Emo Batman was exactly what 2020 needed

It’s brilliant. Let’s get that out of the way out front. After a bad month for DC Comics, and the overall disappoints of FanDome (the fact that someone at Rocksteady decided that a Suicide Squad game would be a better idea than a Superman one is a pain I will never recover from) The Batman shone even brighter as a homerun success. Every element of it works. It looks beautiful, the performances seem fascinating. Production on The Batman was halted by Covid-19, but that works out to this trailer’s advantage: without any cool action scenes to show off, the trailer leans hard on selling you on the aesthetic. And, god, what an aesthetic.

Too often, when someone says a Superhero movie will be darker, they mean that they’re pulling it farther away from the fantastical mythic elements that make the best parts of the genre so extraordinary. Rather than another humdrum attempt to turn the story of a man fighting crime in a militarized Halloween costume into something grounded and realistic, Matt Reeves bridges the divide by leaning into a stylised misery. The Gotham of The Batman looks like it should only be shoot in black and white. The whole trailer feels dirty, as if the corruption and grime of Gotham has somehow contaminated the camera.

Of all the soon to be iconic images in the first The Batman trailer, that one that sticks in my mind most is Robert Pattinson in eyeliner. Not just because, let’s face it, Robert Pattinson looks great in eyeliner, but for what it says about the movie.

Every onscreen Batman was worn eyeliner to reinforce the look of the cowl, but whenever they take the cowl off, the eyeliner disappears with it. We accept that just like we accept all the over convinces of movies, because filmmakers think it ruins the fun to think that every time Bruce Wayne suits up, he takes 20 minutes to complete his make up routine.

The film is calling attention to the level of performance inherent to Batman in a way that no other films really have

Not here. In The Batman, not only is the eyeliner left in, it’s so important that it’s the final shot of the trailer. The film is calling attention to the level of performance inherent to Batman in a way that no other films really have. Nolan was interested in Batman as a symbol, but that was always a surface level concern. Batman was just any other action hero in a funny suit. Matt Reeves is promising to dig deeper into exactly what it takes to turn a man into a criminal’s nightmare. And he’s got a great partner in that with Robert Pattinson.

Pattinson has spent the time since he was cast pitching a fascinating take on the Dark Knight. While his comments that his Batman was less a hero, and more “crazy and perverse” pushed some people away, it’s only made me more and more interested. One of the more common ideas about Batman is that deep down, he’s just as crazy as anyone in Arkham. But it’s not often an idea that makes its way to screen. George Clooney, Christian Bale and Val Kilmer are traditional leading men and they played the role that way, and Ben Affleck’s Batman was less deranged and more “dad too tired after a bad day at work.” Only Michael Keaton has come close, and his Batman felt more awkward than it did mad.  With Pattison, we finally have a Batman who feels just as unhinged as the people he’s fighting.

His physical presence is bewitching; totally still, then explosive in less than a second. He only gets two lines in this trailer, but you hardly notice, that’s how much he comminates physically. We seem his uncertainty, his rage, and his pleasure. Pleasure might be the key new addition Pattinson brings a to the violence: not just the sheer brutality of it, but the sense of grim joy he takes in it. Not to mention that with one line, he communicates more menace than Ben Affleck did in a movie where he actually got to kill people.

Of all the Batman’s skills, his detective abilities have always been neglected by the films

It occurred to me while I was watching the trailer for the 7,889,000th time that the main thing the trailer reminded me of wasn’t other Batman films, or really any superhero film. It was a police procedural. Of all the Batman’s skills, his detective abilities have always been neglected by the films. Superhero films are always trying to be bigger than the last, and the Batman franchise is definitely guilty of that, in all its variations.

The trouble with adapting stories and character intended for serialized storytelling and converting them to the epic level required for a blockbuster movie, is that every story must now become that character’s greatest challenge and every fight with a supervillain has to be the ultimate battle. And ultimate battles don’t tend to leave space for a detective story. But so far, the story of The Batman appears to be just a case. And after nine movies featuring Batman, it’s about time they tried something new.

This trailer was only two minutes and thirty-three seconds long and there were still more things in it to cover than I could fit in this article. The Riddler as a Horror Movie killer is a great take, Jeffery Wright is the perfect Gordon and Colin Farrell as the Penguin is genuinely mind-blowing. The Batman is a year away, and already it’s my most anticipated DC movie.

For more discussion about The Batman and all things DC Fandome, then check out Episode 12 of The Boar Film Podcast by clicking here!

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