The Batman Looks Like Nolan's Movies With A Proper Comic Book Makeover

Although "The Batman" was initially planned to be a solo film taking place amid the much larger DC Universe, fans quickly got over any lingering disappointment when that changed (especially with Ben Affleck's Batman returning in "The Flash"). Now, enthusiasm for the Matt Reeves-directed, Robert Pattinson-starring iteration of the Bat-obsessed vigilante couldn't possibly be any higher — especially on the heels of the dramatic new trailer unveiled today during DC FanDome.

However, the biggest question that every new "Batman" movie inevitably must deal with is a very simple one: "How?" Multiple generations have enjoyed their own definitive version of the Caped Crusader, from Adam West to Michael Keaton to Kevin Conroy. But in recent years, new iterations of Batman have cropped up on an almost regular basis across multiple mediums and platforms. If there's anything that executives have apparently learned in the last decade or so, it's that the superhero machine must be fed ... and that Batman is one of its key sources of fuel. So with an influx of stories revolving around the fan-favorite hero, the question I've been wondering about "The Batman" is how it will differentiate itself from previously successful reboots.

The answer, going by the latest trailer, is to take its cues from Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale's grounded version (among other influences) while establishing a far more heightened, comic-booky world around him.

Beginnin' with the Villain

Compared to previous and subsequent entries, Nolan's take on Batman's rogues gallery was downright restrained. Rather than literally dress up as a scarecrow with needles shooting out of his hands, "Batman Begins" offers a (relatively) psychologically-based explanation for Jonathan Crane, the masked criminal who preys on exploiting the fears of others. Even Ra's al Ghul is brought down to earth, despite his traditionally supernatural abilities. The Joker, Bane, and many other supporting villains are given similar treatment throughout each installment of Nolan's "The Dark Knight" trilogy, and Reeves seems intent on borrowing this approach for the handful of foes who are up against Robert Pattinson's rookie Batman.

Paul Dano's Riddler has been completely reimagined from the ground up, eschewing the ostentatious and theatrical displays as found in previous versions (looking at you, Jim Carrey!) as well as from the source material. Instead, he is reminiscent of a "Jokerized" take on the character, appearing to be a sort of Zodiac serial killer with shades of the character's classic penchant for leaving behind clues and taunting those chasing him. His strange mask and outfit are certainly harder to realistically explain than the "war paint" clown makeup on Heath Ledger's Joker, as his menacing (and largely off-screen) presence in the trailer conveys a far more mythical and larger-than-life sense of world-building than Nolan ever seemed interested in developing. Incredible facial prosthetics and makeup aside, the further glimpses we see of secondary villain Oswald Cobblepot (Colin Farrell) indicates that he retains his exuberant personality and bravura ... but let's just say we're not expecting any marching penguin commandos here, either.

Who's Under the Mask?

What most separated Nolan's writing for Bruce Wayne with so many past (and future) attempts was that he never once lost sight of the man underneath the cowl. Matt Reeves comes from a similar train of thought, most obviously displayed through his "Planet of the Apes" films that gave the ape leader Caesar more depth and genuine character than anyone could've reasonably expected from a largely motion-capture performance by Andy Serkis. Though Serkis will be seen in the flesh during this go-around as Bruce's loyal (and, based on the trailer footage, deeply concerned) butler Alfred, the focus will be on Pattinson's far younger and more reckless version of Wayne.

Zoë Kravitz's Selina Kyle, who receives much more of a spotlight than in the somewhat bare-bones initial trailer, all but spells out how Reeves will handle this brash young hero. Though her interactions with Batman are heavy on flirtation, her statement that "Maybe we're not so different. Who are you under there?" feels like something of a mission statement. The sequences we see of Batman suited up and dealing out punishment to bad guys are objectively cool, but they also come with an undertone of boundary-pushing violence. Perhaps similarly to Zack Snyder's and Ben Affleck's jaded Bruce Wayne in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice," Pattinson's version doesn't seem to know or care about the lengths he goes to in order to achieve his goals. A revealing moment comes when Batman is punching some off-screen goon and Catwoman, of all characters, looks on in horror. Even the previous trailer's money shot of Batman repeatedly slamming his fists into a young man dressed in face paint came with a foreboding sense of unease, as if this is a take on the "hero" who has completely lost control.

With Reeves' established body of work to this point, the impressive casting of Pattinson in the main role, and a refreshingly original approach that seems to put its own spin on the most interesting elements of previous adaptations, we couldn't be more excited about what "The Batman" has to offer as we wait for its release on March 4, 2022.