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Poison Ivy- a (tentative) argument in her favour.


Make Mine Marble
Feb 7, 2005
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I think the question that the next Batman franchise must answer is what it can show the audience that it has not previously seen. The temptation may be to answer that in one of two ways: either importing as many new characters as possible, or by dispensing with the cerebral tone of the previous trilogy and opting for the pop-corny revelry of the Marvel films.

I think an alternative is a shift of perspective, with the theme of each film built more squarely around its villain(s). This does not mean that Batman's role should be sidelined, nor does it mean that his adversary should win the Battle of the Screen Time. What I mean is that the tone and appearance of the film should flow inseparably from the enemy that Batman faces. For someone like The Penguin and Mr Freeze, an icy theme beckons, which is part of the reason I think they would compliment each other well. This would present Gotham through a different prism. But where does a city feel unlike a city? If you live and work in a city, which parts of it make you feel as if you have been transported?

For me, a city's green spaces are like an alien, fertile world encroaching on concrete and steel. The light and air in them is different. And they are seductive. Children and young lovers go to parks to escape their parents, workers go to parks to escape their jobs for a while, and often the homeless treat the same spaces as places of shelter and rest. A city's green spaces are like little oasis from another world. Where else might be see Batman fight a hidden enemy, in a literal urban jungle?

People disappear in these places. What if they came under one person's control?

Poison Ivy, Earth Goddess

Poison Ivy is obviously the character most able to be the centre of a conflict between these two worlds. Her longstanding status as a radical environmentalist is exacerbated in Gotham, which is a nightmarish reflection of the barbarity and ugliness of modern industrial architecture and urbanised life. If Ivy proclaimed herself the ruler and defender of the natural world against the world of steel and concrete, how many might opt to join her in her cool, lush oasis? Those who have been broken and rejected by the carnivorous life of Gotham City- from abused children and battered wives to ruined businesspeople who would otherwise be standing on a ledge- might side with this radical new natural world against the forces of modernity.

Whether or not this Poison Ivy would have a mystical control over the flora itself, her power would be drawn from the fact that her followers were willing to believe that this was the case. This image, which looks unexpectedly explicit, is from a Renaissance painting depicting the adoration of Venus:

There is something about the visual here which I think is quite powerful: the other subjects are in what looks like a secret garden, the power within which is this figure of a woman. In a Gothamite context, this might seem quite subversive of the industrial and masculine power structure of the world outside. Everything about the Ivy's little Queendom would represent the alternative. Let it all go, abandon your hellish city, enter the garden and accept this magnificent woman as your goddess and protector. Everything will be better.

Poison Ivy, Sex Goddess

(Credit to 'Ssandulak' for that provocative image).

The flipside of this, of course, is Ivy's natural power as an attractive woman. It is exaggerated to an almost mythic level: her pheromones leave people in a trance, while her kiss is irresistible and deadly. Is this magic, science or nature? The important point is its consequences: her acolytes are addicted to her, willing to lay down their lives for her survival. The surface of her pearl-white skin is softer than any of Batman's enemies, but he must wade through an army of innocents to break it. And how could he?

With the loss of his mother at a tender age, and the rejection of the distractions presented to his mission by women, Bruce Wayne as an adult heterosexual male is likely to be deeply conflicted in his dealings with a villainess like Ivy. We already know that he always lets Catwoman get away. Can he really undo all the good that she seems to have done, batter her disciples and bruise her skin? Poison Ivy's seductive femininity may pose a far greater threat to Batman than the anarchic violence of The Joker or the ingenious plotting of Ra's al Ghul.

What if Batman came under her power? The image of him as her Dark Knight, defending her leafy throne, would be a powerful one.

Poison Ivy, Matriach

One of the best genre movies in the last few years, in my opinion, was Dredd. Part of its effectiveness resulted from the ultimate evil being represented by a woman, "Ma Ma". She held the most violent and animalistic of thugs under her complete control, by her coldness and vengefulness. I can imagine Ivy exuding just the same fear in those who would be her enemies. She would sit at the centre of her green empire, perhaps on a lagoon like Boticelli's Venus, dispensing reward and punishment with equal dispassion. She would seem like a loving mother to her followers and a she-daemon to her enemies. What matters to Ivy is the natural harmony and fertility of the garden that blooms around her, and will spread from her throughout the world.

Garden of Death, House of Glass

I believe such scenarios can provide very strong visuals. An audience would sense the trepidation with which Batman might enter her lair in the end, and the likelihood that he will not leave unchanged. Ivy's Queendom is not formed from the familiar elements of moonlit rooftops and empty backstreets in the urban glare. It is made of dark jungles, dense woods, and deep swamps. The vines that trail over him are scented but venomous. The leaves sway and sigh, whether against unknown wild beasts or from their own malevolent intelligence, he doesn't know. Deep in the interior, he thinks he can hear the beating of drums. Are they really citizens of Gotham, dancing crazily under torches lit with green flame? What is mounted on those poles?

The horror!

Who's Our Girl?

It is pretty difficult to equate a living mortal with someone who tends to be written as a force of nature like Ivy. She has to be seductive, deadly, deceptive and passionate, while maintaining an exterior calm and as cool as an unrippled pool. Few actresses spring to mind, but one, for me, just feels right: young Gemma Arterton.

Anyway, just some thoughts- I would love to hear yours!
You brought up a lot of good points here. I was thinking a while ago that Poison Ivy needs to be given another shot. I feel that with just a woman as the only adversary and no male antagonist along side her (The Joker, The Penguin, Mr. Freeze, Bane), this would be the most unique Batman movie. And since Poison Ivy doesn't walk the line of heroine/villain like Catwoman, then she is surly the best female choice to headline a conflict against Batman.
I originally jumped in this thread thinking that my mind was made up - I do not want Poison Ivy in the next Batman movie. Your points changed my mind, OP. I love the way you mentioned how many people would join her cause after losing jobs or homes to the city or family/friends to that city's crime. I could see a war on the scale of TDKR finale in downtown Gotham.

So I think that she would be a great threat, but I don't want her to be a physical threat. I think that we should have someone else for that like Deathstroke or Grundy.
Even though she's one of my least favorite bat-villains, I gotta say this post was fantastic.
I don't think Batman needs a antagonist to fill in some role of physical combat. The Poison Ivy episodes of B:TAS managed to give plenty of Batman action without ever having to come to blows between he and Ivy.
Great post Reg. Arterton would be great but my pick would be Christina Hendricks.
Whoa. I wanted Ivy in there, but this... this pushes that to an entirely new level. I had no idea the girl could be so deep!

I think that her genetic work with plants could provide some justification for fast growing plants, plants with Venus fly-trap like reactions to grasp and attack. Not walking plant-men from BTAS, but plants that move like plants only larger and faster isn't really a big jump. Regardless, the pheromones and toxins are all fair game.

I think overall it might be interesting to see her fall, starting as a mild mannered biologist in the first film and then evolving into this plant queen early in the second film. Thus, Bruce seeks, primarily, to redeem her, something which he would soon find was not possible, her experience as one of those outcasts of the the steel city strengthens her character and message... and if she actually falls from grace by Bruce or WayneCorp's hands, all the richer the conflict.

Arterton's a crazy solid choice.

There's also that idea of Harley Quinn as a sidekick to Poison Ivy instead of Joker. Hmm...
This is one of the greatest threads we've ever had here :up:

I really want Ivy in the new franchise now.
I always though she would have worked well in the nolanverse actually. A business suit wearing eco terrorist who infiltrates Wayne Enterprises in an effort to make an example of it to the rest of the industrialized world.
Thanks for all the kind comments.

I always though she would have worked well in the nolanverse actually. A business suit wearing eco terrorist who infiltrates Wayne Enterprises in an effort to make an example of it to the rest of the industrialized world.

I suppose that's almost how Talia was used in TDKR.

In my opinion, there are some Batman rogues whose raison d'etre can remain unmolested even if their fantastical attributes are altered or removed- hence Ra's al Ghul's mortality- while others begin to lose their point if they are presented in such a way that they blend into our material world. I think Ivy is somewhere inbetween. For me, a lot of her strength is in the symbolism that she represents and that surrounds her. I think of her being 'of' nature. I realise that the mandatory PG13 rating wouldn't allow it, but by preference I wouldn't give her clothes, as I think this would heighten the sense that she is totally symbiotic with her garden. She would be joined to it where her bare feet touch the earth and her bare skin brushes against the leaves. I don't know if much of the strength in her role as a symbol of nature could be retained if she was 'of' our world, in an office in a suit.

I can imagine her using deception and disguise, however.
After reading this, I'm sold on the notion of Ivy being the reboot lead in villain. Be it as the main adversary, an Arkham inmate,a Birds of Prey film or a member of the Legion of Doom,I can really see a more satisfying version of Ivy showing up somewhere down the road.
You make some good points. Typically I only like Ivy as an ancillary character - if she's not "destroying all humans" she usually just keeps to herself, providing a service to another villain in exchange for something. But yeah, I think she could function quite well as an overall concept (like you said) if she represented the core of this natural growth encroaching into de-humanized Gotham City; overtaking brick and mortar as well as souls.
For the most part her motivations were never really that compelling for me. Alright, so she's crazy and wants everything green, but if you turned her into more of a force of nature, an enticing alternative, a woman who truly believes in her own deity (and who convinces others of such), I think that could be quite compelling. Even then, however, I think you'd still need at least one more minor "grounded" villain like Black Mask or Penguin to correlate the chaos more directly to the "everyday" crime element; one that would have to reluctantly cooperate with Batman to protect his own self-interests.

Oh, and this movie would need one hell of a production designer.
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It would indeed, Brett!

How could Ivy offer a physical threat to Batman? Well, she is too intelligent to face him in a fistfight. Depending on how far the tone of the next movie strays towards sci-fi/fantasy, she may be able to manipulate the tendrils of her plants to crush the life out of him. She has always been adept at the use of plant-based poisons, and these could be used both in her lipstick and in a blow-dart, as well as in the Bourbon and branch water drunk by those property developers toasting their permission to clear forest from Gotham's hinterland. I also think the image of liberated zoo animals stalking through her garden is a strong one; who wouldn't like to see Batman wrestle a panther or take take down a rampaging silverback gorilla?

Overall, however, I think that Ivy's method of defense (and offense) should reflect her femininity, her ability to manipulate, and her self preservation. Why risk breaking your fingernails when you can send an army of strong young men to risk their lives to do your bidding?

The best Batman villains always have goons who look cool, and I can imagine her acolytes taking on a kind of tribal identity. Ivy's garden would have its own rules (hers), and its own micro-culture. As with all tribal leaders, Ivy would have ways of showing favour to her most loyal (and useful) followers, which would inspire further devotion from the rest. This might take the form of exotic flowers in their hair, or painted designs on their bodies. When sending them into battle, Ivy might prepare them herself. Imagine how inspired your would feel, if your goddess herself rubbed paint into your body with her gentle fingers, and tied on your wooden armour, all the while whispering that you are immortal while you are faithful to her. These people would be fanatics, unafraid of risk to their life or limb.

I think some strong designs could be drawn from genuine tribal masks and bodypaint.

Imagine a hoard of them, laying siege to Ace Chemicals. They wouldn't seem human.

The concept of the 'Green Man', a kind of walking nature-spirit, is still remembered in Britain from pre-Christian times, before even the Romans came here. It is usually commemorated by a man being dressed in plants alone. Perhaps Ivy's most fanatical and powerful followers could form a personal bodyguard, dressed like that.

I suppose her army would use a rag-tag mix of weapons, from modern firearms to machetes, and improvised spears and clubs. Their blades would all be poisoned. I think the traditional weapons of Polynesia have a strong, natural quality, and I can picture weapons of these types being carved by Ivy's followers within the canopy of her garden.

In this respect, I would argue that Ivy could potentially offer a better physical threat to Batman than villains who primarily rely on gangs armed with guns, because these maniacs would charge into hand-to-hand combat at the first opportunity.
I certainly she deserves to be redeemed from the Schumaucher years, as Two-Face and Bane were.

When handled right, she makes for a fantastic villain in the comics, TAS and the Arkham video games. Not only sensual, there is something creepy and disturbing about the plant powers. A real chance to delve into body horror (at least as far as PG-13 will allow).

I also like the idea of her creating an army of followers in the city.
I don't think we need to see Poison Ivy kick-boxing against Batman, even though they do need a physical confrontation. Yes, having tribal thugs defending her is a great touch for an action scene, but there does need to be something visceral to their confrontation.

I would recommend running it like a bizzarro horror version of a romance story arc. Batman is in Ivy's thrall after their first close encounter, and they almost kiss, but are interrupted. Batman defends Ivy, goes on a mission for her, gets his head clear, gets the cure whatever. The second time she escapes, thanks to her small army, or her deadly and reactive plant life. But in the climactic moments, Batman fights through the thrall to capture/subdue Ivy, and then she kisses him, and then he's poisoned, so then you have this sort of dazed-Batman in a wrestling match with Poison Ivy that looks a lot more like James Bond vs Xenia Onatopp from GoldenEye than anything from the WWE. PG-13 version of course, you can't have PI moaning too provocatively when Batman slams her against a wall, but that kind of... callback to a climactic love scene before a tragic separation.

I think Black Mask would be a nice touch to add to the story, though I'm not sure about them teaming up with Batman, it doesn't sound right. Crime doesn't have much to lose if Ivy uproots the city's infrastructure, if anything, it has a lot to gain. If anything, I could see Ivy sending Batman against Black Mask or similar.
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What about that was "tentative"? :)

You had me until the bit about Ma Ma. I think all of that is very good stuff, and well written. A lot of it is very obvious stuff, stuff that Poison Ivy has been about since about the early 90's, and things that I would absolutely expect to be found in a movie featuring Poison Ivy (which were even found in BATMAN & ROBIN to some extent, albeit in a silly manner). Now, there is a smaller bit that you hit on that I think could be expanded into the core of a fantastic, unique, and ultimately very powerful Batman film.

What I'd like to see focused on is ultimately the idea of her as a mother figure, and by extension, FINALLY get a good portrayal of Martha Wayne onscreen, and hopefully Leslie Thompkins as well. (See THE ULTIMATE EVIL for more on Martha Wayne as a crusader in Gotham City).

To that end, I would make Poison Ivy less about a hatred of humanity VS nature, and more about a concern with the state human nature, and what it has evolved into, which could also speak to the evolution of criminals in Gotham into supervillains, etc.

The rejection of the industrial modern elements would be about embracing our natural state, and by extension, our innate rights and needs as human beings. So she would be less interested in the survival of plants and such, and more interested in the natural growth of human beings. She'd be shielding the downtrodden, protecting the abused, etc. Because of the relevant themes, we could finally see a storyline that deals with Bruce Wayne realizing he need not only be immersed in violence to make a difference, and this would make a good jumping off point for The Wayne Foundation, and the idea of Bruce Wayne as a source of redemption as well. The themes of a story like this also pretty much screams for the inclusion of Killer Croc, and possibly even someone like Anarky. Catwoman would also potentially fit right in, given the idea of sheltering and protecting innocents. A story like this could allow for the evolution of Catwoman as well.

I like the more modern take on Ivy, her taking over the Park and such, and the sense that she has a bit of a cult of sorts. And this could be IRON MAN 3's influence, but I also think it'd be really neat to see Poison Ivy portrayed somewhat ambiguously with regard to her powers and abilities, until its ultimately revealed that for all her talk about nature, she's a bit of a dog and pony show, using technology and smoke and mirrors more than a little to accomplish her goals.
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You had me until the bit about Ma Ma. I think all of that is very good stuff, and well written. A lot of it is very obvious stuff, stuff that Poison Ivy has been about since about the early 90's, and things that I would absolutely expect to be found in a movie featuring Poison Ivy (which were even found in BATMAN & ROBIN to some extent, albeit in a silly manner). Now, there is a smaller bit that you hit on that I think could be expanded into the core of a fantastic, unique, and ultimately very powerful Batman film.

I think your concept of drawing connections with Martha is excellent. Would your Ivy actually be a 'villain', per se? I ask because substituting a degree of her ecological fanaticism with a concern for the betterment of mankind would seem to offer Batman little to object to.

You're right, Croc does tessellate with this very well. I suppose any character strongly identified as an 'outcast' would. The Penguin, perhaps, is the other side of the story- he's the outcast that plays society at its own game, and gets his revenge by living well.
I don't know what tessellate means, but I intend to use that word on a daily basis henceforth.

I think she'd be a villain in the sense that her actions, though somewhat well-meaning, are eventually immoral. I think she'd be similar to Ra's Al Ghul in a sense, something of a terrorist with a heart of gold, but with more of a religious element to her. I could absolutely see The Penguin being part of a story like this, too, and having he and Ivy at odds.
Ivy is my 3rd favorite Batman villain and judging from the posts she has a good fan-base. I really would love a more modern take on her as someone suggested with maybe getting a good amount of people to support her.
I would really hate to see a let-down villain again. Mandarin didn't bother as much as others, but I really am not in the mood to build up a villain and then - no, they're not nearly as cool as you thought. Let her be an actual biochemist and do pseudoscience, please, or keep it grounded and don't act like she has any plant control at all. There's no benefit in "promising the fans" that Batman will go into the more stylized villains and then not doing it. The only redeeming value of the polarizing IM3 twist was that it hadn't been done before... well, yeah.
What if you knew it was artifice from the outset?
I think she would be a great villain for the Batman Reboot..she would need to be grounded in reality though and not to be campy
Unless she has people rioting/fighting for her then I don't see her being the main villain in a movie if it takes a grounded realistic approach. After TDK trilogy I feel most of the casual fans want grounded, so if you show a trailer with giant plants (even if the CGI and everything looks awesome) people will still be turned off slightly cause they are expecting things similar to the recent ones.
What if you knew it was artifice from the outset?

That'd be cool, but that would remove the punch of people thinking she had all these supernatural powers.

Unless she has people rioting/fighting for her then I don't see her being the main villain in a movie if it takes a grounded realistic approach. After TDK trilogy I feel most of the casual fans want grounded, so if you show a trailer with giant plants (even if the CGI and everything looks awesome) people will still be turned off slightly cause they are expecting things similar to the recent ones.

What if the giant plants weren't CGI, and they were actual plants?

What I'm saying is, the TDK trilogy had its fair share of sci fi, even though it was grounded, because it was based on real life stuff. I think the new stories can push that further, or at worst, leave it the same. The ideas of pheremones, plant-based drugs and toxins, genetically modified foods/plants, even plants that move on their own and the like aren't exactly Asgard and Krypton, y'know? It's stuff that already exists, you just twist it/amp it up for a movie, much as microwave tech was for BB, sonar was for TDK and the human body's ability to recover was for TDKR. Just because it felt grounded, doesn't mean it was actually realistic.

I could see the problem with having a Little Shop of Horrors type event where vines and stuff are doing the whole tentacle bit, but no one is suggesting that at all.
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I think that might be the right approach. In my first post, I alluded to a "garden of death", which is a concept borrowed from the novel You Only Live Twice. There, Blofeld, now losing his sanity and with his empire crumbled around him, takes refuge in a Japanese castle, around which he builds a garden in which every plant, tree and spore is poisonous. I think even the ponds were filled with piranha. I think Ivy's garden would be one of life and of death, but it would be an effective defensive citadel to her and her people.

All of that is perfectly possible in the real world, and a little bit of creative license could easily bring us towards just the right level of "mad science" without the tone becoming too fantastical. I like the idea that Ivy, like The Joker, has experimented on herself and consequently become immune to all the relevant poisons.

Taken with the potential for a desperate battle with wild animals, or a swamp-based grapple with Croc, and there is plenty to keep Batman occupied.

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