It’s been four years since the big screen was graced by Batman (no, the Snyder Cut doesn’t count). That’s an eternity for fans of the world’s most famous vigilante, who have been spoiled with 11 very different films since Tim Burton’s 1989 blockbuster ushered in modern superhero cinema. Now, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel: Warner Bros is set to release the latest Caped Crusader adventure in early 2022.
‘Light’ is a bit misleading. Anyone still bemoaning the dark-and-gritty reinvention of superhero cinema following Christopher Nolan’s game-changing Dark Knight trilogy take heed: The upcoming reboot, titled The Batman, looks to make Nolan’s Gotham City look like Sesame Street. Newly minted Bruce Wayne Robert Pattinson will navigate a noir-tinged, rain-soaked city where gangs of deranged clowns skulk in the shadows, gangsters run amok and serial killers taunt the police with trails of carnage. This is a place where light seems too scared to shine.
Adam West this isn’t. Here's everything we know about the hugely anticipated The Batman.
What is The Batman about?
Plot details are sparse, but the film will take place in Batman’s second year of vigilante justice as he seeks to eradicate corruption and strike fear into the criminal underworld. The film will likely take a cue from Spider-man: Homecoming and forego the frequently retold tale of Batman’s origins, plunging viewers directly into the story assuming that they already know all about his dead parents and anger issues. Expect it to reckon with Bruce Wayne’s billionaire status in an increasingly class-divided city.
The primary antagonist is one of the mainstays of Batman’s rogues gallery: The Riddler. He’s typically portrayed as a dapper genius in a neon-green suit, but The Batman is giving the villain a makeover that’s about as far removed from Jim Carrey’s high-camp Batman Forever mania as you can get.
Here, The Riddler seems to be reimagined as a Zodiac Killer-esque mass murderer stalking Gotham’s political ranks and leaving behind elaborate cyphers and riddles. Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood, Prisoners) will play the newly terrifying villain, who ditches the loud outfits in favour of military duds, among them a thick cold-weather facemask that looks positively horrifying, especially with the villain’s signature specs dangling from the eye holes.
What should we expect from Robert Pattinson’s Batman/Bruce Wayne?
Batman/Bruce Wayne comes in many flavours, from Adam West’s ’60s goofiness to Michael Keaton’s jittery eccentricity and Christian Bale’s glowering righteousness. Val Kilmer played it cool, Ben Affleck depicted him as a brutish egotist and George Clooney played him as George Clooney. But in Pattinson, we could finally get a balanced performance that examines the wounded duality between the billionaire playboy and the fearsome brawler.
Anyone still identifying Pattinson with Cedric Diggory or Edward Cullen should stop what they’re doing and immediately watch Good Time, High Life, The Lighthouse or The Lost City of Z. The Brit is a brilliant character actor masquerading as a dashing leading man. Given Batman’s shifts between his public persona, his grief and his explosive anger, Pattinson’s proven track record with emotionally complex men driven by extreme circumstances seems a perfect fit. Seeing how Pattinson puts his stamp on the Bat is every bit as intriguing as anything Dano’s character is up to.
‘I kind of like the fact that not only are there very, very, very well-done versions of the character which seem pretty definitive, but I was thinking that there are multiple definitive playings of the character,’ Pattinson told GQ last year. ‘You've seen this sort of lighter version, you've seen a kind of jaded version, a kind of more animalistic version. And the puzzle of it becomes quite satisfying, to think: Where's my opening? And also, do I have anything inside me which would work if I could do it? And then also, it's a legacy part, right? I like that.’
Based on early footage (more on that in a bit), Pattinson's Batman will be quite the bone-crusher, taking on squads of goons while clad in much more practical and tactical armour and headgear than previous versions (yes, Batman will finally be able to move his head). The signature symbol on his chest seems to be made from broken gun handles, leading some fans to speculate that he's repurposed the firearm that killed his parents.
This looks to be a more contemplative and melancholy take on the hero. Screenshots of Pattison in streaked eye makeup have had fans declaring this the emo Batman. Which is to say, perhaps they should have saved The Dark Knight's ‘why so serious’ line for this one instead.
Who is directing?
Initially, Batman V. Superman caped-crusader Ben Affleck was attached to write and direct the film, but the Argo and The Town filmmaker bailed on the project amid the wreckage of Justice League, citing Bat-fatigue
Now, The Batman will be helmed by Matt Reeves, who knows a thing or two about staging action-packed spectacles balanced with high stakes, intense emotions and the utmost seriousness. The director broke out with the found-footage hit Cloverfield before moving on to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes, both of which successfully reimagined the campy sci-fi series as white-knuckle action films featuring groundbreaking special effects and surprising heart.
He also helmed Let Me In, a mostly effective remake of Swedish vampire classic Let the Right One In. In a short filmography, Reeves has proven he's capable of handling mass destruction, complex outsiders and extended mythology. A solid fit for Batman, in other words.
What will the tone of The Batman be?
The Lego Batman Movie this is not, but in a lot of ways it seems like Will Arnett's character was parodying The Batman before Reeves’s film was even announced. Words like ‘raw’, ‘dark’, ‘uncompromising’ and ‘brutal’ have been bandied about.
Still, Reeves has promised that this is a detective film that will borrow elements from Affleck's original script, which was said to take inspiration from The Maltese Falcon and other classic gumshoe flicks.
‘I think there's a chance to do an almost noir-driven, detective version of Batman that is point of view driven in a very, very powerful way that is hopefully going to connect you to what's going inside of his head, and inside of his heart,’ Reeves said in an interview with New Trailer Buzz and carried by ScreenRant way back in 2017, when he first signed on.
There are also some serious David Fincher vibes involved, with the serial-killer plot suggesting the influence of Seven and the Riddler's modus operandi taking a cue from Zodiac. Throw in an old-school crime-film vibe courtesy of Gotham's mob scene and a visual aesthetic that balances darkness with pops of grindhouse-inspired primary colours and you've got quite a mishmash of tones on display.
Is the Riddler the only villain?
Unlike Marvel's go-to storytelling style, Gotham City is constantly teeming with killers, megalomaniacs, terrorists and burglars. As such, this isn't really a one-threat-at-a-time kind of place. In addition to Dano's bloodthirsty Riddler, The Batman is overflowing with villainy, most of which should be familiar to anyone with even a passing knowledge of the world Bob Kane created.
Zoë Kravitz (Mad Max: Fury Road) will don the pointy ears of Selina Kyle/Catwoman, the sultry burglar who alternates between friend, foe and lover, depending on the Bat story unfolding. Meanwhile, the famously handsome Colin Farrell will don mounds of prosthetics to depict Gotham kingpin the Penguin, though the actor says he only appears in a few scenes, presumably setting him up for a bigger role in the inevitable sequel. They'll be joined by John Turturro as crime boss Carmine Falcone, an omnipresent scumbag last played by Tom Wilkinson in Batman Begins.
Who else is in the movie?
The high-profile film has been a magnet for actors, and as with Nolan's iteration, the supporting cast is packed with acclaimed actors and a who's-who of ‘that guys’.
Jeffrey Wright (Westworld, the Bond movies) is on hand to play longtime Batman ally Commissioner Gordon, with Peter Sarsgaard stepping in as Gil Colson, who serves as Gotham's district attorney… a job that hasn't traditionally ended in happy retirement in these films.
The Batman will also include a newer, younger take on Batman's butler Alfred, most recently played by Jeremy Irons and Michael Caine. Andy Serkis – best known for his motion-capture work as Lord of the Rings' Gollum and in Reeves' Apes series – will show up in the flesh to assist Pattinson.
Will there be a new Batmobile?
‘Where does he get those wonderful toys?’ Jack Nicholson's Joker quipped in Tim Burton's 1989 game-changer. From the looks of The Batman, it's the same place Vin Diesel's Dom Toretto gets his rides. Gone is Bale's military-grade Tumbler and Affleck's bullet-spraying street tank. Pattinson will cruise around in a souped up vintage-inspired muscle car. And honestly, it's pretty a pretty solid, if unexpected, choice that tracks with the character.
No word yet on whether other iconic pieces of Bat-gadgetry like the Batwing, the Bat Boat or the famous Bat Shark Repellent will make an appearance.
Will this connect to the larger DC Extended Universe?
After Justice League failed to make an Avengers-level impact – and following the standalone success of Todd Phillips' edgelord take on Joker – The Batman seems to be doing its thing independent of the larger DC world. That means Pattinson's Batman will operate in a more grounded world separate from Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn.
For those who prefer their Batmen to be encircled by colourful chaos and super-humans, there are sillier things ahead for the character. It director Andy Muschietti is hard at work on The Flash, which will continue the adventures of Ezra Miller's Justice League hero. Given about 85 percent of new superhero films are now required to feature a multiverse element, the movie will see Flash interacting with some familiar faces from Gotham's past, as Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck are both confirmed to appear as their respective versions of the Dark Knight.
Is there a trailer?
Last August, Warner Bros. damn near broke the internet with a trailer that brought some seriously dark vibes, complete with the use of Nirvana's skulking ‘Something in the Way’. It gives a solid look at Riddler and glimpses of Penguin and Catwoman, plus Pattinson's suit in close-up.
More crucial to understanding the tone, however, is the footage's centrepiece confrontation: A single-take beatdown in which Pattinson snaps the arm of a goon in clown makeup, then proceeds to savagely pummel him into the ground as the rest of the baddies watch in shock. It almost feels like a thesis statement on the film, at once hyping up viewers and serving as a warning that things are about to get grim.
No new footage has surfaced in the year since the trailer dropped.
When does The Batman release?
After years in development, a long shoot in the UK and multiple Covid-related delays – including a diagnosis for Pattinson himself – The Batman is set to be released on March 4, 2022. That release, however, includes a Riddler-sized question mark as studios once again shuffle their release dates amid the ongoing pandemic. Fingers crossed.