Matt Reeves Explains How Test Screenings Made The Batman A Better Movie

With only a week to go before the release of Matt Reeves' "The Batman," the anticipation for the noir-thriller has been higher than ever. Previously, we came to know that early "The Batman" test screenings were nearly four hours long, hinting towards the fact that Reeves might have enough footage for him to release a potential Director's Cut sometime in the future. In an interview with Collider, Reeves explained how these test screenings helped with the film's editing process, allowing him the opportunity to craft a better, tightly-controlled narrative. Although Reeves was initially nervous about audience reactions, he soon learned that the detective-noir aspect of the film was well-liked and received, granting him more insight into how the edits were supposed to be made.

Presenting an 'ambitious, complex narrative'

Reeves went on to explain how "subtle changes" needed to be made in order to make certain narrative choices clear, and that the "first version" of the film that was test screened helmed a "very ambitious, complex narrative." Reeves acknowledged that he had not thoroughly gone through and polished the roughly four-hour cut, and felt that it was "longer than what [he] had intended." This caused considerable anxiety for Reeves, who was unsure of whether audiences would embrace the detective tale aspect, and thankfully, they did, to his utter relief:

"That was the biggest relief, I was thinking, Okay, why did I do this? Why did I decide to make this kind of story? And what the first test screening told me was the audience wanted this... that, you know, we had the Batmobile chases, we had all the things, you can't make a Batman movie without giving the baseline things that people want from a Batman movie. But I knew we were challenging the audience in this type of World's Greatest Detective side, because it was going to be a very complex narrative. And it turned out they love that part of it, it was one of the things that tested best. So that part was a great thing to learn, which was that actually, the audience would be excited about this version of the movie. And that only continued to get better as we continue to test. And then I finally just made my way, bit by bit through the cut."

Reeves' anxiety surrounding the test screenings is understandable, as taking such a beloved superhero character and approaching his narrative via a fresh angle can be risky, after all. The audience reactions for the subsequent screenings helped guide Reeves and his team to hone a better film, one that was edited to keep audience excitement and expectations in mind:

"The testing process, kind of validated that this was a direction that an audience would be excited about. For me what was thrilling was, they didn't know what they were seeing. So when they would come to a screening, and then suddenly they realized they were seeing a Batman movie. And there was, it showed how much love there is for Batman, which was so exciting for me, because of course, I've loved this since I was a kid, and to be in an audience and have that big screen experience after we're all been away from it for so long. And to see people cheer, and to see people get excited. And then to see them get wrapped up. I mean, there'll be moments where there was just utter silence. And you're like, Okay, people love Batman, and they're into this. And that was exciting. That, to me was the best part of the testing."

Reeves' genuine love for the character is pretty clear, and will hopefully be reflected throughout the three-hour runtime of the upcoming film. "The Batman" stars Robert Pattinson, Paul Dano, Zoe Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, and Colin Farrell. The film is expected to follow Batman's second year of fighting crime, during which he uncovers the strands of corruption that seem inexplicably linked to that of his own family.

"The Batman" is scheduled for release in theaters on March 4, 2022.