“The Batman” at the cinema, it will be March 2. So in less than a month. To wait, find each week excerpts from the interviews of the DC film team with whom we were able to talk. Today: the approach of this reboot.
The pandemic has added to his adversaries by forcing him to postpone his investigation in the streets of Gotham City to 2022. But The Batman is now in the final stretch which separates him from the dark rooms of the world. And it is from March 2 that French spectators will be able to discover this reboot signed Matt Reeves and worn by Robert Pattinson.
A feature film that is among the most anticipated of the year and whose each trailer has only increased the impatience around the project. At the beginning of December 2021, AlloCiné had the chance to speak with the director, the producer Dylan Clark and a good part of the cast, and we give you an appointment every week before the release to find their words.
Today’s program: the approach and tone of this new Batman, which marks the seventh incarnation of the character in live action on the big screen.
A DARKER BATMAN
Dylan Clark (Producer): Matt and I worked on his Planet of the Apes episodes and he really knows how to connect with the characters and what they need to explore on an emotional level in a very visceral way. And he builds his story from that. Batman doesn’t have superpowers, so he can take a lot, emotionally speaking.
Getting a call to make a Batman movie is terrifying. Because we love this guy. It’s both the most exciting and the most horrible call, because you don’t want to screw up and miss the character. But once Matt realized there was a different and unique way to approach it, opting for a deeper psychological exploration, the project really got exciting. He is really looking for honesty and has produced a contemporary, epic film with spectacle. But he rattles Batman, who has to fight his way to the right side.
Matt Reeves (Director, co-writer): I wanted to take the character very seriously. It’s hard for me to tackle Batman with the pressure of having great movies before mine. What mattered to me, if I agreed to do it, was to find a way to be irrefutable about the reasons for making a new one. We’ve seen emotional stories about how Batman overcame his trauma, his origins, and his training and honing to become the Batman.
But I felt like what we didn’t see was his psychology. That of an imperfect character, at the start of his Batman career, when he doesn’t really know how he should be. The journey to understanding this is very personal. Very psychological: why is this guy doing this and what does he think he will get out of it?
It’s hard for me to tackle Batman with the pressure of there being great movies before mine (Matt Reeves)
So in that sense, the idea was to let the character have that arc. Because very often, once the origin story part is over, the stories of Batman show him to us when he has finished being someone else. When he is well, that he has trained and mastered. The story then revolves around what the villains will manage to do to get the hero involved.
I wanted our narrative arc to be centered on Batman. To show that he still had a long way to go, that he still didn’t fully understand how to be Batman. It was therefore necessary to take it very very seriously, on the psychological level. But that doesn’t mean the film is devoid of humor. When Robert and I were talking about the role, we were aware that there was something absurd about being Batman. Because you wear a suit to do this.
I tried to make the way the character acts make as much sense as possible. And the humor of the film, which is actually quite present, comes from there. When we were reading the script, Robert pointed out to me that the humor comes from the fact that Batman has, precisely, no sense of humor. And that’s exactly it! He is very invested and serious in what he does, he does not say things with irony. So the humor comes from the discrepancy between what he says and does, and the absurdity of certain situations.
Robert’s approach is truly marvelous and there are a couple of moments in the film that result from that. Ultimately, The Batman is of course on the darker spectrum of what DC does in film. He tries to take the character seriously and relies a lot on this idea of making people believe that the character could exist. Many superheroes have superpowers, but Batman is one of the few who doesn’t. Other than his obsessive will to do what he does and his ability to endure a lot.
And its resources. He comes from a rich family and therefore has the means to do all this. But other than that, he’s a real person. The darkness and dirt comes from making a thriller, an investigative film, which carries a form of darkness within it. But there is a bit of fun, related to the fact that the hero happens to be Batman.
A YOUNGER BATMAN
Matt Reeves: A lot of movies have shown the moment Bruce Wayne decides to become Batman, and they’ve done it very well. I knew I wanted to show him young, without doing an origin story. That you discover him fully in his criminological experience. The idea of becoming Batman hinges on seeing if you can intimidate criminals to bring down crime.
It’s a bit of a crazy idea because he decides to become a vigilante. To do justice himself. I still wanted to see this so I decided to make a “Batman – Year Two” [par opposition au comic book “Batman – Année Un”, qui sert souvent de référence quand il est question des origines du héros, ndlr]. That is to say, we discover him a year after his decision to become this figure, when he does not yet have the desired effect, because crime in Gotham is inflexible. It’s as if he were throwing water into a well that already has some, it only adds more.
Even in such a dark, isolated, dystopian and cold world, there is a beating heart at its center, personified by the relationship between Bruce and Alfred (Andy Serkis)
He’s tortured by these consequences, and I wanted him to push himself, to see if he can have another effect on the city. The idea of having a less than perfect Batman helped me in my search for a different approach. And that gives us a Batman driven primarily by revenge. Every person he meets somehow echoes what happened to his parents – a scene we don’t see in the film but shapes it.
Our Bruce Wayne is therefore a very disturbed guy, who is between 20 and 30 years old, tries to make his actions count, surpasses himself, and is addicted to this very sensory experience: you go out at night wearing a mask so that no one you don’t know who you are, you hide your identity, you go to a neighborhood known for its criminals, you look for trouble, and it almost makes you high.
Peter Sarsgaard (Gil Colson): Bruce Wayne is in a transition phase here. It’s his teenage years. Not literally, but in the sense that he is looking for his identity. I find it very stimulating and that’s why people gravitate towards the youth: because it’s a period of transition.
Matt Reeves: We have often seen a Batman who hides behind the mask of Bruce Wayne, a rich and imposing playboy, who struts around with very beautiful women in luxurious cars. I decided to imagine a young man belonging to a royal line who would have suffered a tragic event. He’s like that child who would have become lonely and a little disturbed, and whom people would imagine to be drugged. Which it is, because his drug is Batman. This drug he takes at night, his way of getting high, is to become Batman.
This is also the reason for the presence of the song “Something in the Way” of Nirvana in the first trailer: it comes from the scenario. I had Kurt Cobain as a reference. I saw a lonely person making music with amps spread out in a rundown Wayne Manor when I thought of my Batman. And that’s what drew me to Robert Pattinson. He had this rock ‘n’ roll and self-destructive side, and I was excited to see that he identified with the character.
Robert Pattinson (Bruce Wayne/Batman): [Créer le costume] was an interesting process in that capacity, where you talk about how you want to feel in it. I tried several individual elements and it remains something theoretical for a long time. And when we came to this final costume together, I remember trying it on and sitting around giggling. I wanted to go to the mirror to see the result while grumbling (laughs) You almost wanna punch someone in the face (laughs) But it was a great experience.
Andy Serkis (Alfred): Gotham City and the environment in which Batman finds himself always seem mythical. And there’s a perfect balance between a world we can identify with while being slightly metaphorical enough to feel familiar. But it’s the emotion that’s at the heart of the story and that fits Matt as the director. Even in such a dark, isolated, dystopian, and cold world, there is a beating heart at its center, personified by the relationship between Bruce and Alfred. It creates hope and light in the midst of darkness.
My version of Alfred is like this surrogate father who can never be a father. And her relationship with Bruce is very complex, dysfunctional and full of knots. The young man is like a withdrawn teenager who refuses to be helped, as well as any form of wisdom and words from a father figure, a mentor. Especially since Alfred isn’t programmed to feel what it’s like to be a parent.
As a soldier, he was desensitized by the war. There is almost a psychopathic side to Alfred, in the sense that he does not feel emotion. But he feels pain in not being able to feel that emotion. And it is also in this that their relationship is complex. Fortunately, they understand each other and connect on their ability to decipher codes and messages. It’s like a hobby that they share and which reduces the distance between them, allowing them to talk to each other.
When he was younger, they probably had a very good relationship, when Alfred taught him these skills. But I think he witnessed the disintegration of that relationship and felt a deep sadness. It’s like watching your kids enter their teens and start to shut themselves off by not needing you anymore. While you were the center of their world at one time, you now operate on the periphery.
A MORE VIOLENT BATMAN?
Dylan Clark: The movie will definitely be PG-13 [interdit aux moins de 13 ans non accompagnés, classification américaine de la grande majorité des blockbusters, ndlr]. This has always been our intention. Our work has been to achieve a sincere, honest and visceral experience. And some things are obviously dark, especially in a city like Gotham City, with a character like Batman, who is going to come face to face with this line between good and evil. But we’ve always aimed for the PG-13 rating.
There is intensity, so it’s not for an 8 year old, although I will show it to my young children. You just have to keep in mind that it’s realistic and visceral, and that the big emotional arc that we’ve been looking to create for Bruce is through the psychological exploration of some of the darker things that have happened to him, as seen in the trailers.
Interview by Maximilien Pierrette in Paris on December 6, 2021