The ‘dark’ knight returns in Matt Reeves’ The Batman

In the past year fans were both delighted and concerned that the caped-crusader would be getting the Spider-man treatment; 3 live action incarnations within nearly a decade. Whilst I doubt that the character will ever be redefined, we can all assume that Reeves plans to make Robert Pattinson’s role as uncontroversial amongst fans as possible whilst giving us an exciting new take on one of my all-time favourite superheroes. So, let’s take a look at the origins and depictions of Batman’s past; as well as breaking down the latest trailer and to see if the Dark Knight will be reinvigorated or fall to the realm of Clooney’s nipple armoured joke. 

The first thing to take note of is that Batman has differed greatly from his origins for a long time. Once a gunslinger, the comics quickly evolved Bruce Wayne into a hero of great moral principle in which no one was to be killed. Most recently, Wayne’s road self-restraint has not always consisted of clear-cut lines in the sand, with Nolan’s batman once very much ready to kill his parent’s murderer, as well as Batfleck employing what certainly did not always look like a non-lethal approach to justice. From the trailer, I think we can see that Reeves’ is going to take a middle ground on the violence employed. “I’m vengeance”, the line that certainly sold the trailer for me, is preceded by Batman disarming his opponent and then beating them down beyond complacency, this is a crusader who is teaching crime a lesson. Pattinson won’t be the 90’s cartoon where opponents were incapacitated, whilst not going as far as Batfleck’s literal branding of criminals. 

The more brutal approach to the Batman seems to lean towards a younger hero. Whilst DC media can often throw us into the thick of the Batman’s career, or in the case of Nolan giving us a Batman who is mature from the start, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pattinson’s Batman was in his mid-20’s, and I think that is the point. Bruce Wayne never truly gets over the murder of his parents, and it is the driving force of most iterations of his character. But outside of Nolan’s first outing, we haven’t really seen a young adult Batman still trying to deal with the trauma of their parent’s death. For Reeves’, that trauma looks like it will be vented on the criminal underworld of Gotham, as well as through the conflicts that appear to be emerging with the police and anonymous messages questioning the Dark Knights authority as the ‘justice’ Gotham needs. 

Speaking of venting against the criminals of Gotham, many fans will tell you that Batman is only as good as his roster of iconic villains. For long-time fans, many will have noticed the tell-tale signs of a villain who has not been seen in live action since Jim Carrey’s green and purple spandex spout in Batman Forever. The iconic puzzles and letters to Batman point to the Riddler. An intellectual maniac obsessed with proving their superiority over Batman would seem a strange choice for a first outing; however, Reeves seems to be taking a different route. From the brief dialogue we have so far, it seems like he will be a preacher against Batman’s legitimacy. A villain driving the tension between Batman and the people was done most notably by the Joker in the Dark Knight, but it will certainly be nice to see a fresh take on the premise, especially with such a staple villain in Batman’s history. 

All of this of course is just speculation, but I think there is a good basis for expecting Reeves’ Batman to be a culmination of the past decade of outings. The trailer for The Batman suggests that whilst the source material will always be fundamental to the character, the era of the family friendly Batman is firmly over. Even truly comical villains such as the Riddler will be playing a much deeper role in fundamentally questioning Batman, on top of the continuing grittier – and perhaps more real – interpretation of how a young Batman would behave. Needless to say I am excited, and if another certain colourfully-dressed villain comes in the sequels to steal the show, I’ll not be disappointed. 

[Mitchell Welsh – he/him]

[Photo: still from The Batman trailer]

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