New Delhi: Superheroes usually represent hope and goodness but not Batman’s latest celluloid avatar. This one is “emblematic of vengeance” and struggling to become a better person, says “The Batman” director Matt Reeves.
Reeves’ upcoming film on the undercover alias of Gotham city royalty Bruce Wayne will see a brand new take on DC’s troubled hero, crystallised in the minds of those who grew up on Batman comics, TV shows and the many films based on him. What you get here is lead star Robert Pattinson as the “world’s greatest detective”.
”In this iteration, I made a conscious choice that he was going to be emblematic of vengeance. I wanted him to be a Batman in his first couple of years who is still lost in the mystery of being Batman. This was all playing out almost in the shadow side of him so he hadn’t yet reached this place where he could represent hope,” the director told PTI in a Zoom interview from Los Angeles.
Set in Batman’s second year of fighting crime, the film sees the man wth superpowers uncover corruption in Gotham while pursuing the Riddler (Paul Dano), a serial killer who targets the city’s elite.
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This Batman doesn’t only frighten the criminal element of Gotham but also the inhabitants of the city, Reeves said. ”They wonder who this vigilante is who is taking the law into his own hands which when you think about it is a scary idea. The movie takes you along a journey where you begin to question whether that’s enough and he has an awakening where he is forced to change,” Reeves, known for ”Let Me In” and the ”Planet of the Apes” franchise, added.
The director said he was inspired by ”Batman: Year One” comic book, written by Frank Miller and illustrated by David Mazzucchelli, which yielded a ”groundedness” to the film like a Martin Scorsese movie.
Reeves recalled that in the notes of the comic’s commemorative edition, Miller wrote to Mazzucchelli saying that in one scene Bruce looks like he’s just won a Travis Bickle — Robert De Niro’s character from Scorsese’s classic ”Taxi Driver” — look-alike contest.
For “The Batman”, the director said he watched 70s films such as Alan J Pakula’s ”Klute” and ”All The President’s Men”, Roman Polanski’s ”Chinatown”, William Friedkin’s ”The French Connection” by William Friedkin with cinematographer Greig Fraser.
”Gritty 70s police thrillers, sort of neo-noirs, all texturally informed the movie and weirdly though felt in sync with the comics. We shot the film with an anamorphic (lens) to sort of give it a timeless feel.” Created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, Batman will turn 83 in March but Reeves’ fascination with the character goes back to when he was ”probably three”.
The 55-year-old said he was introduced to Batman, not through the comics but through the TV show starring Adam West as the superhero.
”I was born in 1966 and that was the year the TV series debuted and I was obsessed with Batman.” The connection between the two was so deep that Reeves once told his parents he “saw” the superhero on his room’s ceiling when he had running high fever.
”I remember saying to my father ‘Batman’s on the ceiling’ and he was like ‘Are you scared?’ I said, ‘No, it’s Batman!’ I have a deep connection from very early years. I love the movies, and of course, I have become a big fan of the comics when I did a deep dive before writing (the film). I can’t even tell you how many comics I’ve read.” Describing Batman as a ”unique character” who has a great mythic quality that endures and has been translated into many different versions, the director said he is excited the team got a chance to do this Warner Bros film.
Reeves and Pattinson are the latest in a long line of cinematic Batman collaborations. Over the years, filmmakers Tim Burton, Joel Shumacher, Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan have presented their perspective on the superhero And actors such as Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Ben Affleck and Christian Bale have played the masked vigilante.
But this one promises to be different.
What sets this rendition apart is that it is not an origin story of the superhero, Reeves said. According to him, ”The Batman” gives the viewer an entry point into the corrupt city of Gotham that has been run down by not one but many antagonists — The Riddler (Dano), The Penguin (Colin Farrell), Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) and Selina Kyle/ Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz).
”I wanted to see Batman (as someone) who is struggling to become a better Batman. And I wanted him to do that while solving crime that will sort of unleash the truth about this corrupt city of Gotham. For me the idea of going down all of these sort of back alleys would be almost like a Warner Bros gangster movie. While it wasn’t his origin, you’ll be seeing the origin of all of the Rogues Gallery characters…” Besides this film, a spin-off series on Farrell’s Penguin is also in the works with HBO Max on which Reeves is a producer.
Asked if they are heading towards a ‘Batverse’, he said, ”That is the hope.” ”My goal was to make a movie that was an experience that stood on its own. You don’t set out to make chapter one because you never know if you’re gonna get to make chapter two… ”The bringing to life of all these characters has led to the idea of doing this Penguin story… It is super exciting to do that in long form, to explore his character in almost like a ‘Scarface’ way. I hope this is the beginning of a Batverse but I won’t know until the audience comes to see it.” It took Reeves five years to make ”The Batman”, the longest he’s ever worked on any film, and the pressure to deliver is very real.
”You can’t not feel the pressure! It’s so personal. But all you can do is wait. It’s exciting but it’s scary.” The film will release in Indian theatres on March 4.