Forget Batarangs and Batmobiles, Batman’s got a new secret weapon. He’s worked on some of the world’s largest franchises, been called a “genius” by The Batman’s Robert Pattinson, and come face-to-face with Darth Vader, Aussie filmmaking export Greig Fraser is currently tearing it up over in Hollywood!
Fresh off the opening success of DC’s latest blockbuster comic book outing, where he worked alongside friend and director Matt Reeves, we caught up with The Batman’s Director of Photography about his amazing work on the film and his blossoming career.
“Matt [Reeves] and I have been buddies now for quite a few years,” Fraser tells Supanova. “I did a film for him called Let Me In. I think it was the first film that I did after I moved to America. I finished doing a number of films in Australia, including Bright Star with Jane Campion. And my wife and I decided we might as well move to L.A. and enjoy [it] for a while.
“And Matt had seen Bright Star and felt that I was a good candidate for his vampire film and I read it and we got along really well. Since then we’ve been really quite close for a really long time.”
While other commitments would prevent Fraser from collaborating with Reeves on his Planet of the Apes films, it was during post-production on those films that Reeves would approach Fraser to lend his own unique visual expertise to DC’s latest reinvention of Gotham’s greatest detective. “We just talked about what Batman could be, about how the characters could evolve and what we wanted to see in a Batman character,” he explains.
“Matt’s got very strong opinions about what the character should be, and it was great discussing it with him… then the film got greenlit, and then it was off to the races, it was a go.
“It was a bit of a long run actually,” he said of the process between his initial discussions with Reeves and being signed on to tackle the daunting role as the film’s DP. “It wasn’t just me being called for the film… it was a long, useful and evolved situation.”
Of course, The Batman is certainly not Fraser’s first brush with major franchise tentpoles, and his talents have also taken him to some very famous galaxies, far, far away. Not only has Fraser worked on both Denis Villeneuve’s critically acclaimed Dune adaptation, but he also worked on 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and three episodes for The Mandalorian’s record-breaking inaugural season.
Whether he’s up close and personal with The Mandalorian’s Din Djarin or Batman, Fraser admits that he “very quickly forget[s] the size of the show we’re doing”, because “if I concern myself too much with the fact we’re shooting in the Batcave, maybe I’m not being true to the story”. Though sometimes he does admit that despite being “too busy lighting” a shot, sometimes the cultural importance of his work does inevitably seep its way through to his awareness.
“There are definitely times,” he says, “when you’re standing, let’s take the Batcave for example. We built the Batcave for this film, and we were standing in the Batcave, we were in the middle of night shoots and I was a bit tired and trying to do the best work we can and I remember standing at the monitor going, ‘Oh, this is the Batcave. This is a big deal.’ Like there’s not many people who have shot in the Batcave.”
Though as exciting as the prospect of working on a film like The Batman was for Fraser, it did present its own set of unique challenges. Considered to be one of the darkest Batman films ever to make its way onto the silver screen, audiences are applauding the bleak and shadow-filled representation of Matt Reeves’ Gotham City.
As unique and stunning as some of Fraser’s perfectly framed shots are, he does reveal working with that much darkness presented its own difficulties. “[Batman] is a very challenging character,” he explains, “because if you think about it for a minute, he sort of plays in the shadows. He works in the shadows. He’s the Dark Knight, and he’s not called the Dark Knight for no reason. He’s a dark enigma of a character. And it’s very easy to make things dark, that’s the easiest job of a DP in the world, but what’s harder is to relate character and emotion in the darkness.
“You know that’s the thing about filmmaking. It’s what you always try to bring to the table, you try and bring in the emotionality to these characters. And so having that balance between dark, shadowy silhouettes and the character was a huge challenge.
“I mean, when you’ve got someone like Robert Pattinson in a Batsuit, and Zoë Kravtiz in a Catsuit, you want to see their faces. You need to read their emotions. They’re incredible actors and they’re incredible roles, so you want to see those characters…
“But you also don’t want to get rid of the mood of Gotham. Gotham is a dark and wet and corrupt place, that you want to really fear. And you want to have that emotional reaction when you see those characters.”
Anyone who has seen The Batman will certainly agree that Fraser and Reeves have exceeded all expectations in doing just that. Dark, gritty, and filled with imagery which is quite simply visual poetry unfolding before one’s very eyes, Fraser’s prowess as a cinematographer is stamped over every beautifully shot minute of the film. In order to help give the finished product that extra special “layer of grime”, Fraser and Reeves also made a concerted effort to inject a “bit of analogue quality” to the digital photography by “working really closely with a lab in Los Angeles.. and we printed out to film, to a negative, to a print and then from that print we scanned it back in… we love the analogue nature”.
With that sort of extra care given to help ensure the final product delivered exactly the sort of impact the duo intended, it’s no wonder fans and critics alike are raving about The Batman’s prowess. Having already dwarfed the opening weekend box office records for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins in the span of its first day alone, this film has all the makings of an iconic piece of cinema whose artistry and importance will continue to be recognised for years to come.
As for Fraser himself, just like Gotham’s greatest detective, there is no such thing as rest and he’s already busy back at work on the second part of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. No doubt that new film will also continue to prove him one of our country’s most talented Hollywood exports.
The Batman is in cinemas now.
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