HEAT VISION

The Subtle Clues in 'The Batman' First Look

From the costume to the red lighting, here's what to look for in Robert Pattinson's take on the Dark Knight.
Tibrina Hobson/WireImage
From the costume to the red lighting, here's what to look for in Robert Pattinson's take on the Dark Knight.

It’s been said that the suit makes the man, and that couldn’t be truer for the Caped Crusader. Yesterday evening, director Matt Reeves delivered our first look at Robert Pattinson as Batman via a screen test. The footage, coming in at just under a minute, also featured the first notes of composer Michael Giacchino’s haunting score. As expected, Twitter was immediately set ablaze with reactions, comparisons and early theories about the direction of The Batman, and what the music, the suit and the hidden Bat-ears all meant. Well we've got a few theories of our own as this latest iteration of Batman makes his presence known.

Before we even get to the suit, let’s talk about red lighting of the footage. Red isn’t a color commonly associated with Batman, and one would think that blue, or black and white would make more sense for the costume reveal. But the red doesn’t seem incidental, and despite online chatter, it doesn’t seem like Reeves is cribbing from Daredevil either. Rather, it may suggest the mood of Pattinson’s Batman and the tone of the film. Co-star Peter Sarsgaard told SiriusXM radio last week that this version of Batman “is not sanitized.” And went on describe the “raw power” and “raw emotionality” of the film and the character. Red is, after all, the color of both passion and bloodlust. Considering that this iteration of Batman is rumored to be early in his career, around Year two if The Long Halloween influences reach that far, then it would make sense that we’re looking at a Batman who is still hurting, still learning how to process his grief.

While this doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily see a murderous Batman, which has been a common element across his film history despite the comics trending away from that behavior since his early days, we could see a Batman who isn’t the man in control that we’ve become used to seeing. And if it's not blood making Batman see red, then certainly the presence of Zoe Kravitz’s Catwoman could do the trick, should their passionate romance play a central part of the story.

Now for the suit, which employs a number of influences from the comics and other Batman media. The sculpted armor look directly recalls Batman’s appearance in the video game Arkham Knight. Christopher Nolan’s Batman had an armored suit as well, but one looks to me made of harder material, maybe even metallic. It looks skillfully crafted but there’s also a piecemeal and welded quality to it that suggests it’s handmade, rather than a modified Wayne Tech designed for military use. The handmade Batsuit was central to the design of Greg Capullo’s Batman in Zero Year, which had a decidedly Mad Max influence. With that handmade aspect comes the central Bat-symbol, which looks welded together from various pieces of metal. These could easily be Batarangs, but the shape where the two wings meet look vaguely like a pistol grip. Could it be that Wayne welded the gun that killed his parents into his Bat-symbol? That idea was used recently in Kevin Smith and Jim Lee’s Batman story, “Manufacture for Use,” which was featured in Detective Comics No. 1000. Such a cosmetic choice would certainly make thematic sense for a Batman still holding onto his pain.

Other noticeable costume details are the armored shoulder plates, which, again, were seen in Arkham Knight. Batman’s cape is also attached by a collar, a design choice that hearkens to back to Mike Mignola’s design for Batman in the Elseworld’s tale Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, which saw the Dark Knight working in Europe in the late 1800s and tracking down Jack the Ripper. This contrast between modern and old-school continues to Batman’s cowl. There’s a leathery quality to it and we can see the stitches that connect the nose piece to the rest of the cowl, like a luchador’s mask — which served as the basis for the superhero costume. Pattinson’s cowl bears a resemblance to the cowl worn by Adam West in the '60s Batman show, right down to the pronounced eyebrow marks, which were also featured on Michael Keaton’s cowl in Batman (1989). While we don’t get to see how long the ears are, which is anyone’s guess considering that the film’s reported influences, Batman: Year One and Batman: The Long Halloween, featured short and long ears, respectively, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were made out of a different material than his cowl, continuing the handmade theme.

We’ve seen a number of iconic Batman costumes in film over the years from spandex to nipples, and from sculpted military-grade armor to comic book accuracy ripped straight from the pages of The Dark Knight Returns. But this costume appears to be doing something different, borrowing from Batman’s appearances through time and across media, and landing on something that feels like a wandering warrior’s garb, one cobbled together from different battles, the uniform of a man whose role isn’t quite yet defined. Whether this is the final version of the Batsuit we’ll see in the film or if upgrades are in store remains a mystery for now, but Reeves’ version of Batman is shaping up to be iconic in his own right.

  • Richard Newby
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