Realism isn’t exactly something that fans tend to want in an outward sense when it comes to comic book movies since a lot of times they tend to prefer the fantasy over reality given that the fantasy has fewer limits and more excitement. But Christopher Nolan is obviously the type of guy that wants to keep things grounded and doesn’t want to go so far off the rails that he’ll feature people that would be more comfortable in the nuthouse than walking the streets of Gotham. If you’re still willing to argue that point it’s not hard to understand why since villains such as Mr. Freeze, the Penguin, and the Riddler are classic names in the Batman story. But for Nolan’s movies, they didn’t work since they didn’t fit into the realism that he was going for. Even the villains he used, iconic as they were, had to be altered in order to really fit into the narrative. Take Ra’s Al Ghul, who wasn’t immortal, or the Joker, who didn’t have bleached skin and painted his face, or Bane, who wasn’t jacked up on venom and was just incredibly strong as well as highly skilled when it came to fighting. These villains were major steps down from their counterparts that had come years before, and yet they fit so well into Nolan’s realistic viewpoint that even Scarecrow, who was more of a crazed doctor peddling a deadly toxin, was easy to believe as a real person.
It’s possible that the characters who were left off the block could have been used in different ways, but when you think of villains such as Mr. Freeze and possibly even Poison Ivy, it’s tough to think about how they would have been brought into Nolan’s vision since he wasn’t all about the fantasy and pseudoscience when it came to his movies. In other words, venom wasn’t a thing with Bane, just as the Lazarus Pits weren’t a thing with Ra’s Al Ghul. The Riddler and the Penguin could possibly be made over in Nolan’s image, and to be fair, any villain might have been able to be given a makeover to create a character that was more believable. So granted, Two-Face was hard to stomach not just because of his grisly countenance, but also because having half of your face burned off and having an exposed eyeball isn’t something that many medical practitioners would agree is something that might allow a person to go traipsing about, killing off crooked cops and gangsters. It is nice to see that Nolan went a different route when creating Two-Face instead of having his origin include anything to do with acid, but this is where Nolan kind of dropped his guard a bit and went with the unreal parts of Batman since Two-Face is a character that, right out of the gate, would have been in such unimaginable pain that even moving around would have been painful enough to send him into a seizure. But we accepted it since he didn’t look like a cartoon character ala Tommy Lee Jones.
The Riddler could have been a true psychopath, and Poison Ivy could have possibly been an assassin or a biochemist that knew how to kill in various ways, or both. Even Mr. Freeze could have been retconned in a way that would have made sense, but the idea that Nolan chose his Batman villains according to what he wanted and not what he could change is a little more likely since a lot of us have our favorite villains and heroes and it’s fair to say that some folks would rather film those that they care about than those that they don’t. Of course without knowing which villains Nolan really favors, if any, this statement isn’t entirely accurate, but when thinking about it the Penguin could have easily been just another crime boss that saw an opportunity in allying with the Joker while the others attempted to resist him. The ideas that Nolan went with were well thought out and brought a great deal of pleasure to the fans, but to think that he couldn’t make every Batman villain realistic would have been kind of hard to say with a straight face since there’s a way to retcon just about anyone if a person has enough imagination and can take the literal and make it figurative while still keeping the spirit of the character alive. When you think of it that way there’s even a way to make Clayface come to life without making him a mound of living clay. In a sense, he would simply become a psychopathic master of disguise that could emulate almost anyone along with their mannerisms.
Nolan made his choice and he stuck with it, which we can’t fault him with, but rest assured that there a lot of different ways to make various villains in a new image while keeping them more or less the same.