With The Batman – now in cinemas – director and co-writer Matt Reeves has given us the first standalone film about the titular billionaire superhero since Christopher Nolan completed his Dark Knight Trilogy. (In fact, it’s almost a decade. We’re approaching the 10th anniversary of The Dark Knight Rises, the disappointing conclusion to an otherwise fantastic series. Of course, Batman hasn’t gone anywhere, with Ben Affleck playing him three times already and Michael Keaton set to return after 30 years.) And with Pattinson having signed a three-picture deal, it’s clear Reeves is planning to emulate Nolan. with his own Batman trilogy. The Batman teases its sequel as it ends – introducing its next villain just like Nolan on Batman Begins.
Warning: Major spoilers ahead for The Batman. Proceed at your own risk.
And it turns out to be the same: The Joker (Barry Keoghan, credited as Unseen Arkham Prisoner). Reeves doesn’t confirm it outright – although I imagine an interview in which he or someone else does days or weeks from now – but all signs point to the Clown Prince of Crime being part of The Batman 2, The Batman Part II, or whatever the hell Warner Bros decides to call its sequel. There’s the “clown” remark, the unmistakable laugh, and the brief misty look on his face. It couldn’t be anyone else. And if Batman’s nemesis is going to be in a movie, you can bet he’ll be the main villain. A first sequel to a Batman reboot that focuses on the Joker? Now where have I heard that before? No points for a correct guess – I’ve alluded to this before – it’s The Dark Knight.
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It’s bold and funny and curious that Reeves is thinking of going in that direction with The Batman 2. Funny because, as I noted in my review, The Batman itself hit some beats that reminded me of The Dark Knight. On the one hand, there’s Riddler’s (Paul Dano) targeting of Gotham City’s elite. Just like the Joker (Heath Ledger) did in The Dark Knight. Even the victims overlap. Joker sued the commissioner, a judge, the mayor (unsuccessfully), Rachel, and the district attorney. Riddler goes after the mayor, commissioner, district attorney, and Bruce Wayne (he gets Alfred from Andy Serkis instead). There is no Rachel in The Batman but the scheme is the same: police, law, legislative and personnel. They both supposedly have their reasons, but it comes down to playing with Batman. They play games.
The comparisons don’t stop there. As with The Dark Knight, after the villain is taken into custody – to be fair, the Riddler goes to The Batman – our detective superhero comes face-to-face with him. The setting may be different (a hospital rather than a police station) and there may be a wall of glass between the two (unlike what happened in The Dark Knight), but the underlying tension remains. the same. (Some of Riddler’s lines and his planning are also reminiscent of the Joker.) Batman is powerless in his “interrogation” scenes – and the only information he gets from the prisoner is handed over to him willingly. Of course, there are major differences, especially in when these scenes occur in the respective movies and how they fit into the larger picture.
By making a first sequel with the Joker, Reeves invites direct comparisons. It’s curious why he would voluntarily put himself in this position. It also puts Keoghan in an unenviable position. Ledger won a posthumous Oscar and multiple accolades — and his Joker is frequently cited as the greatest live-action comic book villain performance of all time. Everyone who has played The Joker since Ledger has naturally been compared to him. Jared Leto made a one-time appearance in David Ayer suicide squad it was not well seen. Joaquin Phoenix did a terrific job in Todd Phillips Joker but unfortunately he was stuck in a film that had nothing to say and bordered on irresponsibility, equating mental health issues with a capacity for violence.
Why The Dark Knight Is One Of The Great Movies Of All Time
And The Dark Knight is the movie that quietly changed the Oscars. Most industry players agree that a Best Picture nomination for Nolan’s epic pushed the Academy away from the rule of five Best Picture nominees. Shortly after, the Academy – the body that organizes the Oscars – announced that it was widening the field. Instead of five, it would now allow up to 10 films to be nominated. (This rule has been changed again starting with the 2022 Oscars, with 10 filmstrips nominated for Best Picture going forward.) It was thanks to The Dark Knight that comic book movies began to be taken more seriously. seriously – and why Black Panther earned a Best Picture nomination a few years ago.
Given the scale of The Dark Knight, it’s bold of Reeves to opt for the Joker as the sequel’s centerpiece. But then, The Batman is a bold movie. It’s unlike any other comic that exists today. More psychological horror than audiences tend to expect from superhero movies these days: action drama peppered with jokes and zingers. (That perception is mostly down to Marvel’s gender rule, with its philosophy even impacting its rivals, as DC and Sony have more or less followed suit.) In that sense, it’s a remarkably different beast from the Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Closer to what Damon Lindelof watchmen did for superhero fare on television.
The Batman demands a lot from its audience, and not just because it’s nearly three hours long. 176 minutes, to be precise. While Nolan slowly increased runtimes as he invested audiences in his universe – The Dark Knight Rises (165 minutes) was longer than The Dark Knight (152 minutes), which was longer than Batman Begins (140 minutes) – Reeves demands that from the start. The Batman isn’t just longer than anything Nolan has published or any standalone Batman movie of all time – it’s the longest character-centric superhero movie of all time. The only superhero films longer than The Batman are Avengers: Endgame (181 minutes) and Zack Snyder’s Justice League (242 minutes), both of which were mega team events.
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It shows the trust placed in Reeves by Warner, whose new generation of executives clearly have a greater appetite for risk than those who imposed a two-hour run-on rule on Justice League, the poorly received theatrical counterpart to Snyder’s aforementioned director’s cut. And given Reeves’ record with Planet of the Apes — I maintain it’s the best trilogy of the 2010s — I too have faith in the director of The Batman. Although I really hope he knows what he’s doing. The Dark Knight is one of my favorite movies of all time, and The Batman 2 will have to be something crazy, special, and legendary to avoid looking like an equally popular one. Reeves invites comparison and he must answer for it.
The Batman was released on March 4 in theaters in India, the United States and across the world.
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