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At the heart of Matt Reeves’ The Batman are a number of questions, not least because the Riddler is one of the villains of the piece. Saturday evening’s panel from DC FanDome saw filmmaker Matt Reeves answer some of those questions — and leave even more dangling after the debut the first teaser for the 2021 project.
Reeves, known for Cloverfield and the Planet of the Apes films, made the point that, although he was a longtime Batman fan, he hadn’t started off intending to make genre movies — until he realized the opportunities available to him. “As I got deeper into genre, that was a way to do very emotional stories under the guise of these very mythic stories,” Reeves said.
Illustrating that, he talked about the fact that The Batman, set roughly a year and a half after the debut of Batman in Gotham City, will see the hero “make mistakes and fail and grow and be heroic” as he struggles with his own failings. This version of Batman will not be the idealized version seen elsewhere, he teased, but is instead “broken” and “confronting the shadow side of himself,” a process that Reeves hopes will allow the audience to empathize with Bruce Wayne in an all-new way.
Helping that process will be actor Robert Pattinson, who Reeves described as “an incredible actor… He’s been working on his craft in this incredible way, and he also happens to be a tremendous, passionate fan of Batman, like I am.” Pattinson, he added, “looks like Batman, but more than anything, I think he has the soul” of the character — or, at least, a Dark Knight in the second year of what Reeves described as an “experiment” to see if Gotham can be changed by one man.
That experiment won’t go well, Reeves hinted, in part because of the deeply corrupt nature of the city, something that will be explored further in the Gotham City Police Department show being developed for HBO Max. That series will be set in the first year of Batman’s career, and will use a dirty cop as its point of view character as it looks into the history of the city’s police department and quite how far the corruption spreads.
Batman himself will be dealing with the same question in the movie, with Reeves saying that Bruce Wayne will have to ask himself how involved his own family was in the corruption thread throughout the city as he investigates a series of murders. Those murders will touch upon a series of familiar Batman villains — including Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz) and Oswald Cobblepot (Colin Farrell) ahead of their adoptions of their supervillain identities. Similarly, Paul Dano will play “a version of the Riddler that no-one’s ever seen before,” according to Reeves.
Asked about the inspirations behind the movie, Reeves cited Darwyn Cooke’s Batman graphic novel, Batman: Ego, as well as the movies Chinatown, The French Connection and Taxi Driver. “I guess a lot of really ‘70s, street, grounded stories,” Reeves said, suggesting the movie will be a more down-to-earth, less superheroic version of the character and his mythos.
“One of the joys of being in the comic book world is to say, ‘hey, what can we do to put our spin on these characters?’” Reeves said, before debuting the first teaser for the movie, promising that he and everyone involved in the movie were trying to come to the material anew but still stay connected to everything that’s come before.
The Batman is set for Oct. 1, 2021.
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Melvin Van Peebles