Back before the world went into shutdown, Warner Bros. and Cloverfield/Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves were busy putting Robert Pattinson through his paces in his debut performance in the role of DC’s biggest character, none other than billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. The Batman. Originally slated for a June 2021 release, The Batman marks the latest reinvention of the superhero franchise and it is now expected to hit the big screen in October 2021.
Yet long before production was temporarily halted in March, the story behind The Batman was one characterised by changing faces and redesigned plans, as a newly rebranded DC Films was reorganised in response to the critical reaction to the early days of the DC Cinematic Universe, and later, the departure of Ben Affleck from the role and a rethinking of the DCEU as a whole. So let’s take a look at the journey to The Batman so far and what we know about the upcoming film.
The Departure of Batfleck
In October 2014, long before work was finished on Ben Affleck’s first turn in the role in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Warner Bros. announced that plans were also in the works for him to star in his own standalone film. By 2015 negotiations were completed, and it was confirmed that not only would Affleck star in the film, but he would also direct and co-write the film with DC Comics legend Geoff Johns.
In 2016 a first draft of the film, which Affleck revealed would be titled The Batman, was finished and Geoff Johns implied the film would focus on the death of Robin, which was originally hinted at in Batman V Superman. Jared Leto, who was introduced as the Joker in The Suicide Squad, was also expected to be making an appearance. Everything was on track for filming to commence in 2017, with a planned 2018 release date.
In early 2017, however, following the release of Batman V Superman, Affleck’s commitment to directing the film began to waver and he eventually stepped aside “to let someone else have a shot at it”. That someone else was eventually revealed as Matt Reeves, who had enjoyed considerable critical and commercial success for Warner Bros. with his Dawn of the Planet of the Apes film and was also in the process of making the follow-up War for the Planet of the Apes.
When Reeves came on board, he started work on a whole new script and teased a previously unseen approach to the character, which he termed as “an almost-noir driven, detective version of Batman”. At this stage, whilst Affleck had officially stepped down as director, he was still anticipated to continue in the lead role – though rumours had begun that Warner Bros. was potentially looking at replacing him with a younger actor.
In January 2019, at the same time that Warner Bros. announced the original June 25, 2021 release date for The Batman, Affleck also officially confirmed once and for all that he was stepping down from the role and that it would indeed be taken on by someone younger.
The Arrival of Battinson
Once Affleck officially stood down, it didn’t take long for whispers of who would be chosen as his replacement to begin circulating. Several names were floated, but the top four amongst them were: Armie Hammer (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: First Class), Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kickass) and Robert Pattinson (Twilight). Reeves eventually narrowed the field to Hoult and Pattinson and screen-tested both on May 20, 2019 and 11 days later Pattinson was officially announced in the role.
The Gotham Rogues Gallery
Shortly following the announcement of Pattinson in the role of Bruce Wayne, expectant Batman fans were quick to learn about the line-up of other well-known Batman characters due to make an appearance.
Rumours began circulating that the film would be loosely based on The Long Halloween comic arc, and would feature multiple villains. Moreover, the gossip was that comedian Jonah Hill (Superbad) was being eyed for the role of either The Riddler or The Penguin, and that Westworld’s Jeffrey Wright would be tackling the role of Commissioner James Gordon. Whilst Hill would eventually fall through, in September 2019 a slate of casting reveals began with the official confirmation of Wright as Gordon.
Additionally, Zoë Kravitz (Fantastic Beasts and the Crimes of Grindlewald) had been announced as Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman, and Paul Dano (Looper) was revealed as Edward Nigma, a.k.a. The Riddler. By November 2019, the cast was rounded out by Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings) as Wayne’s butler Alfred Pennyworth, Colin Farrell (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) as The Penguin, and John Turturro (Transformers) as mafioso Carmine Falcone.
Early Sneak Peeks
Clearly a filmmaker who is well aware of the need to stay ahead of any potential leaks from the set, Matt Reeves has been quick to push out his own reveals once filming officially got underway earlier this year. In February, Reeves revealed the first look at Battinson’s new Bat Suit via his Twitter feed, sending the internet into near-meltdown as they took in a new, heavily armoured look reminiscent of the Arkham games, mixed with a hand-stitched, leather cowl taken almost straight from the pages of Batman: Year One. Undoubtedly Pattinson’s Batman is one which is being intentionally pitched as being relatively new to the game of vigilante crime-fighting, and still has a long way to go in his journey to becoming the world’s greatest detective.
— Matt Reeves (@mattreevesLA) February 13, 2020
Confirming the rougher, less advanced version of the Batman we’re likely to see, Reeves followed up in March by providing us with our first glimpse of the new Batmobile, which is decidedly less “tank-like” than its predecessors and more “muscle car”.
Production Shut Down
Not long after we got our first look at the new Batmobile, production was halted on the film due to lockdowns in the UK where it was being shot, and it was revealed that only about 25% of the film had managed to be completed. Meanwhile, everyone is keen to get back to work as soon it is safe to do so, and at present Warner Bros. is hoping that will be soon enough to allow them to meet their new October 2021 release date.
No doubt, when we do, we’ll also get a lot more behind-the-scenes goodies from Matt Reeves’ twitter feed.