It’s been nearly a decade since we had our last encounter with the Dark Knight in a solo live-action movie. After the completion of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, Warner Bros. cast actor/director Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne for the DC Extended Universe. But sadly, the franchise has been largely a series of unfortunate events marred with mixed reviews, polarized reactions, average box-office collections, and a whole pandora box of controversies. Unsurprisingly, Affleck stepped down from the role of director for a potential Batman movie, only to further aggravate the underlying problem by deciding to hang the cowl too. But fortunately, as the DCEU is now planning for a multiverse, both Affleck and Keaton are reported to be coming back in the future. But for now, all eyes are on the Twilight star Robert Pattinson, who will be playing the role of the Dark Knight in Matt Reeves’ upcoming The Batman.
Prior to the inception of the DC Extended Universe, Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios kickstarted the concept of an interconnected franchise with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Starting with Iron Man, the MCU has been a remarkable spectacle made of riveting characters, striking fight sequences, generous CGI effects, and a vivid color palette. Though the DCEU started off by rejecting MCU’s all-encompassing style of creating movies for all age groups, the polarized reaction paired with mixed reviews has forced the proto-franchise to adopt a brighter color palette and charming humor in movies like Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Shazam!, and Birds of Prey over the gloomy and dark Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad.
Despite the unprecedented success of the MCU, outliers like Fox’s Deadpool and Logan have proved that hard R-rated movies can also work wonders with a tight script on a shoestring budget. Zack Snyder, who started the DCEU with his Man of Steel also had a Superman who was forced to kill. Following his killing streak, Snyder’s Batman was also shown to be a ruthless murderer, which didn’t sit well with fans for obvious reasons. As the DCEU is still grappling with its own demons and trying to strike a chord that can resonate with the fans, Matt Reeves’ The Batman just might be the answer that we have been waiting for.
Matt Reeves, best known for his critically acclaimed The Planet of the Apes trilogy and Cloverfield, is the latest director to take on DC’s most popular superhero after a series of hits and misses. While it is yet to be seen if The Batman can deliver on its promises, actor Jeffery Wright, who plays the role of Detective James Gordon in the movie, believes the movie can revolutionize the comic book movie genre.
A grounded Batman story in a realistic Gotham setting
Creating a grounded Batman is not a novel concept. Christopher Nolan crafted an ultra-realistic Batman for his acclaimed The Dark Knight trilogy. However, Matt Reeves’ grounded approach is not just about a realistic superhero battling believable antagonists, but rather, a story that itself is grounded in a city that resembles the dark and violent alleys of Gotham City from the comics. In the movie, Bruce Wayne is in his late twenties/early thirties, having entered his second year of crimefighting while still battling his own past trauma. While Nolan tried to portray a realistic Batman in real-world settings, he has received justified criticism for not spending enough time in the streets of Gotham, which in all fairness, looked very much like Chicago. But for Matt Reeves, Gotham is as important as its protector, which has led to creating real sets in the city of Liverpool, where the movie is filmed.
In a recent interview with Cagle and co-host Julia Cunningham for The Jess Cagle Show, Jeffery Wright shed some light on The Batman, and why it matters to the future of cinema.
“We have an opportunity. Comic book films have sucked a lot of oxygen from the cinematic room. But with The Batman, we have an opportunity to use all of the trappings of that genre to explore some things in an American city through a lens of crime, corruption that are really grounded and relevant and interesting. So, the detective work there is an exploration of Gotham but it also becomes an exploration of a city very much like New York City.”
While Wright’s statement is surely enthusiastic, he might be hinting at the controversial Martin Scorsese and MCU feud, when the legendary director said that Marvel’s comic book movies are not real ‘cinema’, but rather, ‘theme parks’.
A stylistic yet realistic Batmobile
While fans and critics are speculating about Reeves’ grounded approach that can bridge the gap between comic book aesthetics and real-world settings, Jeffery Wright has found his inspiration in the most unlikely place: the Batmobile.
“I think one of the aspects of the script that I was really stoked about was the Batmobile,” says Wright. “The way it was described, it was described as this kind of retro hyper, Hemi 5 muscle car that was just the craziest, coolest thing that you’d ever seen.” That’s more than fun for Wright, this take on Batman’s wheels is about realism. “When I read that I said ‘A-ha, yes’ because what it was trying to achieve and what it does achieve, is to create an accessibility for our Gotham, a world that is tangible and grounded and very familiar reality but at the same time it’s still fantastical, it’s still tweaked, it’s still arched but it’s accessible,” Wright explained.
Back to the comic book basics
Unlike any previous iteration of the Dark Knight, Matt Reeves’ The Batman will be focusing on the version of the superhero that has long eluded the big screen. Instead of just relying on the Dark Knight’s brute strength and fancy gadgets, the movie is finally delving into the mind of the world’s greatest detective. As promised by Reeves, The Batman is set to be a neo-noir detective drama, where Pattinson’s Caped Crusader will be actually solving clues left by the Riddler, very much akin to the Zodiac Killer. And without the added burden of a connected universe, The Batman can just go wild to satiate the comic book fans.
Minimal CGI, Maximum Impact
In the first trailer that was released back in August, not a single frame is made using CGI. In a landscape that is entirely dominated by green screens, The Batman is set to maximize its impact with real sets and minimal CGI.
“I think if you look at the trailer, if I am not mistaken, there is not one CGI image in the entire thing. That’s all photograph”, Wright has revealed. While it is yet to be seen if The Batman is entirely going to skip fight sequences that require considerable CGI, Reeves’ decision to go for practical settings might just set the praxis for future comic book movies.
The Batman is set to release on March 4, 2022.