If there’s one sure thing when it comes to comic book movies, it’s Batman. He’s the one character that DC seems to know what to do with when adapting him for the big screen. So much so that it’s now happened nine times since 1989, and we’re about to yet another iteration when Robert Pattinson dons the cape and cowl in The Batman.
There’s a lot to like about what we’ve seen and heard regarding what’s coming when The Batman arrives next year, but I have to admit that I’m somewhat concerned by what’s been revealed. This is because I feel like the two things, what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard, aren’t matching up quite right, and that could be bad news for the movie we’re about to get.
The Batman Trailers Look Like A Christopher Nolan Movie
There’s a lot that looks familiar in The Batman trailers to anybody who has seen most of the Batman movies that have been made in the last 30 years. It looks dark and grim, and Gotham City looks like a place nobody would ever want to live, full of rampant street crime. Luckily, it has Batman to beat up all the thugs making life tough for the bad guys and a little safer for everybody else.
It certainly isn’t bright and colorful like a Joel Schumacher Batman movie, but it could be a Tim Burton Batman movie, and it absolutely contains moments that look like they could be from a Christopher Nolan Batman movie. One scene in the new trailer, where Batman is screaming at Paul Dano’s Riddler during an interrogation, out of context, looks like it was lifted directly from a similar scene between Christian Bale’s Batman and Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight.
Now to be fair, one would expect there to be similarities between the new Batman and the previous versions. This is a Batman movie, after all. There are only so many different ways to mix and match the elements of what makes a Batman story, and taking inspiration from Christopher Nolan is far from a bad idea. That trilogy was pretty popular and made a massive amount of money. If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.
There’s nothing wrong with The Batman as it’s displayed in the trailers. There is clearly an audience for a dark and brooding Batman; one who might choose not to kill, but is willing to push right up to that limit. There are people who want to see The Batman be an R-rated movie. While that seems unlikely, based on the trailers, there will be plenty for fans to enjoy if what they want is a brooding Batman taking down supervillains with a belt full of gadgets.
We’re Told The Batman Is A Noir Detective Story
The problem is that, based on comments that director Matt Reeves made early on in the development of The Batman, which have seemingly been born out by reports from some who have attended test screenings, this Batman movie isn’t just another superhero action movie with a grim aesthetic. It’s a noir detective story.
Batman was born in DC’s Detective Comics, and he’s known as the World’s Greatest Detective. But it has to be said that we’ve never really seen these aspects of the character focused on when it comes to the big screen. There is rarely a mystery to be solved, simply a villain to be stopped.
It seems, based on (admittedly unconfirmed) reports from test audiences, that The Batman will be something a bit different, in that the Dark Knight’s battle with the Riddler will set itself apart from other Batman movies by being ultimately a detective story.
We’ve seen hints of this in the newest trailer with The Riddler’s taunting clues being left behind, and Batman seemingly trying to figure out just what the man is up to. But there’s a significant jump to make between puzzles Batman needs to solve and a true mystery that needs to be unraveled.
Personally, I’ve been excited by this idea since Matt Reeves’ first comments about it. As a fan of good old-fashioned detective fiction, seeing that, but with superheroes, seems like a lot of fun. At the very least, it’s different.
The problem is that I don’t really see this in the trailers beyond minor hints. There was perhaps some of it in last year’s teaser for The Batman, with Batman being left a mysterious note. Certainly noir stories have a certain amount of darkness to them, both physical and emotional, but darkness alone does not make noir. What the movie shows me doesn’t seem to match with what I’m hearing it’s about.
Some Audiences Could Be Disappointed By The Batman
While it’s certainly possible, even likely, that The Batman will have elements of both an action and a noir story, at its core, the movie is much more likely to be one or the other. Either is fine. Neither option is inherently a better choice for a film. I’m not here to argue that it should be one and not the other. The issue here is that what’s being sold in the trailers is one kind of movie, and if The Batman isn’t that, a lot of fans could go to the theater and find themselves disappointed that it isn’t what they expect.
If the test audience comments are accurate (and unless they are outright lies, they probably are true), then people are going to be frustrated. Action fans will be disappointed that the movie isn’t that. Beyond that, those that might be more interested in a noir story might avoid The Batman because they think it’s more action-focused.
This certainly wouldn’t be the first time that a movie’s story and its marketing were not exactly in sync. And there’s still time before The Batman is released next year for us to get a clearer look at what the movie is. Perhaps the detective story side is being intentionally held back to prevent fans from figuring out the mystery too quickly.
Whatever form The Batman takes, I hope it’s good. But I also hope that audiences get what they’re expecting to get from it. Whether or not what The Batman is turns out to be good, if people feel it isn’t what they promised, we’re liable to end up with some disappointed fans.
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