Having been taken on by the likes of Christian Bale and Michael Keaton, there are few superhero characters as iconic as Batman.
After disappointing reactions to the Batman vs Superman and Justice League films helmed by Zack Snyder, Warner Bros decided a change of direction was in order. Though Affleck penned a script and was due to direct and star in 2022's The Batman, he then walked away from the project entirely.
Now, after a long wait and a few coronavirus-enforced delays, firmer details are beginning to come to light about what we can expect from the next chapter of Gotham's resident hero.
Here's what we know so far.
Who's playing Batman?
In May 2020 it was confirmed that Robert Pattinson would take on the role of the caped crusader – a great move we think – and one that gives Pattinson the chance to make a more mainstream film after recent arthouse hits like Claire Denis' High Life.
Describing the reaction to his casting as "less vitriolic than I was expecting," Pattinson himself seemed genuinely deeply surprised to have won the role when Esquire asked him about it. "It's kind of insane," Pattinson told us. "I was so far away from ever thinking it was a realistic prospect. I literally do not understand how I’ve got it, at all."
So what will he do with Bruce Wayne? We got a little bit more insight from Pattinson in October 2019. "He's a complicated character," he told the New York Times. "I don’t think I could ever play a real hero — there's always got to be something a little bit wrong. I think it’s because one of my eyes is smaller than the other one."
Pattinson added that Batman is a "dope" character: "His morality is a little bit off. He's not the golden boy, unlike almost every other comic-book character. There is a simplicity to his worldview, but where it sits is strange, which allows you to have more scope with the character."
Former Batman Christian Bale gave the casting two Bat-thumbs-up. "Good choice! He's interesting," Bale told Variety in September. "I'm sure he'll come up with something real interesting."
Who’s directing and writing?
Matt Reeves, who made Cloverfield and both Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes is directing, and he’s written the script along with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay and Bad Boys for Life writer Peter Craig.
What will happen in The Batman?
So far we know that The Batman will follow Bruce Wayne in his second year of crimefighting, and his attempts to root out corruption at the heart of Gotham’s government while on the trail of a serial killer.
Is filming finished?
Not yet, though it’s sketched in to wrap at some point in February. We saw production happening at the end of last year: October Pattinson was seen filming in different locations around Liverpool. Fingers crossed the finale will involve a big punch-up at the top of Radio City Tower.
Patto's standing on the front steps of St George's Hall in the city centre there. That's the palatial building which you see once you've weaved round the statues of Bessie Braddock and Ken Dodd to exit Lime Street station. It looks like it's being used as a stand-in for one of Gotham's many grand municipal buildings, and this one's host to a memorial service for one of the city's great and good.
Elsewhere in the city, there were shots of Batman doing his watchful sentinel thing on the Liver Building down at Pier Head, which was lit up very dramatically.
Elsewhere in the city, gangs of protestors wave suspiciously well-made signs complaining about all those flipping lies they've had to deal with lately. Too many lies!
Between The Batman and Joker, Gotham's in a perpetual state of slightly grotty revolt these days. Compare that to the prim orderliness of The Dark Knight, when even the convicts locked up on that boat with the usual punters could be relied upon to do the right thing in an explode or be exploded situation. This new DC universe is a lot more shouty, though at least all the protestors have remembered their face coverings.
The big reveal of all these pap snaps, though, is a hitherto unknown cameo for local impresario Bill Kenwright.
Who else is in the cast?
Paul Dano will be the big bad as The Riddler in an apparently Zodiac Killer-inspired take on the character. Meanwhile Colin Farrell will be playing renowned mega-thief and occasional hand-to-hand combat expert The Penguin. Reeves pretty much confirmed as much on Twitter, with a reference to The Penguin's full name – Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot – and a gif from In Bruges.
Elsewhere Coen brothers muse John Turturro will be underworld kingpin Carmine Falcone. In the Nolan Batmans, Falcone was played by Tom Wilkinson, who brought a mafioso gravitas to the role of the drug-running, Gotham-dominating crime boss.
Zoë Kravitz of Big Little Lies and Mad Max: Fury Road, will be playing Catwoman – a role she also voiced in The Lego Batman Movie – and Jeffrey Wright will star as Commissioner Jim Gordon. You'll know him as Felix Leiter from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. That role reportedly nearly went to Mahershala Ali, but he decided in the end to make a Blade reboot instead.
According to Variety, Andy Serkis is in talks to join the project as Alfred Pennyworth, memorably played in Christopher Nolan's Batman series by Michael Caine And His Big Sad Sobs.
Screen Rant go one further, reporting that Serkis’s role as the Wayne Family butler is all but confirmed. At 55 years young, it looks like we’ll be seeing a decidedly more fresh-faced Alfred in comparison to Caine and Michael Gough’s venerable takes on the character. That is unless he undergoes a CGI-transformation. It is Andy Serkis, after all. He can’t get enough of it.
The move would see Serkis defect from Marvel to DC, having played arms dealer Ulysses Klaue in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Black Panther. He’s previously worked with director Matt Reeves in his celebrated Planet of the Apes reboots.
Is this the start of a new trilogy?
Moving back toward the celebrated Christopher Nolan Batman franchise, it has been confirmed that The Batman will indeed be a trilogy, with Pattinson reportedly signing a three picture deal. Reeves, who coyly confirmed the news of his casting with three Bat emojis and a gif of the actor, is thought to have only signed on for the first film. There’s a HBO Max spin-off series in development too.
How does The Batman fit in with all the other Batmen?
The new series will be a fresh start for the franchise with no connection to Zak Snyder's films. Affleck's now-scrapped script was rumoured to be a dark noir-style story that has elements of a detective film. However, the new direction is focusing on a younger Batman and the first of the trilogy likely an origin story in the same vein as Batman Begins.
That said, Reeves told The Hollywood Reporter that the tone might not be too dissimilar.
"It's very much a point of view-driven, noir Batman tale," he said. "It's told very squarely on his shoulders, and I hope it's going to be a story that will be thrilling but also emotional. It’s more Batman in his detective mode that we’ve seen in the films."
He explained, "The comics have a history of that. [Bruce Wayne] is supposed to be the world’s greatest detective, and that’s not necessarily been a part of what the movies have been."
Will The Batman cross over with Joker?
Pattinson's Bruce Wayne versus Joaquin Phoenix's Joker is very, very spicy-looking headline bout. Sadly, though, it's looking very, very unlikely. Quite apart from the practicalities of bringing the pair together temporally – Phoenix's Joker is in his late 30s in 1981 and we're assuming that The Batman will take place nowish, so Pattinson beating up an 80-year-old might not be the most edifying spectacle – Joker director Todd Phillips said the film's setting was deliberately chosen to head off potential sequels.
"The movie's not set up to [have] a sequel," Phillips told an LA press conference in early October. "We always pitched it as one movie, and that's it." He further grumped: "We made this movie, I pitched it to Warner Bros as one movie. It exists in its own world. That's it."
However, one fan theory – which Phillips hasn't fully refuted – is the Phoenix's Joker isn't the Joker, hence the lack of that definite article in the film's title. Instead, he could be the real deal's precursor, some kind of anarchic John the Baptist. "Maybe Joaquin’s character inspired the Joker," Phillips told the LA Times. "You don't really know. His last line in the movie is, 'You wouldn't get it.' There's a lot going on in there that’s interesting." That would, potentially, provide the tidy timelines needed for a Caped Crusader v Clown Prince of Crime showdown in The Batman. Although it does feel a bit of a narrative cop-out.
What does the Batmobile look like?
Obviously Batman's ride is a pretty important party of the whole renewal of the character, and we got a sneak peek of what Pattinson's Bruce Wayne will be cruising around Gotham in via director Matt Reeves' Twitter feed in early March. Feast your eyes.
One of the Batmobile’s biggest fans: Elijah Wood.
shit yes! cannot wait for what you’re crafting, Matt.
— Elijah Wood (@elijahwood) March 4, 2020
When is The Batman out?
Warner Bros initially said that The Batman would be released on 25 June 2021, but it’s since been kicked back to 4 March 2022.
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