- Robert Pattinson isn’t all that’s new about “The Batman.” Here’s what’s changed or stays the same.
- Bruce Wayne has a whole other persona, this one called the Drifter, who lurks in dark corners.
- Paul Dano’s Riddler is a masked serial killer who’s creepy rather than giggly.
- Colin Farrell’s Penquin is a mob lieutenant, while Zoë Kravitz plays a Catwoman in the making.
With “The Batman,” director Matt Reeves wanted to make a noir detective movie along the lines of “Seven” or “Chinatown” with the iconic Dark Knight. Just as important, however, was meeting audience expectations for a Bat-flick.
Is there a Batmobile chase? You bet.
Can Batman fight? Come on now.
Massive explosions and blockbuster spectacle? Naturally.
“That’s a baseline. You have to have that,” Reeves says. “What was exciting for me was finding the intersection between fulfilling those things, but then giving people a version of that story they haven’t ever seen before.”
Debuting Robert Pattinson as the newest Caped Crusader, “The Batman” finds the hero in his second year of fighting crime in Gotham City, hunting a serial killer known as the Riddler (Paul Dano) and uncovering dark secrets about his hometown. Reeves weaves in different genres – even giving it a horror-movie quality when Batman comes out of the shadows for a brawl – yet also respected the character’s “very enduring myth” that’s lasted 80-plus years.
“We’re in a world where there are so many superhero movies, but what’s so unique is that he isn’t a superhero,” Reeves says. “He has superhero commitment, superhero endurance but that’s really from a personal place because the guy is really just trying to make sense of his life.”
Reeves and his cast members break down how “The Batman” breaks new ground with familiar aspects of Gotham City:
Definitively ranked:All of the big-screen Batmen (including Robert Pattinson)
You know the Batman, now meet Bruce Wayne’s other persona, the Drifter
Bruce Wayne and his vigilante alter ego have been icons for decades, but the film adds a third side to the character: The Drifter is an in-between persona Bruce takes on to skulk in dark corners and watch the streets before putting on the Batsuit. “You can’t go out looking for crime dressed like (Batman),” Reeves says. And you also can’t go out looking like Bruce Wayne because people go, ‘That’s Bruce Wayne!’”
The Drifter is “probably how Bruce would want to be. He’s just invisible,” Pattison adds. But he still looks cool on his motorcycle wearing a trucker hat, army surplus jacket and, yes, Bat-boots. Plus, “if you reached into his backpack, you’d see a cowl,” Reeves says.
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Old villains like Penguin and Riddler get a modern makeover
Reeves wanted to create a Gotham that felt “totally grounded and real,” and he used that mindset in reinventing members of Batman’s colorful rogues’ gallery. “It’s the idea of seeing all of them having an arc toward the mythic thing we know about them.” Unrecognizable under a lot of prosthetics, Colin Farrell plays a gangster version of the Penguin in the Robert De Niro or Bob Hoskins mold, a mob lieutenant “who’s not the kingpin yet, like Tony Soprano before he’s Tony Soprano.” And rather than the giggling, puzzling foe seen before, the new Riddler is built from “two sides of trauma,” Dano says: “Batman is born of trauma” but so is this masked mystery man.
Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman look is an evolution
Much of Batman’s wardrobe and gadgets are pieced together, and the same goes with the DIY look of Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), a cat burglar who becomes his ally (and love interest). Her leather motorcycle outfit offers “a hint” of the inevitable Catwoman costume and she wears a cut-up ski mask with subtle cat ears that doesn’t go above the nose like “the mask that people already know,” Kravitz says. “It’s not something that’s thought out. She hasn’t gotten there yet.” But Kravitz does have second thoughts about growing out her nails so long that they looked like claws: For the sequel, “if I could find a way where I could take them off at night, that would be really cool,” she says with a laugh.
Jim Gordon is a good cop and a great partner
In previous films, Gordon has always been a staunch ally but either running the Gotham City Police Department as commissioner or working on a separate track from the Caped Crusader. In “The Batman,” Jeffrey Wright’s character is the most honest police officer in a crooked department who often works side by side with Batman to catch the Riddler. A longtime Bat-fan, Wright went back to the characters’ first appearances in 1927’s “Detective Comics” No. 27 to research the origins of their relationship. In the movie, Gordon is “isolated in such a way that leads him to reach out to this strange figure who appears in the dark of the night,” says Wright, the first Black actor to play the character. “They find themselves on the same side – I don’t think they know why they align, but they do and so they tread very cautiously together.”
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‘The Batman’ embraces a message of hope
Fear and vengeance are themes inherent to the Dark Knight character, yet having a sense of optimism for Gotham’s future was always at the heart of “The Batman.” When we meet Bruce, “he’s spent so many years thinking he has no worth other than being an instrument of rage,” Pattinson says. “Even when he’s starting to save people or stopping crimes happening, he doesn’t think like, ‘Oh, one point for Batman.’” The hero endures a crucible that makes him realize he needs “to become a symbol instead of just being this image of terror coming out of the shadows,” Reeves says. But that hope “comes with weight (and) a burden and he’ll still have to keep fighting.”
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