Requiem for the Batfleck, Matt Reeves, and the Fate of the Franchise

All good things must come to end, unless of course they never were good, then they simply end, and for us, the not-so-innocent bystanders, we are left wondering why we let any of it happen. Because we had no choice: the common misconception. Though, we still filled the seats, bought the tickets, told friends, and wrote articles like this that no one will read in order to alleviate ourselves of the immense guilt we’re destined to carry for having been complicit in anything every produced in tandem by Zack Snyder and the think-tank over at Warner Brothers. It’s the end of an era: the Batfleck is dead.

News broke that Matt Reeves is moving on from Ben Affleck and will cast someone new as the Caped Crusader for his upcoming film, tentatively titled, The Batman. It’s complicated. More so than I’d ever admit, as I approach thirty, have children of my own, and still allot an ample amount of time to meditate over the means in which the think tank at Warner Brothers will further mutilate my childhood hero. It’s a real problem. Ask Bill Maher. Because the Snyder experiment was such a monumental letdown, you would think that a fresh take on Batman, a narrative that has, like the tombs of great kings, been discovered and rediscovered and robbed of its riches time and time again, would be something we’d all look forward to, especially with a proven, creative mind (more-or-less) in the director’s chair…and writer’s chair…and producer’s chair. Matt Reeves. I don’t have much to say about Matt Reeves other than I know Matt Reeves isn’t Christopher Nolan. That’s not fair to Matt Reeves, but I don’t care because I’m not Roger Ebert. Not that Roger Ebert would care about Matt Reeves not being Christopher Nolan, but he was probably a better person than me and wouldn’t have wasted his time considering the impact one director…and writer…and producer might have on a film compared to another, better director…and writer…and producer as if that were the only thing that mattered, and Roger Ebert certainly wouldn’t be boring you with a shameless, long-winded, run-on sentence like this. But seriously, lets play Nostradamus.

A couple red flags have me already waving a white one, begging the think-tank at Warner Brothers for an iota of mercy. I haven’t written here much, too busy running my mouth to the other, more well-mannered writers of GO who have more experience and more-refined opinions than my own, but the lot of movies DC/Warner Brother has pumped out since the Nolan’s Batman series has been catastrophic. The more movies DC/Warner Brothers pump out, the closer we get to Infinite Jest (the film in the book, not the book itself), a visually-striking film so radically counterbalanced by its vapid plot that confusion is supplemented for entertainment, an entirely new kind of escape that glues us to our seats in our hopeless quest to understand what the heck is going on. What a bizarre parallel to our daily news cycle. Maybe DC/Warner Brothers is onto something. But that’s another discussion for another time—back to the red flags.

In a recent interview, Matt Reeves stated that his Batman will be more “in his detective mode than we’ve seen in other films…It’s very much a point-of-view driven, noir Batman tale.” Okay. Picturing Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? is nostalgic for all the wrong reasons. Don’t get me wrong here, Batman is supposed to be, as Reeves points out, the World’s Greatest Detective, but I’m not sure he’s accurate in asserting that his role as a crime solver is entirely absent in previous Batman films. It sure played a role in the Nolan movies. And you damn well know Clooney followed a trail of clues to the natural history museum, only to discover Mr. Freeze thieving diamonds with his hockey-playing goons. This is crime-solving 101. I mean, was it luck or a detective’s intuition that motivated Clooney to wear the boots with the built-in hockey skates? You tell me. Regardless, I can understand how this might shift the dynamic of the character, and allow us to dive more deeply into the mind behind the mask, a complete 180 from Snyder’s gun-slinging, Freudian nightmare. To get something similar Hush would be rewarding, and I think in order for us to understand Batman’s detective intuition it would be no better than to follow Hush’s blueprint, to examine the Batman character as he confronts his past and is consistently challenged by his detective intuition, his inability to trust his gut. The character can only be refined from there. And this, it seems, is Reeve’s goal: to engineer a character arc that inspires transformation. This is encouraging. Just unlikely. Why?

Reeves also mentioned the rogue’s gallery. Multiple villains. Maybe a lot of them. But hold on: doesn’t every Batflick feature multiple villains? Sure. Most failed. And I get it. Look at the source material, namely the graphic novels. The best feature a healthy balance of villains, and Batman moves from one to the next, ever closer to cracking the case. But the page isn’t easily translated to the screen. Open any of these graphic novels and in them you’ll find Nolan’s inspiration. He and David S. Goyer even have an interview published as the forward in The Long Halloween. It’s a gift, and I call it a gift because I’m so unsure it’s a learnable skill, something that can be mastered over time, for the artist to at once pay tribute to source material while also exercising his own artistic liberty. It involves, foremost, as far as I know, a certain level of humility that I would imagine to be otherwise detrimental to the job, especially in Hollywood where brash translates to big bucks. This was a fundamental problem with the Snyder experiment, a case of artistic liberty gone too far. Perhaps this isn’t fair to Reeves, for me to be preemptively judging his intentions, but the formula has so seldom worked that chance sleeps soundly at my feet. If my interpretation of Reeves’ vision is correct, he intends to create a close character study of Batman and Bruce Wayne, to tell the tale “very squarely on his shoulders.” Introducing a broad scope of villains to an intimate examination of a deeply complex character sounds like an incredibly difficult undertaking, especially when you consider the idiosyncratic nature of Batman’s villains. To me, it sounds like a lot of moving parts, and plate spinning is an art lost along with bellbottoms and roller-discos.

And we can end this at Affleck, who never got a fair shake. I honestly didn’t think he was a bad cast for the role, considering everyone else apparently being considered. And in spite of everything so horrific about the various Batman projects he was involved with, like the many Batmans sacrificed before him, I felt he did an okay job, and I’m kind of sad to see him go. Sad because I’m okay with him, but also because we have to start this torturous process all over again. I have no opinions on the matter. None. Apparently Reeves wants a young Bruce Wayne, sort of a stretch from his initial cry for Jake Gyllenhaal, who is somehow not all that young (38) and is going to be Mysterio and was also Bubble Boy. Note to self: if I’m ever given like a hundred million dollars to make a Batman movie, make sure I don’t cast anyone from Bubble Boy. If you really want to upset yourself, read this article from Complex. You’ll start to feel as if there really, actually is no one, not a single person in the current pool of Hollywood any-listers who fit the part. Which, since representation and opportunity and buzzword-buzzword-buzzword are a big thing in the industry now, if I were Reeves and I were comfortable in the fact that the think-tank at Warner Brothers is comfortable spending literally all their money on basically anything branded “superhero,” I would roll the dice and go with someone new. It’s Batman, after all, and Reeves doesn’t need a big name to draw any amount of attention to the ticket boxes. Learn from Solo, a film that, like Batman, needed no introduction and shamelessly fed Alden Ehrenreich to the wolves. Not that it would have helped; it just wouldn’t have made us all go into it knowing we’re going to hate it. There’s opportunity here to find the right people who are right for the roles, and in doing so add to what I feel is a limited, aging Hollywood talent pool. I’m not sure there was a single person who didn’t sneer at Ledger playing the Joker. He was a heartthrob, basically, who transformed into something entirely unrecognizable. It was genius. I felt the same way when I heard Nolan was considering Philip Seymour Hoffman for Penguin. His bleach-blonde hair…it didn’t make any sense. But then, you get it, in an almost indescribable fashion, like a sixth sense, how a certain actor can assume a character’s essence and become something beyond the body. Instead, there’s news that Josh Gad, apparently a friend of Reeves, is deeply interested in playing Penguin. Seriously. LeFou. Like Ehrenreich who, I believe, might have been cast solely because he vaguely looked like Harrison Ford and said “Falcon” really, really weird, Gad as Penguin is convincing only to the extent that they share the same body shape. Maybe I’ll be wrong about this one, assuming it happens, but I would hope that being overweight and friends with Matt Reeves aren’t the only qualifiers for playing Penguin.

Consult your crystal ball, break out your deck or tarot cards, try to find the face of Jesus imprinted in your cinnamon swirl toast: predicting the future is an unfair and fruitless endeavor. For now, I find solace in the fact that The Batman (tentative title) won’t be released until Summer 2021. If I were Reeves I would keep silent about everything until I was pressing deadline. I would not inform the outside world about any of my decisions, including casting, until I released the first trailer. Don’t give people time to react. I hope to not hear anything about this until Christmas, next year. When I’m thirty. Perhaps then I will have grown up, and won’t care about these childish things anymore. At the very least, it will have given me enough time to forget.

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