The reaction to the first teaser trailer for The Batman, revealed last night at DC Fandome, has been one of almost unanimous praise so far: which makes it my painful duty to report that I can’t quite share in the growing excitement surrounding the film as much as I’d love to, as much as I truly hope to be able to in the near future, as more of the film is completed and revealed to us. Unfortunately, the teaser trailer simply isn’t connecting with me, although I’ve now watched it several times. I’ve identified most of my issues, as well as several elements which I genuinely find interesting or at least intriguing, and hope to see expanded upon.
Let’s start with a positive: Robert Pattinson. I’m a big fan of Pattinson, and I feel certain he has all the makings of an excellent, instantly iconic, Batman. A dark, twisted, vengeful Batman who stalks the streets of Gotham like a rogue detective – we’ll talk about detective work in a moment – dealing out a very violent kind of justice to the city’s hordes of criminals and wrongdoers. Pattinson’s suit has the perfect Batman silhouette, and I absolutely love all of his gadgetry and customized accessories – particularly his Batmobile, which flares into life around the trailer’s midpoint and looks to be equipped for high-speed chases. I don’t quite understand what Pattinson and director Matt Reeves are going for with Bruce Wayne’s long, unkempt hair and dark eyeshadow, but it’s striking nonetheless and it’s already given rise to a deluge of memes about “Emo Batman”.
Gotham City itself is honestly a bit of a mixed bag, personally. On the one hand, I feel like this film is going to tell a Jack the Ripper storyline under the guise of superheroes and villains – The Riddler, who appears to be the film’s primary antagonist, shares many similarities with the historical serial killer, which this take on the character could be examining – and I love that idea. We don’t see any establishing shots of Gotham in this trailer, but it has all the essence of Jack the Ripper’s London: dark, foggy, atmospheric; the kind of city where evil lurks in wait around every street corner, and nobody is safe. But that stylistic decision feels almost too easy, too safe. It’s dark and it’s gritty, and those are two words I’ve heard enough of when it comes to Batman.
Now, I’m not saying that The Batman has to be as brightly-lit or gaudy as Birds Of Prey, but I do feel like a pop of color would help to differentiate this Gotham from past incarnations of the iconic city, while a bit of absurdity never hurt anyone. My ideal vision of Gotham is of a semi-psychedelic labyrinth, lit by flashing neon and inhabited by colorful characters. Gotham’s brooding darkness has been explored to death, but its sensuality (for lack of a better word) has never really been touched upon. Even if I were lucky enough to be making this movie, I would still incorporate that Jack the Ripper tone, but I don’t see why it needs to be oppressively grimdark to achieve that. At the same time, I should point out that only about thirty percent of The Batman has actually been filmed, and this teaser trailer may not be indicative of everything that’s in the film. Matt Reeves explained in the panel leading up to the trailer’s debut that all the characters will still be transitioning into the heroes and villains we know from the comics, and considering that he counted Gotham as a character in the story, I wonder if that same sort of character arc will be granted to the city itself.
I also don’t want to sound like I hate everything about Gotham – I love the mansion which Selina Kyle’s amateur Catwoman attempts to burgle, with its arched Gothic windows looking out over the city skyline. This mansion is also the setting where the Riddler’s first murder takes place.
Speaking of which, time to address the Riddler in the room! Paul Dano is never unmasked in the trailer, but from what we see and hear of him, he’s definitely a very disturbed and terrifying character. The first we see of him, he’s taking his time setting up a perfect little crime scene, leaving his clues and a signature calling card for Gotham’s greatest detective, Batman himself (feeling the Jack the Ripper vibes yet? Because I am). Matt Reeves mentioned that most of Batman’s villains are still new on the scene in this film, which takes place during the early years of the Caped Crusader’s career, and that Riddler in particular is only just emerging for the first time. That gives me hope that, despite Dano’s character appearing in muted green throughout the trailer, he will eventually suit up in a brighter, somewhat more comics-accurate costume, perhaps trading in his mask for a quaint little hat along the way. The tone of this Gotham seems so dark that it’s hard to imagine that being the case, but I’m remaining hopeful.
A large part of why I’m still hopeful is because Catwoman actress Zoë Kravitz mentioned in a previous interview that she has already had a chance to wear her Catwoman suit during the filming – so either she’s referring to her low-tech burglar getup in the trailer, or there are actually comics-accurate costumes in store for all of Batman’s villains. I don’t see why not: Batman got a perfect outfit, so why shouldn’t the rest? Ironically, Catwoman’s costume already looks quite good, though I don’t know if she’s intentionally embracing her feline design aesthetic, or if her ski mask is only accidentally bunching up into cat ears as an act of foreshadowing.
Then there’s The Penguin, and this is another negative: not because of Colin Farrell, who is very talented and seems to have undergone an incredible physical transformation into this role with the help of extreme makeup and prosthetics (can you say Oscar nominations?), but because the role requires this much makeup and prosthetics at all. When Farrell was announced as The Penguin, my first thought was how original and out of the box it was – in the comics, Penguin has always been a very grotesque figure, whereas Farrell is traditionally handsome. I concluded too quickly that Farrell’s Penguin would be very suave, maybe even fabulously dressed or well-groomed. Well, not quite. Farrell is instead unrecognizable under all the makeup, which has turned him into a much more familiar, jowly, balding crime lord. It feels safe. Too safe, if you ask me.
That’s my big problem with the trailer as a whole: it’s just a tad bit too predictable. When Matt Reeves promised us a Batman movie that’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before, I expected a wild divergence from the days of the dark, gritty Batmen in their dark, gritty Gothams – but instead, Reeves has doubled down on the dark and the gritty and come out with something that almost looks and feels like an exaggeration of everything I’ve grown bored with when it comes to this character. Now, I’m well aware that this Batman’s selling-point is supposed to be that he works as a detective, which is something I’m very excited to see (especially with The Riddler being the main villain), but I didn’t see him doing any actual detective-work in the trailer. And again, this is a teaser for a film that isn’t even half-completed yet, so it’s not fair to make any assumptions about anything, but I’ve still got to review what we did see – and what we did see didn’t feel like anything I haven’t seen before in some way or another, though there are distinct differences here and there.
Well, time to turn it over to you, dear reader. Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!
Trailer Rating: 7/10