Since his first live-action movie appearance in 1966, the Dark Knight known as Batman has been gracing the big screen for more than 50 years. Within those five decades, there have been six actors that have taken over the role of the Caped Crusader, including Adam West, Christian Bale and, most recently, Ben Affleck.
Cast in 2013, Affleck portrayed the hero in three films within the DC Extended Universe (DCEU): “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Suicide Squad” and “Justice League.” Although he was slated to write and direct a standalone Batman film featuring his iteration of the crimefighter, he eventually dropped out as writer-director due to creative differences. After his departure, directors such as George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road”), Gavin O’Connor (“The Accountant”) and Denis Villeneuve (“Blade Runner 2049”) were reportedly on the shortlist to helm the new Batman film.
Matt Reeves, director of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and “War for the Planet of the Apes,” signed on in February of 2017 to write and direct a new rendition of the Dark Knight. Less than six years after his introduction in the live-action DC Universe, however, Affleck left the titular role, leaving fans asking the biggest question: Who will be the next Batman?
According to Comic Book Resources, Aaron-Taylor Johnson (“Avengers: Age of Ultron”), Alexander Ludwig (“Vikings”) and Nicholas Hoult (the “X-Men” series) were three of many actors rumored to be top contenders to play the Caped Crusader. In May of 2019, Variety reported that the role of Batman was given to the star of the upcoming Christopher Nolan film “Tenet,” Robert Pattinson.
Joining Pattinson is a star-studded cast of highly acclaimed actors playing famous, as well as infamous, characters within the Batman comic book universe. Jeffrey Wright (“Westworld”) will be playing the role of Batman’s friend and ally, Commissioner Jim Gordon. Another actor who will be assisting the Dark Knight is Andy Serkis (“Planet of the Apes” franchise), playing Bruce Wayne’s trusty butler, Alfred Pennyworth. Rounding out the cast are Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Colin Farrell and John Turturro in the roles of the villainous Catwoman, The Riddler, The Penguin and Carmine Falcone, respectively.
“The Batman” is said to be taking place in a universe different from the already-existing DCEU; Batman and the film’s other characters have no relations or connections to the heroes we have already been introduced to in recent DC films. In an interview with Indiewire, Reeves stated that the film will not be an origin story, meaning Wayne is already Batman. This spares the time needed to explain Wayne’s motivation to become the masked hero due to his parents’ deaths.
Fans have started to speculate how the film’s plot might diverge from past “Batman” entries. Reeves stated that the movie will be a more psychologically driven, noir-type film, leading many fans to believe the story will be loosely based on the comic book series “Batman: The Long Halloween.”
In this series, Batman hunts down a gimmicky villain known as Holiday, who murders civilians during — you guessed it — holidays. To make matters worse, Batman has to juggle finding the villain and stopping a crime war involving Carmine Falcone. Another member in Batman’s rogues gallery, Calendar Man, knows the identity of Holiday but refuses to explicitly disclose it to Batman, instead giving him riddles to solve the mystery himself.
If this is the plotline Reeves is using in his movie, it is likely that the role of Calendar Man will be replaced by The Riddler; after all, riddles are obviously his thing.
Reeves mentioned that Wayne’s detective skills are at the forefront of this film, something that has not been delved into in previous Batman movies. The “Arkham” video game series proved that Batman’s detective work is as interesting as his combat skills. Given that he is also known in the DC Universe as the World’s Greatest Detective, it would be fascinating to see Batman solving Gotham’s many mysteries.
Because “The Batman” will showcase a younger version of the hero and take place early on in his crime-fighting career, Reeves has the opportunity to introduce viewers to new allies and a growing catalogue of villains; as reported by Deadline, it will be the beginning of a new trilogy of Batman films starring Pattinson.
But what about the DCEU?
The absence of Batman leaves a void in the DCEU, as the Caped Crusader is one of the most important, if not the most important, characters of DC Comics. “Justice League” (2017) already established popular DC characters like Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and the Flash, along with Batman. Fans were ecstatic to have a comic-accurate Batman in Affleck, but his departure left them wondering how Warner Bros. is going to reintroduce the Dark Knight into the new era of DC films.
Enter “Flashpoint.” For people unfamiliar with the story, “Flashpoint” was a limited comic book series — which has since been adapted into an animated movie — that focused on the scarlet speedster known as the Flash.
In this series, the Flash, also known as Barry Allen, went back in time to save his mother from getting murdered, an event that was crucial to his origin story. Doing so causes a chain of events to dramatically alter Allen’s present-day timeline. In the new timeline unintentionally created by the Flash, the world is completely different; Bruce Wayne is no longer Batman, Aquaman and Wonder Woman are villains and, most importantly, the Flash does not have his super speed.
It was announced in 2014 that a movie revolving around the Flash was in the works, but years of different directors hot-potato-ing it delayed the film’s production. It was not until August of 2019 that “It” and “It Chapter Two” director Andy Muschietti was announced to direct the upcoming Flash movie, scheduled for a 2022 release. Muschietti also stated that his Flash film will be based on the aforementioned “Flashpoint” story.
Using the concept of time travel as the backbone of the story may become messy and convoluted, possibly creating plot holes or unresolved conflict. However, implementing the “Flashpoint” story line may be the smartest move Warner Bros. can make to right any probable wrongs presented in any of the current eight DC films.
The film does not have to exactly follow its source material, but it would be the perfect opportunity for DC to once again introduce Bruce Wayne back into the universe. Because “The Batman” is currently not a part of the DCEU, “Flashpoint” could open the door for a newer, younger Batman, with Pattinson replacing Affleck and bridging the two universes together. This way, the film may clear up any confusion regarding the recasting by using the time-travel aspect as a crutch to explain it.
Having seen so many versions of Batman over the past five decades, fans might be getting tired of the constant reboots of the Caped Crusader. Rest assured, however, that Reeves and Pattinson will do a great job of giving them a fresh perspective of the crime-fighting vigilante. DC should be confident in Pattinson’s ability to bring Gotham’s greatest hero back to the big screen and, in turn, reintroduce him to the DC Extended Universe.