As the rest of the world lies in waiting for Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” I’ve shifted my attention towards another blockbuster coming down the post-COVID pipeline in the next 12-15 months — a familiar figure of comic book lore Nolan himself has successfully and notably tackled before.
At DC Comic’s virtual FanDome Convention over this past weekend, director Matt Reeves of “Planet of the Apes” fame gave viewers an early teaser trailer for his Robert Pattinson-led 2021 Batman adaptation titled “The Batman,” the first of a planned trilogy that will reintroduce a new version of the character into the DC extended universe. The film features the former “Twilight” heartthrob taking over the role that Ben Affleck vacated in 2019, as well as boasts a truly stacked cast of supporting players including Jeffery Wright as Commissioner Gordon (“Westworld”), Paul Dano (“There Will Be Blood”) as Edward Nashton/The Riddler, Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle/Catwoman (“High Fidelity”) and Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth (“Lord of The Rings” trilogy, any mo-cap role).
While Reeves noted that only roughly 25 percent of the film was shot before production shutdowns began back in March, the footage fans of the cape and cowl received exceeded expectations in just over 120 seconds. We’ve been promised a gritty, noir-driven detective Batman story unlike anything put to screen previously according to reports, and several points during the teaser gave me the hope that this adaption may finally deliver upon that assurance.
I know, I know — trailers are just that, fleeting glimpses of half-finished films that are dissected to pieces long before we have any clue what the final product might look like. And while DC has been known to drop the ball with phenomenal trailers and lackluster movies in the past (here’s looking at you, David Ayer and “Suicide Squad”), Reeves’ take on the World’s Greatest Detective and a laundry list of rogues gallery figures might be just enough to hold us over until we see some big-budget films back in theatres soon. Until that moment arrives, here’s five gut reactions from “The Batman” trailer, where the story could be headed, and what it all means (note: please watch the trailer to keep reading, I guarantee it’s two minutes you won’t regret).
1. David Fincher, Meet Bruce Wayne
Ripped duct tape, a man lying — dead or alive — on a hardwood floor and the same fellow, suffocated, with the words “No More Lies” written across his mouth? It’s clear this version of the Riddler, and the mystery he’s weaving for Batman and the Gotham City Police Department is more akin to a disturbing psychological thriller than CGI-heavy superhero movie. The ominous clues we see written in his greeting card, man who drives a car into a packed banquet hall and baffling questions he leaves for Commissioner Gordon (played by Wright) immediately reminds me of the 1995 David Fincher movie “Se7en”, where Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman play detectives trying to make sense of brutal crimes of a monstrous serial killer. In that film — which if you haven’t seen before, please do — the killer behind the crimes leaves more and more unspeakable acts in his wake as he terrorizes the city, slowly toeing the line between a real-life crime story and some of the most hideous imagery I’ve ever seen put to a non-horror film. I have no clue if Reeves plans to walk that dark of a line in this (hopefully R-rated) film, all I’m saying is that if Gordon receives any random boxes — cover your eyes as quickly as possible.
2. Are we getting an even darker, more disengaged grunge-loving Batman?
With the harrowing strum of Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” opening at 20 seconds, Pattinson’s blackened eye makeup — 57 seconds, 2 minutes and 14 seconds — and multiple shots of him just staring depressingly at something beyond the camera, it seems as though this younger version of the Dark Knight is going through a rough patch. Reeves mentioned during the panel that his version of the story takes place only a year after Bruce Wayne first wears the cape and cowl, and while he may still be dealing with trauma stemming from the murder of his parents Thomas and Martha Wayne years earlier — please, don’t show us again, I beg you — the Bat’s eyes and scowl definitely doesn’t look like he’s adopted his no-killing, only justice mantra quite yet. Could we be getting treated to a version who might snap a few necks in his quest to clean up the streets? Or is there an even darker reveal “underneath the bridge” that will make us question everything we think we know about the character and how he views the world?
3. Colin who? Wait, you mean that guy is playing the Penguin?
In a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” moment arriving one minute and 17 seconds into the teaser, we’re treated to a nearly unrecognizable Colin Farrell (“In Bruges”) playing rising crime lord Oswald Cobblepot, also known as The Penguin. Balding, scarred and surely overweight, I was forced to check multiple blogs and Reddit pages to make sure that the heavy figure we saw underneath heavy downpour was actually Farrell and not another actor - which only makes me more excited to see how the character’s final transformation looks once the film is released. Batman villains who wear makeup and change themselves to fit the villain have been pretty awesome-looking and successful in the past — not one, but two Oscar wins for the Joker — and if those three seconds of Farrell’s face doesn’t get you excited to see someone other than Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito) playing the devious old bird again, I’m not sure what exactly will. Even though the actor has noted that he’s a secondary character in this film as opposed to other ones Reeves has planned, it’s just another example of incredible casting work completed. Not to mention, Jonah Hill was originally slated to play Cobblepot — and I can’t wrap my head around whether or not I would laugh if the “Superbad” star popped up in a comic-book movie.
4. Will the entirety of this movie take place in the middle of the night?
While the man himself only emerges from his cave during the night, it seems as though nearly every shot in the film we receive in the teaser is pitch black, very cloudy or just plain dark — just like the Gotham City we all know and certainly don’t love from previous adaptations put to screen. Images of what seems to be a grim press conference around 57 seconds, Wayne Manor just a few moments later and the same banquet gathering around the 90 second mark are difficult to determine what exactly is happening and whether or not we should expect any brighter moments in the movie. I’m not complaining if that’s the genuine mood we’re trying to set up here, but it would’ve been nice to see even a glimmer of light somewhere across the city landscape to get a better sense of the layout. Especially in the case of what appears to be Catwoman committing some light burglary around one minute, 15 seconds into the teaser, I have no good vision of what the character may look like and if she serves as initial friend or immediate foe in this feature. This is Batman though, so I probably shouldn’t get my hopes up.
5. The fight choreography we saw looks – Larry David voice – “pretty, pretty good”
Just before the end of the teaser, a makeup-heavy henchman ominously asks Batman “who the hell are you supposed to be?” before the vigilante promptly pummels several members of his skeleton gang with a flurry of fighting moves that would make any action fan need to lie down for a few minutes. This was my biggest problem with the Batfleck — his juggernaut-like suit, gadgets and other “abilities” were just far too overpowered (and almost killed Superman) in both “Dawn of Justice” and “Justice League” to make it a realistic vision and made me lose interest in the battle at large once I saw him going toe-to-toe with a literal superhuman. This version looks so much better though — a return to the swift-kicking, martial-arts driven style that fans of “John Wick” and Nolan’s “Dark Knight” films may find refreshing and hopefully drive them in droves to see how much ass-kicking Pattinson will serve up to bad guys in the film. Capped off with Batman’s glowering response of “I’m vengeance” before the scene ends, and I needed to take few deep breaths before I could gather myself to write this paragraph.
Good or bad, this teaser had me so incredibly pumped up for Reeves’ Batman vision I nearly forgot I haven’t been to the theatre in months in the middle of this global pandemic. Expectations may be high following the success of Nolan’s trilogy, but it seems as though he, Pattinson, and the rest of the crew look up to the challenge as they begin shooting again come September – and I, along with many others, anxiously await the Caped Crusader’s next journey.