Last night, the first teaser trailer for Matt Reeves’ much-anticipated The Batman was released to the world as part of the DC FanDome live stream. What’s more, the director spoke about what we can expect from the film, and what inspired him to make it in the first place.
As of yet we don’t have a clear idea of how the plot will play out – they’re not even past the first stages of production, thanks to COVID – but we do have some cultural reference points. A gloomy mood board, of sorts. We’ll be updating this regularly, so give it a bookmark if you fancy.
Here are five things that inspired Matt Reeve’s take on the caped crusader.
Obviously. Clue’s in the name.
Matt Reeves is the sixth director to take on a standalone Batman film, but it’s something he’s being angling for since he first got into the business.
“I love Batman, and I’ve loved Batman since I was a kid. I never even imagined when I began making movies that I would do genre movies because I just loved certain types of movies that were character-based,” he told the DC FanDome. “It’s really interesting, as I got deeper into genre, I realised that was a way to do very emotional stories, but under the guise of these great, mythic tales.”
He went on to talk about what drew him to Batman, and what he wants to do with the iconic character.
“In particular what excited me, and what I related to in the Batman story, is that he isn’t a superhero in the traditional sense. He has a cape but he can’t fly. He’s like you and me. But if he has a superpower, it’s the ability to endure. And not just the ability, but the kind of compulsion. And so that idea of being so driven by your past, and by the things you can’t quite resolve in yourself,” Reeves said. “He’s a very alive character, and to me, to tell a version of Batman that wasn’t about how he became Batman, but about the early days of how he is Batman –and he is so far from being perfect – and watch us see him becoming what we all know about him, and see it in new ways. I felt like that was the way to do something that hadn’t been done, and that was really what I was excited to be able to do in this iteration.”
Mike W. Barr ‘Batman: Year Two’ (1987)
While many people initially assumed that this noir-ish take on Batman would be drawn from Frank Miller’s legendary ‘Year One’ graphic novel, that hasn’t turned out to be the case. Instead, the basic concept of the film will be drawn from Mike W. Barr’s ‘Year Two’, which was released to coincide with Miller’s tale back in the Eighties.
In the graphic novel, Batman has established a working relationship with the Gotham police department after some initial teething problems. When he comes up against The Reaper, however, he soon realises that his combat abilities aren’t up to scratch – and even dabbles with the idea of using a gun to dispatch the villain.
Matt Reeves’ film will not follow that storyline. It’s fundamentally a detective tale centred around corruption in the city, and the villains this time around include Penguin (Colin Farrell) and the Riddler (Paul Dano), both at the beginning of their criminal careers. Selina Kyle’s Catwoman will also feature. But the general theme – of a Batman who is building his reputation in Gotham while grappling with the pressure of his responsibilities alongside his own personal demons, is still there.
Giving an idea of the plot, Reeves said: “The idea is that we’re in Year Two, it’s the Gotham experiment; it’s a criminological experiment. He’s trying to figure out what he can do that can finally change this place. You see he’s not having any of the effect he wants to have, and that’s when the murders start to happen. The murders begin to describe the history of Gotham in a way that only reinforces what he knows about Gotham, and it opens up a whole new world of corruption that went much further.”
“I think the one thing about the Rogues Gallery is that [the movie] actually, in a weird way, is the origins of a lot of our Rogues Gallery. Selina isn’t Catwoman yet, that’s actually part of the journey. Os is not yet the kingpin he’s going to become; he’s the Penguin. In fact, he doesn’t like being called the Penguin. And the Riddler is just emerging for the first time, so that’s all incredibly exciting,” Reeves explained.
Darwyn Cooke, ‘Batman: Ego and Other Tales’ (2000)
The trailer shows Batman looking very moody indeed, and according to Matt Reeves, the depiction of his mental strife is at least somewhat inspired by Darwyn Cooke’s lesser known graphic novel ‘Batman: Ego and Other Tales’ from the turn of the millennium.
“I wanted to get into the mindset of the character, and I wanted to think of the psychology,” he explained. “For me, I think one of the cool deep dive ones was Ego. He’s confronting the beast that is Batman and it’s that kind of duality. There’s a lot in what it’s trying to do in the story about him confronting the shadow side of himself and the degree to which you have self knowledge.”
“You’re able to understand his motivations, but Batman [is broken] and why he’s doing all of these things for the reasons that he thinks is right and that have a heroic sort of grounding in them,” Reeves continued. “There’s also many things that are driven by the parts of himself he doesn’t yet know, and so I would say that that kind of sort of psychological union, that sort of version is very much connected to the vision from Darwyn Cooke’s Ego.”
“Chinatown was a key one,” Reeves said in the talk. “In Chinatown, Jake Gittes, in investigating that series of crimes that were part of that story, he discovers the depth of corruption in Los Angeles. It’s a classic noir, and the series of murders Batman is investigating are very much in that mode.”
Released in 1974 by disgraced director Roman Polanski, Chinatown is widely credited as the greatest neo-noir film ever released. It stars Jack Nicholson as the aforementioned private investigator, who takes on an infidelity case and soon finds himself tangled in a web of corruption that goes right to the top.
French Connection (1971)
Much like Todd Phillips with Joker, Matt Reeves had drawn a lot of inspiration from the New Hollywood movement of the Seventies – and what he calls “70s, street-grounded stories”.
In the live talk, he said: “That idea of gritty, flawed humanity was very much inspired by those kinds of movies, like The French Connection, and cop movies like that, and even a movie like Taxi Driver, in the description of a place and getting inside someone’s head.”
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Video: “Abyssal Spider (2020) trailer” (The Independent)