The almost-certainly-untrue rumor that Cher is Christopher Nolan's "first choice" to play Catwoman in the follow-up to The Dark Knight — and Vulture's convincing concept art — point to a real problem that's going to face Nolan as he continues the enormously successful new-and-improved Batman franchise: How to shoehorn the more cartoonish villains of the comics into Nolan's realistic, crime-thriller universe? The idea of Cher as an aging Catwoman has its appeal, but also edges into fanwankery — not unlike Australian artist Josh McMahon's unintentionally hilarious attempts to imagine Nolanized versions of Harley Quinn and the Riddler.
While the Tim Burton–Joel Schumacher series comfortably situated outlandish supervillains like the Penguin and Poison Ivy in a bizarre universe that was art-directed to within an inch of its life, in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Nolan has favored a more recognizable urban environment with actual, y’know, exteriors. He avoided flamboyant villains in Begins, and deliberately set up the Joker as an aberration in Knight — a psychopath whose face paint even freaked out his fellow criminals. But how many more times can comic-book grotesques be finessed in this way? Why would a woman dress up like a cat in the Gotham City of Dark Knight? Why would a guy wear a jacket covered in question marks? And could a short, chubby dork really take on Christian Bale’s high-tech Batman while wearing a monocle? How far can Nolan take his gritty conceit before, like poor Joel Schumacher before him, he edges the series into self-parody?