The Batman: DC’s excitingly risky new project

Image released at the DC Fandome Event 

Editor’s note: Due to site maintenance, this article was republished on Oct. 7, 2020. This article was originally published on Sept. 24, 2020.

Ever since the release of 2017’s Justice League, Warner Bros. and DC have basically put themselves in a corner with their DCEU lineup of films, with the box office not being the best, the reception being VERY polarizing and a creative shakeup being fairly controversial. But even with this going on, there was still talks for their characters to have their own films, specifically Ben Affleck’s Batman. However, this proved to be quite a challenge. With Affleck and DC Entertainment’s then CCO Geoff Johns constantly going back and forth of having a script, a shakeup of whether or not Affleck will direct the film and even Affleck’s commitment to playing Batman being questioned. But it wasn’t until February of 2017 where Matt Reeves was brought on to direct and produce the film, with him even working on a whole new script. Over the next few months however, things took an even sharper turn. From Reeves stating that the connections to the DCEU would be close to minimal and him wanting a younger actor for the role, this itself was amplified even more when Affleck completely stepped down from the role due to his lack of interest in the role, his divorce from Jennifer Garner and among other things. Cut to May 2019, and Robert Pattinson was cast in the role, with a teaser of him in his Batsuit releasing in February 2020.

But now, a teaser trailer for the film has been released in August of that year with many people talking about it. There’s a lot to get to so let’s dive in. From the first couple seconds, it’s rather apparent that film is taking inspiration from David Fincher, and I mean that in the best way. The dour and steely colored look does surprisingly work well with Batman, and I mean that in a literal sense due to the many scenes in the trailer that are raining. The casting is mostly solid, Pattinson is a solid choice for the role, as well as Andy Serkis, Paul Dano and Jeffery Wright as Alfred, James Gordon and The Riddler. Colin Farrell especially is a great choice for The Penguin, so great in fact that his makeup makes him nearly unrecognizable. Speaking of looks, the costume designs on some of the iconic characters are unique yet fitting. Dano’s Riddler goes for more of a Zodiac Killer like design compared to his last live-action interpretation, with his jagged coat and taped mask, he looks more unnerving and creepier this time around. Pattinson’s Batsuit meanwhile, is rather interesting. It took inspiration from a lot of Batman media, from the collared cape reminiscent of the Gotham by Gaslight story from the comics, the armored chest plating from the Batman Arkham video games, to even the main chest symbol having a lean towards the original 1939 design. The trailer itself sets up to have multiple antagonists at once which hasn’t really been done to this extent in film, with The Riddler being the main villain and Penguin and Catwoman being thrown into the mix.

This all looks amazing right? Well yes, but not without its potential red flags. While most of the casting is rather solid, the one that sticks out for me is Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman. The reasoning is that I am not familiar with her acting and with her also being a singer, I’m slightly doubtful of her performance but only time will tell. The Batsuit for Pattinson is pretty great but there are two details that are distracting to me, the nose piece of his cowl looks rather blocky to me. If you were to look at it from the side, it looks fine but when from the front or from another angle, it doesn’t look the best. There are also these dart-like things on his wrists which are not only distracting, but also questionable of their use. If these are the films equivalent of the Batarang then it would slightly make sense, but their design is more similar to a spear or a throwing knife rather than a type of boomerang. But the biggest red flag for me is a complicated one, that being the films identity. Batman has had dozens and dozens of different versions over the 80 years of his existence, 10 of which have been in film. Each of them having their own identities, Adam West’s being campy and light-hearted, Michael Keaton’s being mysterious and dark, Joel Schumacher’s being lame and silly, Christian Bale being grounded and complex and Ben Affleck being aged and brutal. These and more do accompany everything that was and still is Batman and while they have faults, these versions do stand out. With Pattinson taking it on, I fear that he won’t really have an aspect of Batman that he can call his own. Reeves has described The Batman as a noir-driven story with a dive into the “World’s Greatest Detective” aspect of Batman as well as have him be pretty early on in his life as Batman and while that’s an interesting idea, it’s not entirely new to the film versions of Batman. 1992’s Batman: Mask of the Phantasm with Kevin Conroy not only gave Batman a noir-like mystery to solve but gave a dive into the early days of being Batman, the television counterpart Batman: The Animated Series dives into these aspects further. Now do I think The Batman is doomed from the start because of this? No, Pattinson is a talented actor and Reeves is an obviously passionate director for this material and the trailer does show promise in the aforementioned aspects. From the overall premise of Batman trying to track down Riddler and trying to stop his serial killing, to Batman only having a year or two as the vigilante. The latter is especially highlighted by a confrontation between Batman and some GCPD officers and a random thug going to him and saying, “The hell are you supposed to be?”, almost like Gotham’s criminals aren’t fully used to Batman or even know if he’s real which is one of my personal favorites aspects to Batman.

Overall, The Batman trailer shows promise but not without its elements of caution. I am actually very excited for this movie and while the problems I mentioned will likely stick with me until the film’s supposed release date of October 2021, it’s still very interesting to see another creative team take on one of pop culture’s greatest heroes.

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Myles Hoglund

Myles is a sophomore at St. Cloud State and is going for a major in film studies. He's also a member of the film-centered club called Cinescope. He hopes to become a film critic professionally like one of his personal idols, Roger Ebert. On top of reviews for the Chronicle, he also makes reviews on his personal Letterboxd account. So if you like his work here, give his Letterboxd a look.

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