“The night is always darkest before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming.” Now more than ever, do I hear the words of Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent in my ears. If the long night, in this case, is 2020, then 2021 will indeed be our long-awaited dawn! Not long ago, Warner Bros released their first trailer for Matt Reeves’ The Batman and is nothing short of stunning. A grim, crime thriller, more in the vein of David Fincher’s Se7en than your typical superhero action flick. The moment I first saw Robert Pattinson in the Batsuit, it felt so right. From then on, the trailer gave us a visual and tonal feast for the eyes. Creepy visuals, brutal action sequences all set to a haunting rendition of Nirvana’s “Something in the Way”. The hype is palpable and I am stoked to see what director Matt Reeves will do with the character come October next year.
In the meantime, let’s do an in-depth breakdown of some of the more interesting elements of the trailer. Details that have piqued our curiosity. Believe me, there’s a ton of stuff to pick up on.
1. The Riddler
Throughout the trailer, it’s strongly implied that Edward Nashton, otherwise known as the Riddler, will be the main villain of the film. The trailer opens with a bone-chilling scene of a man in green wrapping a man’s face in tape before Jeffrey Wright’s James Gordon reads a riddle directed to Batman. Green clothes? Riddles? It’s all pretty clear. What’s fascinating, though, is the way in which the Riddler is portrayed. When it comes to films, most people picture the Riddler as Jim Carrey wearing a ridiculous costume riddled with question marks. A zany and entertaining character for sure but not exactly menacing. It seems like Matt Reeves’ The Batman is here to set the record straight. The film’s version of the Riddler will be the character’s most terrifying cinematic incarnation.
In the comics, the Riddler has always been written as a dangerous egomaniac who’ll stop at nothing to prove his intellectual superiority over the Bat. Often at the expense of Gotham’s civilians. In many ways, the film’s treatment of the Riddler as a serial-killer-like villain is perfect. Especially when considering Reeves’ vision of The Batman as a grounded, noir detective story. The Riddler is played by Paul Dano and rest assured, the man is the perfect actor for the job. The man has a pension for playing cruel, sadistic and unhinged characters. He’s starred in films like Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, Spike Lee’s 12 Years a Slave and Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. He’s worked with some of the most prolific directors in the industry. Now it’s time for Dano to make a name for himself in the mainstream.
2. The Timeline
True to his word, Reeves’ film isn’t retelling Bruce Wayne’s origin story as the Batman. Rather, it’s set in Bruce Wayne’s second year as the Dark Knight. In the trailer, we see Gordon consult with the Bat at a crime scene. As he’s being escorted, we also see Gotham’s local police and members of the FBI staring him down. So while it’s clear that Batman has a functional relationship with Gotham’s law enforcement, they aren’t exactly on friendly terms with him. Admittedly, I’d be sceptical too if a man dressed in a bat costume was brought on to investigate a murder. Perhaps it has something to do with the Bat shining a light on the Gotham City Police Department’s (GCPD) internal corruption. A subject that Reeves plans on tackling in a future spin-off series. The series will apparently touch on the Bat’s first year on the job, which could explain the GCPD’s animosity towards him.
Whatever their initial relationship was with the masked vigilante, it’s bound to get heated in the film. At some point, we see Batman get into a scuffle with a cop before having to be held back by the others in the room. Not a great sign of cooperation. Things get even worse when we see him repel up a stairway as cops chase and shoot at him in the background. Reeves has found the happy medium between the Bat’s humble beginnings as a masked crimefighter and his years as a Gotham’s veteran guardian. Rarely do we see the Bat’s formative years so this is a great change of pace.
3. Colin Farrell’s Penguin
One of the more shocking appearances in the trailer was actor Colin Farrell playing the infamous crime lord Oswald Cobblepot, or the Penguin. Traditionally, the Penguin has always been depicted as someone on the heavier side. Sometimes sporting a top hat and an umbrella. Before this, I had a few concerns with regards to how Farrell’s sharper and chiselled features would fit into the character’s mould. Fearing his good looks may clash with the Penguin’s more grotesque features. So when I finally realized that Farrell was in the trailer and I simply didn’t recognize him, I was altogether stunned and relieved. It has been confirmed that the grizzled, chubby gentleman in the rain was indeed Farrell as Cobbleport!
While we can’t exactly comment on Farrell’s actual performance in the film, we can definitely say that Reeves and company have nailed the Penguin’s look. A restraint, and yet faithful, representation of the avian-themed crime boss. We do hear a bit of dialogue in the film in which the Penguin comments on the Bat saying “This guy’s crazy!”. This seems to imply that the gangster does not have much of a history with the Dark Knight, seeing that he’s reacting in such a manner. We’ll probably see their relationship, or feud, further developed in the film.
4. A Brutal Batman
If any of you thought Pattinson’s Batman was going to be a sparkly softie who pulls punches, think again! This version of the Batman is about as brutal and intense as you can get. When a gang member sporting white face paint and a machete tries to come at him, the rest of them learn a frightening lesson. The Bat quickly disarms the assailant before punching the guy senseless…with only one arm. Even after the thug hits the floor, he continues to beat the everloving shit out of him. After the epic beatdown, he answers a question addressed to him earlier regarding his identity. In a low growl, he declares to them “I am vengeance”. Batman has always been known to strike fear into the hearts of criminals but there’s something little different about Pattinson’s.
This Batman seems more reactionary and violent in comparison to the ones played by Val Kilmer and Christian Bale. Though, he’s certainly not as murderous or blunt as Ben Affleck’s version of the character in Batman v. Superman. There’s an unbridled rage in Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne. A mixture of grief, impatience, hatred and angst in the way he carries the mantle. As if he’s still trying to prove himself to Gotham’s citizens and criminals. There’s a risk the film could lean inti angsty melodrama with Wayne’s characterization. Based on what we’ve seen so far though, it all looks pretty solid and grounded.
5. The Batsuit and Batmobile
Throughout the Dark Knight’s cinematic appearances, we’ve seen all sorts of variations on the classic suit. Each one drawing inspiration from different places and bringing something new to the table. Christopher Nolan’s Batsuit was initially modelled after biker armour with modern flourishes such as metal platings. Ben Affleck’s costume was a homage to the suit featured in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. So what artistic cues does The Batman‘s suit take after? Well based on the trailer, the suit’s aesthetics is reminiscent of the one found in Rocksteady’s videogame, Batman: Arkham Knight. We also get to see the suit in action when a bullet ricochets off its bat symbol. One thing’s for certain, this Bat is bulletproof!
We also get a look at the Batmobile in a few scenes in the trailer. There’s nothing particularly flashy or distinctive about the vehicle safe for its signature single, flaming exhaust, found in nearly every design of the Batmobile. Don’t get me wrong, I love its muscle car design. Its minimalist features reflects Bruce Wayne’s journey of growth and maturity into the Batman. And while it isn’t exactly Batman Begins‘ Tumbler, this new Batmobile is still more than a match for the criminals of Gotham. I can’t wait to see the Bat cruising through the street all Domicnic Toretto style. He’s fast and he’s very furious!