Fans of the 1960s version of Batman, as well as the over-the-top theatrical nature of the 80s and 90s films, may have wished for a return to the comic fun of those earlier films. Still, Batman’s newly-released trailer, starring Robert Pattinson, is not moving the franchise in that direction. Based on the trailer, it appears the film will take the “dark” and “gritty” nature of the Christopher Nolan directed Batman movies starring Christian Bale and dial the foreboding to eleven.
Instead of bright colors and Cheshire-grinning villains, audiences were treated to Pattinson, beating a bad guy to the ground before growling, “I’m vengeance.”
This message, delivered via DC’s virtual convention, FanDome, appeared to hit the mark for many fans and media critics. Even those wary of seeing Pattinson in the cape and cowl, lauded the grittiness and dark ambiance of the film, as well as the teasers about the story.
In the trailer, Gotham is, as always, dark, and Batman is brooding over the endless crime wave that seems to control life in his city. It opens with a mystery, calling back to Batman’s earlier comic days as the flagship detective in Detective Comics’ arsenal. The mystery, however, also telegraphs this movie’s key villain, the enigmatic Riddler. But, if the trailer is any indication, fans should not expect this Riddler to be gallivanting across the screen with a crazed grin and a cane, wearing Day-Glo green tights. This Riddler is, like the rest of the movie, a darker incarnation, inviting Batman to play a darker “game.”
Joining the Riddler as an antagonist in this film is another of the most celebrated members of Batman’s rogue’s gallery, Catwoman. While the trailer did not offer much of how Selina Kyle’s alter ego will play into the plot, it’s apparent that she and Bruce Wayne will not share the cozy relationship they currently have in the comic continuity.
From a consumer and entertainment PR perspective, this film seems to follow the trend toward darker, more intense, and adult-themed superhero films. Since the success of Marvel’s Logan, as well as the deep dive into the pathos of Batman’s archrival The Joker, movies based on “funny books” have become anything but a barrel of laughs… and this shift has left producers, filmmakers, and studios laughing all the way to the bank.
Audiences appear to be loving the “darker, grittier” trend in superhero movies. Another recent example is the loud cry from fans for a literal remake of the Justice League movie, collectively known as the “Snyder Cut.” For years, that movement built steam online, with fans demanding a new version of the brighter, “funnier” Joss Whedon directed Justice League movie. Still, though, most in the industry felt there was no way that would ever happen. Hollywood just didn’t do things like that. If fans didn’t like a film, tough… Except, now the film has been remade, and the Snyder Cut will debut on HBO Max.
So, it appears that this direction in one of the most valuable single-hero IP properties in all of the comic-based media, which has brought in more than $5 billion at the box office since 1989, will continue to tell even darker stories of the Dark Knight, much of the rest of the DCU is trending that way as well, and the majority of fans could not be happier.