On Saturday 22nd August 2020, DC Comics held DC FanDome – the very first virtual DC Comics event. The show featured a wealth of content, from panel discussions about Wonder Woman ’84 and The Suicide Squad, to game reveals, comic book chats, comical animated videos, and much more.
One of the biggest highlights of the DC event was a 30-minute panel with Matt Reeves. Reeves is the director of the new DC movie, The Batman, and he was on hand to talk about the film and answer questions from fans.
Ordinarily, directors are pretty tight-lipped when asked about their new movies – holding back any information until after the film has arrived in cinema screens. This was not the case with Reeves, as he proved to very forthcoming with information.
In this post I am going to run-through all of the main points from his discussion. So, if you missed the event, don’t worry, here is everything you need to know.
Matt Reeves on The Batman
Before delving into all the details about The Batman, it is important to note that to date, only 25%-30% of the movie has been shot. So all images and footage that is available only comes from a quarter of the finished film.
Filming on The Batman began in early 2020, with multiple scenes being filmed in the UK. However, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a complete shut down of production, which is why less footage has been shot than planned.
If you wish to know more about the pre-COVID filming of The Batman, take a look at my post: New release date for The Batman.
OK, onto all of the key information about The Batman, and perhaps the best place to start is by explaining when the movie is set, and what type of Batman movie this is.
The events of the movie will take place early into Batman’s career. Reeves describes The Batman as being set during “Year Two”, with the Dark Knight already in existence in Gotham City.
If you think of a film like Batman Begins (2005) as a Year One story, with the character starting from scratch, The Batman is set during the second year of his career. He is already in costume, but this is still at a time when Batman is trying to work out how best to operate against the backdrop of a very corrupt city.
Reeves said: “He’s trying to figure out what he can do that can finally change this place. And in our story, as he is in that mode, that is where you meet him.
“You see that he is charting what he is doing. And he is seeing that he is not having any of the effect that he wants to have.”
In terms of what type of story this is, Reeves describes The Batman as “a detective story, a point-of-view story, a mystery – it’s got of course, action.” One of the key plot threads of the film is a series of murders, and this dovetails into the corruption within the city, Batman’s past, and Batman’s family.
Reeves said: “The murders begin to describe the sort of history of Gotham in a way that only enforces what (Batman) knows about Gotham. It opens up a whole new world of corruption.
He added: “(as the story) starts to describe this epic history of corruption in Gotham, you start to understand well, where did (Batman’s) family sit in that.”
Although The Batman is a Year Two tale, fans of the Batman mythology will be pleased to know the Caped Crusader’s first year is not being overlooked. Yesterday it was announced that a tie-in television show is in the works.
The series will be called Gotham PD, and it is being developed between Reeves and writer, Terence Winter. The show will air on HBO Max in the US.
Explaining the premise of the show, Reeves said: “We go back to Year One. And Year One is the beginning of the emergence – it is the first appearance of the masked vigilante. That starts to unsettle the city, and you start to see this story through the point of view of these corrupt cops, and one in particular. And the story is actually a battle for his soul.”
Onto the villains of The Batman now, and this includes Paul Dano as the Riddler, Colin Farrell as Oswald ‘Penguin’ Cobblepot, Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman, and John Turturro as Carmine Falcone.
Like Batman, the villains are just finding their place in Gotham, so Catwoman is still Selina Kyle – she isn’t quite Catwoman yet – and the Penguin is still Oswald Cobblepot, in fact, he “doesn’t like being called Penguin.”
The Riddler is just emerging, with Paul Dano playing “a version of the Riddler that no one has ever seen before.” According to Reeves, Dano’s take on the character “is going to blow peoples’ minds.”
Describing the villains, Reeves said: “It’s always about trying to square what you sort of know, with what also is new – and that is what I think is part of the exciting, process of making a Batman movie. Which is to find a way to make it your own, and to find a way for the actors to make it their own, and yet still connect to all of these things that people also go ‘oh, that’s my Selina, oh, I know who that is.’”
Reeves describes the Batsuit as “very practical”, playing off the idea that Batman has “made it himself”. Reeve said: “He goes out every night looking for trouble, so you look at his cowl and you can actually see there are gashes in it.”
The costume took a year to design and was built in collaboration with Reeves, the costumer designer Glyn Dillon, and Robert Pattinson – with Pattinson looking to a former Batman actor for a little advice about the Batsuit.
Talking about the real-life impracticality of the suit, Reeve said: “Rob actually talked to Christian Bale and Christian Bale was like ‘just make sure you are going to be able to relieve yourself. So, all of that was important to build in to. He needs to be able to put it on, but he also needs to be able live as a human being.”
Gotham is very important to the world of Batman – something which is true for all Batman movies, and this remains consistent with The Batman too.
According to Reeves, “I wanted to present it in a way that was really fleshed out. I wanted it to feel like an American city you had never been to.”
“The (Tim) Burton one had very, very theatrical, beautiful, beautiful sets, and (Christopher) Nolan had the version he created in Batman Begins and that was a particular thing, with parts of Chicago and parts of Pittsburgh. And what we’re trying to do is create a version of (Gotham) that you haven’t seen before.”
The UK city of Liverpool will help define Reeves’ take on Gotham. Reeves said: “The idea is to go to Liverpool, where there is all the foundation of the Gothic architecture and then add all the more modern structures through CGI.”
How Batman is perceived
When the audience meets Batman, he is not quite the hero he is destined to become.
“He’s not yet the vision of the character that he becomes, where he becomes a symbol of hope for the city. He’s early in the trajectory and so, (the citizens of Gotham) are afraid of him frankly. He’s kind of a growing legend.”
Giving a deeper explanation, Reeves said:
“If you were in a city, and there was a guy dressed up as a bat, and he showed up out of the shadows, and sometimes confronted those people, and beat them up because he felt like what they were doing was wrong, so that he could put the fear of God in them about the crimes they are committing, I think we would wonder ‘well, gee, that guy sounds a little dangerous.’
On Robert Pattinson
According to Reeves, Pattinson is “like a chameleon.”
He said: “I feel like the work he has done in the last six years has been incredible. A friend of mine made a movie called The Lost City of Z, and Rob appeared in that movie, and I was like ‘who is that guy?’.”
Reeves described creating the new Batmobile as “the incredible candy.”
He added: “When you get to dive into the idea of this car, which again feels connected to this version of the character, a grounded version of the character and this is something he built, and to try and look at those rough seams and imagine how all that works, it’s been an incredible gift to be able to do that.”
Approaching Batman for film
Reeves wants the audience to “meet him in the middle of this criminological experiment, to see him in the becoming of Batman, and to see him make mistakes as Batman, and to see him grow and fail and be heroic.” He describes this version of Batman as “very human and very flawed.”
“A lot of the other stories are about how he had to master his fear and master himself, in order to become Batman, and in that ‘Batman state’ he’s sort of in his best self. And I think for me what was exciting was not doing that, not doing the origin, not doing what we had been done so beautifully in other movies.”
Comic book influence and inspiration
And finally, during the panel, Reeve was asked about any inspirations that can be found in The Batman. The director pointed towards Ego by Darwyn Cooke – a story about Batman’s inner turmoil and conflict.
Reeves said: “He’s confronting the beast that is Batman. There’s kind of a duality. There is a lot in what I was trying to do in the story, about him confronting the shadow side of himself.
“He’s broken. So, while he’s doing all of these things for the reasons he thinks is right, and that have a heroic sort of grounding in them, there’s also many things that are driven by the parts of himself he doesn’t quite know. And so I would say that kind of psychological union/shadow-side, that sort of version of it, is very much connected to that vision of Darwyn Cooke.”
Other influences that Reeve cited included films from the 1970s, such as The French Connection (1971), China Town (1974), Taxi Driver (1976).
A confident approach
From watching last night’s panel, from hearing the way in which Reeves talked about his approach to the Batman mythology, and from seeing the teaser footage (which you can view below), I feel very confident about The Batman. This sounds like it will be an interesting take on the Dark Knight, which understands the character and is deeply respectful of who he is.
Reeves talked at great length, and incredibly fast, so managed to cram in a lot of information in his 30-minute slot. Having him appear at the event was so important, and demonstrated his desire to make the best Batman movie possible.
The Batman is currently in production and is scheduled for release in October 2021.
Thank you for taking the time to read this rundown of the Matt Reeves/The Batman panel on I’ll Get Drive-Thru. For more posts, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.