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Christian Bale’s Batman Has an Ending: Let Him Keep It

Christian Bale’s press tour for Thor: Love and Thunder has been a delight. It has produced a variety of memetic material, from Bale’s very considered attempt to explain why audiences have responded to Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to the actor’s response to a question about entering the Marvel Cinematic Universe by asserting, “I haven’t entered shit.” However, it has also stoked debate around the possibility of Christian Bale returning to the role of Batman.

Of course, it makes sense that Bale would be asked about his interest in reprising his role as the Caped Crusader. The actor starred in a trilogy of financially successful and critically acclaimed blockbusters that redefined what was possible with cinematic superheroes. The films set a high bar for the genre. The timing also lines up. Batman Begins was released over 17 years ago, which means that Christian Bale’s take on the Caped Crusader is primed for nostalgic exploitation.

More than that, modern cinema is saturated with older actors reprising iconic roles. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield both returned for Spider-Man: No Way Home. Patrick Stewart cashed in on two separate beloved characters in Star Trek: Picard and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Given that both Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton are appearing in The Flash, it is odd that it has taken this long for Bale to seriously consider returning to the cowl.

Bale answered diplomatically. He stated that he had a “pact” with director Christopher Nolan to make three films and walk away. However, he added, “In my mind, it would be something if Chris Nolan ever said to himself, ‘You know what(?) I’ve got another story to tell.’ And if he wished to tell that story with me, I’d be in.” It’s a perfectly reasonable response to that question, one that avoids rigid absolutes while establishing clear boundaries.

It is consistent with how Bale has historically responded to questions about a hypothetical fourth film, even down to the wording. Doing press for The Dark Knight Rises, Bale was keen to stress that this was intended as the final film, while conceding, “But… if Chris came to me with a script and said, ‘You know what? There is another story(,)’ then I would love the challenge of making a fourth one work.” A year later, Bale stated that The Dark Knight Rises was “where it should end.”

Bale and Nolan have demonstrated a remarkable creative integrity when it comes to their version of Batman, particularly at a time when pop culture is so obsessed with recycling and replaying what came before. While doing press for Ford v Ferrari, Bale conceded that Warner Bros. had approached the two about the possibility of making a fourth film in the series, but both Bale and Nolan had declined. It would be easy money for both of them, so their restraint is admirable.

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