io9 reported today that Director Christopher Nolan may walk away from doing a third Batman film. They say the death of Heath Ledger was a double blow to Nolan. Obviously it was an emotional blow, and given the praise both the movie and Ledger earned, that was probably a blow that kept on coming. Apparently it was also a storytelling blow: Nolan planned on bringing the Joker back in a major role for the third film. Now, he's not sure what to do.
I'm sure the Batman fans in the blogosphere will all have their say, so please indulge mine now:
Please don't walk away now, Mr Nolan. Tell the story you intended.
Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are clearly the first and second act of a larger story. Both are much better films than a comic films have a right to be. It isn't fair to your audience to only tell two-thirds of the tale.
Oh, I know there are already people saying this may be a blessing in disguise; after all Nolan can go out on top and who could possibly replace Heath Ledger? Bunkum.
Let me say this first: actors, even great ones, are servants to a good story. You're not going to offend the spirit of Heath Ledger by recasting his role. If your story demands the return of the Joker -- and what fan will complain about that? -- then tell your story and bring the Joker back. A brave actor will step up to the plate. I also have faith that Nolan and his production team won't cast a scrub actor.
There will also be those who say a third Batman is a risk, especially with a new Joker actor. This would be true after the tour de force of The Dark Knight even if you brought back the entire cast. If anything, I think the audience will come out to see another actor attempt the role. And if Nolan continues to tell the great, mythic, and surprisingly relevant stories he's been telling, then he may continue to pack non-Batman fans into the seats.
[BTW: I'm continuing the GI Joe theme with the above picture... But Batman wins this fight. He just does not lose.]