the batman trailer breakdown

The Batman trailer arrived during DC FanDome, and it did not disappoint. Even though Matt Reeves and company only shot a small portion of the film before having to shut down production due to coronavirus, the filmmaker was still able to cut together a solid, atmospheric look at the latest take on the Dark Knight. It has the trappings we’d expect from a Batman flick: it’s moody, it’s gothic, it has lots of scenes of people standing in the rain. But it also looks different. Grungier. Scarier. It almost looks like a remake of Seven (or Se7en, if you want to be a jerk about it) that just happens to feature Batman. So let’s dive into the footage and see what’s going on here, shall we?

The Batman Trailer 

 

Things kick off in truly nightmarish fashion. If you didn’t know this was a Batman trailer you might be forgiven for assuming this was some new serial killer thriller. We see a masked figure tearing off strips of duct tape while someone either unconscious or dead is sprawled out on the floor. Suddenly, we cut to that same sprawled figure now sitting in a chair, his entire head wrapped in tape. If he wasn’t dead before he’s definitely dead now, and he comes bearing a message: NO MORE LIES. The trailer isn’t giving this away yet, but the duct tape-killer is supposed to be the Riddler, as played by Paul Dano.

Or is he? It is interesting that the trailer is hiding this figure’s face, and later, when we hear him talking, his voice has been distorted. It sort of sounds like Dano’s voice to me, but since I can’t be 100% sure, it’s all guesswork at this point. I’m sure if the trailer (and film) are hiding the killer’s identity there’s some reason. We just don’t know what it is yet.

From here the trailer kicks in in earnest, complete with Nirvana performing the moody, ominous “Something In the Way.” Props to Reeves and company for not using an even slower cover version, as is the trend for most trailers these days. That said, the original Nirvana version does give way to an orchestrated version arranged by the film’s composer, Michael Giacchino.

But let’s talk about this shot. We’re following Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), who is clearly not commissioner yet, but appears instead to still be a detective. FBI agents are flanking Gordon as he strolls down a long hallway that appears to be at the same crime scene the trailer started with. But those agents aren’t looking at Gordon – they’re looking at someone following him. I wonder who it could be?! (It’s Batman.)

Gordon (or perhaps another cop) finds an envelope on the body of the man who met his end via duct tape. “From your secret friend,” we hear Gordon read. “Who? Haven’t a clue. Let’s play a game just me and you.” Again: these are serious Seven vibes (or maybe The Snowman, but let’s not go there, Mister Police).

Gordon examines the scene, and we start to get hints about who the victim is…

LIES scrawled across newspaper pages all talking about the same guy: Gotham Mayor Don Mitchell, which suggests this is who the victim is: the mayor of the city. Jayme Lawson is playing a mayoral candidate in the film named Bella Reál, so that coupled with the fact that the mayor has been murdered gives us a hint about where the movie is going. During FanDome, Matt Reeves said a big part of the film’s mystery involves the hidden corruption buried within Gotham, and that’s obviously tied to the mayor in some way.

The crime scene techs are snapping pictures, and if you look closely you’ll see a newspaper headline blazing MARONI DRUG BUST! Maroni is a mob boss in the world of Batman – he plays a big part in The Long Halloween, and even popped up in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight as played by Eric Roberts. In the comics, Maroni is the one who disfigures District Attorney Harvey Dent and turns him into Two-Face. As far as we know, Harvey Dent isn’t in The Batman, but there is another DA character played by Peter Sarsgaard. And what of Maroni? Just because he’s mentioned in that headline doesn’t mean he appears in the film. We do know the mob will be part of the film, though, as John Turturro is playing mob boss Carmine Falcone.

“WHAT DOES A LIAR DO WHEN HE’S DEAD?” a card asks, complete with mysterious symbols signifying the answer. Someone on Twitter actually cracked the code in a very fun, very nerdy way, and you can read the full thread here. But the answer is “HE LIES STILL,” which is admittedly pretty damn funny. Good one, Riddler.

“Any of this mean anything to you?” Gordon asks, holding up the envelope the card came in – addressed “To the Batman.” The envelope is, of course, green, the Riddler’s primary color.

Gordon is addressing Robert Pattinson‘s Batman, and I have to say, I love the dynamic being set up here: that Batman can just waltz into a crime scene with Gordon. There was some of this in The Dark Knight, with Batman showing up at the bank the Joker robbed in the prologue and talking with Gordon. But Christopher Nolan made a point of having that scene be isolated, and even on the down-low. The Batman changes things up by having Batman just out in the open, in front of both Gordon, FBI agents, and a bunch of cops. This confirms this isn’t just another origin story. Batman isn’t some mystery: cops are well-aware of him, and even okay with him scoping out crime scenes. It’s also establishing the whole “Batman is the world’s greatest detective!” thing, an angle that the previous movies really haven’t touched on at all.

As for the Batsuit Pattinson is wearing: I dig it. It looks much more cobbled-together than previous bat-costumes, which is exactly the point – we’re supposed to believe Bruce Wayne made this from scratch.

Our basic premise established – Batman investigates murder! – the trailer then moves into setting a mood while also making the most of the limited footage Reeves and company shot. On a motorcycle, Bruce Wayne (still wearing his bat eye makeup) watches a press conference. The guy leading the conference is Commissioner Pete Savage (Alex Ferns), Gordon’s predecessor.

Batman, goth kid that he is, rides through a gloomy graveyard.

Enter the Batcave! This doesn’t look like the traditional underground cave of Batcaves past, but rather some sort of structure that Batman has repurposed for his needs. And here we hear the voice of Alfred, Batman’s faithful butler/father figure, as played by Andy Serkis. “You’re becoming quite a celebrity,” Alfred says. “Why’s he writing to you?” Why indeed, Alfred? During the FanDome, Reeves said that the mystery Batman is investigating is tied in some way to Bruce Wayne’s past/family, so that’s going to play a part in the Riddler/Batman dynamic here.

Cut to: Bruce Wayne at a funeral (for the murdered mayor, I believe). A car plows into the service, requiring Bruce to save someone standing in the way.

Out of the car (which is covered in words) steps some poor bastard with his mouth taped, a phone taped to his hand, and…

…yet another letter for Batman.

Robert Pattinson looks suitably moody and angry here, clearly already fed up with the Riddler and his bullshit.

A figure comes descending from above into the same crime scene we started off at…

The female figure is cracking into a safe. I wonder who this can be?? They’re probably going to keep it a secret, and –

Oh, it’s Catwoman/Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz). I love the cute little cat ears that are on her mask here. They don’t seem to be by design – she’s not dressing up as a cat. It just happened with the way she put her mask on. This is a similar approach to Nolan’s Catwoman, who had goggles that flipped up to look like cat ears. Maybe one day we’ll get a Batman movie where Catwoman literally puts on a cat suit again, but not today! We can always go back and watch Batman Returns and, uh, Catwoman, I guess.

Wow, look here! It’s funnyman Richard Kind! Oh, wait, no. It’s actually Colin Farrell as the Penguin. When the trailer dropped, many people (myself included) realized that this was probably Farrell. But the make-up is so good here it renders Farrell unrecognizable. So unrecognizable, in fact, that many refused to accept it. I even saw one person on Twitter swear up and down that Farrell hadn’t even filmed scenes yet (even though he’s been spotted on the set of the movie multiple times). But let’s put this to rest: the film’s makeup artist, Michael Marino, confirmed via his Instagram account that this is indeed Farrell.

Once you get over your shock, you might be wondering why they’d cast handsome man Colin Farrell and bury him in makeup, but hey, that’s the magic of movies, baby. And I really can’t wait to see what Farrell does with this role (and makeup).

“If you are justice, please do not lie! What is the price for your blind eye?” a voice asks. Again: this sounds like Paul Dano’s voice, but there’s definitely a distortion over it, so I can’t be sure. In any case, while we hear Riddler (?) talking, we see Batman getting into a scuffle with several cops. So while Batman can stroll into crime scenes, there still appears to be some tension between him and law enforcement. Gordon actually has to push Batman off a cop in the middle of the brawl. And now comes the standard barrage of shots!

Literally! We see the Penguin and his goons firing some guns…

…we see Batman and Catwoman tussling at the crime scene…

…and we see Batman at the mayor’s funeral, being blown up. I do wonder at what point Batman has time to put on his suit here, since he was already at the funeral in Bruce Wayne form. But maybe this moment takes place a bit later, and Batman returns to the crime scene suited-up a little later.

If you need a reminder of how little footage there is for The Batman yet, here’s a reminder: they actually reuse a shot we already saw at the start of the trailer, albeit from a closer angle. It’s likely just an alternate take. But again: is this Dano’s Riddler? I’m going to say yes, although I still don’t quite get the mask.

The most memorable moment in the trailer comes when some goons (wearing makeup, which will immediately make someone assume they’re the Joker’s henchmen or something like that, even though they’re almost certainly not) challenge Batman and he beats the living hell out of one of them. Bat-action has been a bit lacking in the Batman movies. The Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher Batman suffered from a rather bulky suit that made a lot of fighting hard to shoot. The Nolan Batsuit evolved over time, but Nolan also shot much of his fight scenes in a jittery, hard-to-follow way. Many people praised the Batman beat-down from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but even that looked very stagey, enhanced by special effects. This is different – the camera almost never cuts away, and it looks brutal. Batman looks like he’s really hurting this guy. I could do without the “I’m vengeance!” line, but Batman is nothing if not overdramatic.

All Batmobiles must have something that shoots some sort of fire out of the back. It’s required by law.

A great shot of a grappling-hook wielding Batman escaping from cops. I guess the relationship between the Dark Knight and the police deteriorates over the course of the film. Of course, the Gotham PD is supposed to be notoriously corrupt in Batman’s early days, so that makes sense.

Colin Farrell’s Penguin returns one more time, this time to yell, “Whoa! This guy’s crazy!” And I have to say, I think at this point the thing I’m most excited about is seeing Farrell get to ham it up under a bunch of makeup. I think he’s going to do something memorable here.

After the title card treatment we get one final kicker: Batman, back in the Batcave, taking off his mask. “You’re a part of this, too,” the Riddler (I think?) can be heard saying. “How am I a part of this?” Batman asks. “You’ll see,” is the reply. Again: Reeves talked about how the mystery at the center of the film is tied to the Wayne family in some way, so that’s clearly what’s being referenced here. We just don’t know what the endgame is. But I do love that we can see the eyeshadow on Pattinson’s face – it’s a nice touch in a trailer full of nice touches.

The Batman opens October 1, 2021. (Unless it doesn’t, because who the hell knows what’s going to happen a week from now, let alone a year.)

Cool Posts From Around the Web: