How The Batman Reintroduces The Dark Knight's Sprawling Universe

The time has nearly come, dear reader. After years of waiting, "The Batman" is literally just around the corner. Tickets are already on sale and Robert Pattinson is gearing up for his debut as our new Dark Knight in director Matt Reeves' latest reboot of the franchise. This time, we're going to see Battinson in his early days as Gotham's sanctioned crimefighter in a world filled with villains and endless possibilities. And Reeves was very deliberate in how he chose to approach building out this new version of a familiar world.

In a recent cover story for Entertainment Weekly, we get some insight into how "The Batman" came together. This new version of Gotham City is described as "seedy, dark, and rain-soaked, the sun only visible at dusk." Reeves, per the publication, wanted "it to feel like it was a place where you could run into any character from the lore if you opened the right door." This is why so many characters from Batman's rogues gallery are included in this first movie alongside Paul Dano's Riddler, who is the main villain. 

But many of these characters haven't reached their final forms, so to speak. Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz) hasn't become Catwoman yet, and Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin (Colin Farrell) isn't a major crime boss, nor is Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) commissioner. Reeves explained how he applied this to his take on Riddler and the universe in general:

"The Riddler dubs himself the Riddler in this movie. This character hasn't existed in the world yet, but he's presenting himself. So I wanted this to be filled with all those little teases where the freshness of it was meeting the characters in ways you hadn't seen yet. They weren't yet the iconic mythic versions of what they become."

A sprawling universe for the taking

While Reeves (wisely) decided not to re-hash the character's origin story yet again, he is going back to Bruce Wayne's early days of fighting crime in Gotham. This allows for a pretty interesting approach, and sets the stage for seemingly more than just one movie. In the age of the cinematic universe, it's not difficult to see what Reeves and Warner Bros. were thinking here. Set the stage not only for potential sequels, but spin-offs as well. That might help explain the movie's three-hour runtime.

To that end, we have not one but two different shows set in this universe already in the works for HBO Max — one centered on the Gotham P.D. and another focused on Penguin. The hope is that the movie itself won't feel unruly as a result and that it won't feel like putting the cart before the horse. It is in some ways beneficial for Reeves and co. that this is not connected to the DCEU where movies like "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" live but, at the same time, that presents a new challenge. Here's hoping they stick the landing.

"The Batman" is set to hit theaters on March 4, 2022.