The Batman is now in theaters, chronicling the story of how Robert Pattinson's Batman tries to find himself and save Gotham City from a notorious serial killer (Riddler), early in his crime-fighting career. The series of killings and riddles that The Riddler (Paul Dano) puts into play unravel the very fabric of both Gotham's political structure and its criminal underworld. By the end of the case, it would be an understatement to say that nothing in Gotham City will be the same – opening some big doors to where a sequel film can go.
Here is how The Batman sets up a sequel (SPOILERS FOLLOW!):
No Man's Land
Let's start with the most pronounced and obvious setup that director Matt Reeves leaves for a sequel to The Batman: No Man's Land.
"No Man's Land" was a major Batman comic book crossover storyline that ran in 1999 – a sequel to the previous event storylines, "Cataclysm", "Aftershock", and "Road to No Man's Land". A major earthquake hits Gotham City and leaves it in rubble. The US government eventually decides Gotham is beyond saving and abandons it, shutting it off from the outside world. "No Man's Land" followed what happens to various Batman characters, villains, lawmen, and ordinary citizens, while living in the dystopia.
The Batman's climactic third act sees Riddler get locked up but still enacted his plan to flood Gotham City. Batman and Catwoman help to stop Gotham's descent into chaos, but the movie ends with Gotham still being a half-sunken mess – so bad that Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz) declares Gotham beyond saving and leaves, while Batman vows to stay and begin trying to "save" Gotham by inspiring hope (and not jus fear)
Clearly, The Batman sequel will presumably have to address the disastrous state of the City, as a result of the flood. That obligation already makes the sequel a sort of loose adaptation of No Man's Land.
A Better Class Of Criminal
As Heath Ledger's Joker stated in The Dark Knight, Gotham needed a better class of criminal than the mobsters that had run it for decades. The Batman makes a pointed effort to show us that this is a period in Gotham before the colorful characters we know from DC Comics are full-formed personas – but the sequel seems obligated to offer us the next evolution of crime in Gotham.
The Batman's epilogue scene reveals Eternals star Barry Keoghan as Joker, who befriends Riddler as they both sit in their respective cells at Arkham Asylum. Selina Kyle is on her way to becoming Catwoman (both thief and hero), and Colin Farrell is getting an entire Penguin series on HBO Max to track his evolution from mob henchman to crime boss. In The Batman's universe, the theme of "escalation" in a sequel may be the retirement of the mob and the emergence of an entirely new supervilain world order.
The Court of Owls
Both director Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson have been none-too-subtle about teasing that The Batman 2 villains could be The Court of Owls. The clandestine cabal of wealthy and powerful families of Gotham seems like a natural fit for the story The Batman started (the deep corruption in Gotham's power elite). While Matt Reeves may not embrace all the supernatural elements of the Court, refitting the undead Talons as real-life elite assassins seems like an easy change to make.
One of the most famous Batman stories of the modern age saw one of Bruce Wayne's oldest childhood friends (Dr. Thomas Elliot) return to dismantle both Bruce and Batman, piece by piece, as the ruthless villain mastermind, Hush. It was Riddler who secretly used the knowledge of Batman's true identity to help Hush mind-screw Batman like no other villain had before. It wasn't a case that tested Batman's detective skill – it was an entire psychological gauntlet that threw the Dark Knight's deepest emotions into turmoil.
The Batman has an interactive post-credits scene that takes fans to a website where an old Thomas Wayne mayoral campaign video plays. The video also flashes the word "Hush" over the footage, leading fans to think Reeves is teasing the villain for the sequel.
All of The Above
The beautiful thing about the world of The Batman that Matt Reeves builds in the film (and will continue to build on TV) is that all of these ideas could actually work in The Batman sequel. Based on the story Reeves has started, expanding the story to how Thomas Elliot/Hush and The Wayne's history connects to the Court of Owls – who resurfaces in the decimated Gotham, even as new super villains rise up to challenge the old order – sounds like enough rich material to justify The Batman 2 being three hours.
The Batman is now in theaters.