the years Batman has been forced to accept there are some supernatural things in the universe, although even in Neil Gaiman's excellent recent story "Whatever happened to the caped crusader?" Batman states that he does not believe in a god, and the story still emphasises his own role in carving his own meaning in his physical existence - while portraying him as a kind of unstoppable force against evil in an eternal battle against evil (Yes, wierd huh?)
***I'm quite behind with Batman, as I have a pile of UK-produced Batman Legends comics to read, and the UK comics are way behind the US ones. The death of Batman is shown within Final Crisis, which you should read alongside the main Batman storyline right through from Batman and Son to the Black Casebook and Batman RIP.
****Directed by Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy, Firefly and Serenity and writer of the first four volumes of Astonishing X-men!