Capping off a long day of sneak peeks, panels, and teaser trailers at DC FanDome this past weekend, Warner Bros. dropped the first teaser for The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson (of High Life and the Twilight franchise) in the title role. It’s directed by Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes), and—surprise, surprise—it’s another dark, gritty take on the classic superhero—this time with more of a film noir/detective story vibe.
There is a long and tangled backstory to this latest incarnation of the classic comic book superhero. We all know that Ben Affleck was cast as Batman for a three-film trilogy in the DCEU: Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Suicide Squad (2016), and Justice League (2017), which had its own well-publicized production woes. Warner Bros. announced plans for a standalone Batman film in the fall of 2014, with Affleck set to reprise the role, as well as directing and co-writing the screenplay.
The original plan was to set the film within the DCEU, after the events of Justice League. But as Warner Bros. was rethinking the shared-universe model for its superhero films in favor of standalone films and franchises, Affleck announced he was stepping down as director, and the studio replaced him with Reeves. Affleck would eventually withdraw from the project altogether, following his divorce from Jennifer Garner and a stint in rehab for alcohol abuse.
A different vision
Reeves brought a very different vision to The Batman, saying that he wanted it to be “an almost noir-driven, detective version of Batman,” focused on the earlier years without being a bona fide origin story. The classic bad guys—The Riddler, Penguin, Catwoman—are also in the early stages of their development into full-fledged villains. Reeves has cited Alfred Hitchcock films as a major influence on the overall look and feel of his film, as well as Chinatown, The French Connection, and Taxi Driver. His casting of Pattinson as Batman met with initial strong backlash from fans, which is honestly pretty typical of fandoms these days. (Pattinson mostly took it in stride.)
In addition to Pattinson, the all-star cast includes Jeffrey Wright (Westworld) as Commissioner Jim Gordon; Colin Farrell (Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them) as Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin; Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) as Bruce Wayne’s butler and mentor, Alfred Pennyworth; John Turturro (Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski) as crime boss Carmine Falcone; Paul Dano (Okja, 12 Years a Slave) as Edward Nashton/The Riddler; and Zoë Kravitz (X-Men: First Class) as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. (Kravitz voiced the character in The Lego Batman Movie, so the choice is apt.)
In March, of course, production on the film was suspended indefinitely due to COVID-19—dialect coach Andrew Jack died from the disease shortly thereafter—after a quarter or so of the film had been shot. (Production is expected to resume next month in Hertfordshire, England.) Apparently, there was enough cool footage to put together this new teaser, at least, to tide fans over until next year. It does set an appropriately moody, atmospheric tone, and I’m cautiously optimistic about what Reeves will bring to the franchise, even though I was skeptical that another Batman movie was really necessary. I originally felt the same way about Joker, which turned out to be one of the best films of 2019.
The Batman is currently scheduled for an October 1, 2021, release.
Listing image by YouTube/Warner Bros.