Over the years, the DC Extended Universe has had a rather interesting history. DC Films and Warner Bros. have produced a series of underwhelming releases such as Justice League (2017), Aquaman (2018), and Suicide Squad (2016). However, after the overwhelming success of Joker (2019) on both critical and commercial fronts, DC looks like it’s heading in a better direction, employing A–List Hollywood directors to elevate the quality of their films. At their virtual DC FanDome event, DC revealed a series of upcoming films that got fans excited. The most notable of these films? The highly anticipated The Batman (2022), directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson.
I know what you might be thinking: another Batman reboot, with another new actor? This is perfectly understandable at first glance, especially since Ben Affleck’s Batman garnered extremely mixed reviews. However, something about this new approach to the Batman story seems promising. The Batman is going to take an unconventional approach to the Dark Knight, one that fans haven’t seen before on the silver screen. The film will presumably focus on a younger Batman—one that is likely still trying to find his footing in the world of vigilante crime–fighting. The Batman is also supposed to be dark, resembling a gritty and violent tale that resembles the violence within Batman comics. These factors, combined with the unique villains being pitted against Pattinson’s Batman, distinguish the upcoming interpretation as a refreshing take on Gotham’s Caped Crusader.
While many entries in the Batman franchises have flirted with darkness, few have really delved into the trauma that haunts Bruce Wayne below Batman’s cowl. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy captured a realistic Batman, with Christian Bale's performance delivering an honest portrayal of Bruce Wayne that tapped into his backstory. However, for a character whose entire existence is forged on revenge, Bale’s Bruce Wayne doesn’t have the same brutality that the comic books reflect.
In contrast, Pattinson has said that Reeves drew inspiration from classic comic book story arcs for this film—specifically the comic series The Long Halloween, a murder mystery in Batman’s early days as a crime fighter that highlights his dark origins. The trailer for The Batman certainly alludes to a brutal Batman, featuring a full–on criminal–beatdown that instantly made me think, “Now this is Batman.” Highly successful productions like Joker and The Boys have shown that dark superhero stories can still become huge successes, and applying that principle to a popular hero like Batman will surely take in massive numbers at the box office.
The inspiration from The Long Halloween correlates with the potential for a diverse set of characters, something that was confirmed in The Batman’s viral trailer. Fans are tired of seeing Batman versus Joker. Even though the last time the two met on the big screen was in The Dark Knight, other creative mediums like comics and video games frequently pit the pair against each other. The trailer indicates that the Riddler will serve as the main antagonist, but the trailer also teased appearances from other iconic villains such as Catwoman and the Penguin, with more rumored to appear—all of whom are supposed to be early into their criminal careers in Gotham City.
This will be a fresh storyline for Batman, where most films see the Caped Crusader taking on one primary villain. The Riddler is depicted as an intelligent and calculated villain that contests Batman’s intelligence, and the trailer even indicates that the Riddler knows secrets about Batman that are beyond the scope of his own.
What has probably drawn the most skepticism for this upcoming film is the casting of Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne. Many have argued that the actor doesn’t have enough experience to fulfill such a popular role, but Tom Holland had the same criticisms within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and he portrays a great Spider–Man. The skeptics who question Pattinson’s acting ability have probably not seen any Pattinson films other than the Twilight franchise, as the actor has demonstrated excellent performances in films like The Lighthouse (2019), Good Time (2017), and most recently Christopher Nolan’s new feature film, Tenet (2020). There will be a heavy pressure on Pattinson to fill the shoes of such an iconic character within pop–culture, but his past performances have proven that he’s ready to take a chance at the Dark Knight.
To top this all, The Batman is confirmed to have no connection to previous films within the DCEU, a decision that is probably for the best given the DCEU’s underperforming and shaky history. This film has already experienced enough problems in production due to the COVID–19 pandemic, including Pattinson himself contracting the virus, so tying it to a dark past already piles on concerns for the film. The Batman is currently slated for a 2022 release in light of these major setbacks, but I’m confident that this film will be well worth the wait, and is likely to wow audiences with a classic hero's tale told from a new and darker lens.