Walking into the theater and seeing the previews for The Batman are what immediately came to mind. That’s because the trailer doesn’t do this blockbuster justice. Sure, it gives you an idea of what to expect, but it doesn’t do anything to convey the sheer awesomeness that is The Batman.
From the get-go, the tone is set perfectly. You have an almost comically campy, yet slick and professional, voice-over, which sets the scene for what’s to come. Then Batman (Robert Pattinson) makes his grand entrance, the tension is increased, and the movie begins.
Batman is the ultimate example of a movie monster, a dark knight who walks the earth seeking justice. As a character, he is polarizing. Some see him as a symbol of oppression and vigilantism, while others see him as a manifestation of their own inner-hero. In the trailer, the juxtaposition of the incredibly serious tone with the humor and light-heartedness of the scene is evident. This is also the type of juxtaposition that makes it so easy to portray the duality of The Batman and its titular character. The trailer gives you a taste of what is to come; a character who is both heroic and sinister, with an origin story that sees him grapple with a tyrannical figure, a stand-in for The State. It couldn’t be more relevant today and it makes the character even more interesting to explore.
The Rise of Batman
Although Batman has been around for almost 70 years now, the modern-day incarnation of the character doesn’t seem to have really come about until 1939, with the publication of Detective Comics No. 27. Prior to that point, Batman was not an independently operating character but rather a supporting player in stories involving other characters, primarily those from the Justice Society of America. One of these supporting characters is Jack Drake, who is credited with creating Batman and serving as the character’s first costume designer. This is significant because it means that Batman’s earliest looks were not as a superhero but as a regular man, complete with a blank white mask, armed with a gun and generally regarded as an underdog. This theme of Batman as a regular person, rather than a god, is explored in the trailer. As you will see, nothing about Batman is what it seems.
The trailer opens with a scene that sees Batman interrogating a suspect, an act that is both serious and reflective of the characters’ darker side. It is also a scene that sees Batman question his own existence and mission. After being subjected to a brutal beating from the suspect, he is left with a concussion and multiple fractures. The suspect denies any knowledge of the assault and Batman knows better. The trailer then cuts to black, leaving you hanging on the words of the interrogator. Is this man really as dumb as he seems? Could this actually be Jack Drake? In all likelihood, it is. If you listen closely, you can hear Drake’s distinctive voice coming from off-screen, even as he makes a feeble attempt at suppressing laughter. This is yet another example of how the trailer hints at the duality that is at the heart of The Batman.
Even before the trailer, it was clear that this movie would not play it safe, paring back the more fantastical elements of the Dark Knight’s origin in favor of a more realistic tale. This was made explicit in the casting. In the comics, Batman has occasionally crossed paths with characters who resembled real-life celebrities, most notably with members of the Ku Klux Klan. This is the sort of thing that might alarm parents, especially given today’s climate. To play it safe, the filmmakers would have to tone down the more fantastical elements of the story, presumably limiting the appeal of the movie to older audiences. This is not what is intended with The Batman. In fact, the trailer makes it quite clear that the filmmakers have no interest in playing it safe and are quite proud of the fact that this movie will appeal to as many people as possible, including the most ardent of fans. This is also made clear in the casting. While Christian Bale is a great actor and an excellent fit for the role of Batman, he is not the only actor to emerge from this year’s cast. In fact, Robert Pattinson, who plays the part of Batman in the movie, is actually a celebrity in his own right. He has been in a string of successful films, including Twilight and the upcoming Maps to the Stars, in which he plays Rick Deckard, a detective hunting down rogue human beings who have been engineered to look almost exactly like everyone else. In the trailer, Rick Deckard is seen interrogating yet another suspect (played by Chinese actress Jing Wang). While this scene does contain a few of the more fantastical elements associated with Batman, it is not overtly so. There is an emphasis on practical effects and visual style, as you will see.
The Madness of Batman
If there is one thing that unites all the films starring Batman it is that, despite being a world-class athlete, Bruce Wayne takes his obsession with self-improvement and applies it to his athletic ability, training with the best coach in the world, Dick Grayson (Burt Ward). It is this obsession with self-improvement that drives Wayne to create his own specialized gym, complete with a pool and all the modern-day exercise equipment. This is the sort of detail that could not be made explicit in the trailer, due to timing issues. It was either included or excluded to better fit within the approved character outline.
Bruce Wayne is an incredible character. He is both an inspiration and role model to countless people, which is surely why his story has been told and retold countless times. In many ways, the character’s most interesting aspects lie in his contradictions. We see this in the trailer when he questions his own methods, wondering if his pursuit of perfection is actually leading him on a path to ruin. This is made quite clear in the scene, where you see Wayne contemplating suicide. It is a powerful moment and quite an important narrative beat in terms of setting the scene for what is to come. This is explored even further in the context of Wayne’s final hours, as he struggles with whether or not to go through with his plan.
It was inevitable that fans would want to know more about Batman’s rogues gallery. In the trailer, it is revealed that the rogue’s gallery is not as empty as you would think. For a character who has been around for so long, the rogues gallery is remarkably deep and populated with interesting characters. It is a tribute to the strength and narrative brilliance of the Batman mythos that so many interesting characters can be found in here. In the back of the trailer, there is even an entire gallery dedicated to character posters, complete with iconic images from the Batman mythos.
The Evolution of Batman
As stated above, it is quite interesting to see how this film will play it safe, focusing on practical effects and realistic cinematography, rather than special effects and a larger-than-life presence. There are quite a few scenes in the trailer that could be attributed to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is quite an interesting comparison, as The Batman was actually inspired by the success of Marvel’s Black Panther, particularly its use of VFX and costume designs. A big thanks must go out to Hock Choi, the costume designer for Black Panther, who won an award for her incredible work on that film. As mentioned above, Jack Drake would go on to serve as Batman’s original costume designer and it was he who first suggested the use of a mask in order to conceal the true identity of the vigilante. Black Panther also saw the character of T’Challa wear a mask, though in that instance, it was more of a fashion choice and functioned as an integral part of his costume.
While the trailer focuses on Batman’s physical transformation, it is his mental and emotional state that is explored most deeply. After being shot by a police officer during one of his very first forays into crime-fighting, Wayne rebuilt his life, eventually creating a life for himself outside of crime-fighting, which he considers to be a mistake. As he comes to terms with this mistake, he sets about righting the wrongs that were committed, as part of his self-imposed punishment, which mostly involves helping those who have been victimized by the system. Once he has accomplished this, something happens that completely alters the course of his life, turning him into the Dark Knight.