The world is bracing itself for the imminent release of War for the Planet of The Apes, but already director Matt Reeves has his eyes on his next big project; the solo Batman movie. With Ben Affleck out of the picture as director, Reeves is considering rewrites that could take the caped crusader in a bold new direction. Originally due to start shooting later this year, The Batman has been pushed back into 2018 to accommodate the director’s busy schedule. From Alfred Hitchcock to Christopher Nolan, Reeves wears his influences on his sleeve, recently outlining his plans for the world’s greatest detective.
In a recent interview Reeves spoke of his childhood passion for Batman, and the qualities that he hopes his new project can bring to the fore: “I just was obsessed with Batman when I was a kid. What I find so interesting about him as a character is that, as far a superhero goes, he’s not superhuman, he is a person. And he is a tortured soul who is grappling with his past and trying to find a way to be in a world that has a lot that’s wrong with it and trying to find a way to reconcile all of that.”
However, he remained cagey on exactly what shape the story could take: “I have ideas about an arc, but really, the important thing is just to start… you have to start with one. You know, you have to start with a story that begins something. And I would be lying if I could tell you that the arcs of Apes was already planned out, because it simply wasn’t; it’s one of those things where that character was so potent, and the possibility was embedded from the beginning, but exactly how you’ve got from A to Z is not something that existed.”
Reeves also made it clear that he wasn’t going to be beholden to anyone else’s ideas about how the story should be told: “In fact, when I came in on Dawn, the story that I wanted to tell was different from the story that they had even presented me. And so, there are these broad ideas, I think, that sort of came to mind as Rise was created, of how that story could be told, but they weren’t explicitly laid-out. And when [screenwriter] Mark [Bomback] and I began Dawn, we knew what our goals were, but we didn’t know how we were gonna get there, and I would say that that more relates to the way that I see a Batman story, is a kind of ambition for a series of stories, but really the most important thing is gonna be to tell a vital first story.”
There’s a disturbing amount of emphasis on “beginnings” and “first stories” in Reeves’ interviews thus far. We hope he’s not dropping any hints about redoing the origin story because, we swear to god, if we have to watch another string of pearls falling in slow motion onto the ground in an alleyway, someone’s getting a Batarang to the face.
Reeves has taken on a massive responsibility and there’s a rabid fanbase waiting in the wings to rip him to shreds if he doesn’t pull it off. Looming largest over the Batman filmscape is, of course, Christopher Nolan’s beloved trilogy. In interviews Reeves talked of the inspiration that he takes from Nolan’s work, saying: “What I love that what [Nolan] did was that he took the genre seriously.”
He continues: “What studios are willing to make at the moment is a very, very narrow band of films. What I discovered is that this genre has the potential to be about something more,” adding: “I think the other thing that I really admire in what [Nolan] did was knowing what it is to make a big studio film, which often can fall into that sense of committee filmmaking, where there’s an anonymity to the point of view of the film.”
Drawing on the work of filmmaking legends, Reeves is determined to give us an insight into Batman’s world, placing us directly in the Dark Knight’s boots: “For me, point of view is really important. I want to make sure you are experiencing something from the perspective of the main character in the story. I’m a huge Hitchcock fan – I like the idea of being immersed in that perspective.”
What made Rise of the Planet of the Apes truly remarkable were the depths of empathy brought to the character of Caesar, and Reeves plans to pull off a similar trick with the man behind the mask: “We’re holding a mirror up to ourselves, we’re looking at ourselves in these apes’ faces and I feel the same potential in Batman,” he says, adding: “I think Nolan’s films did that and I think Batman as a myth is a very similar myth [to Caesar’s], in that he’s a tortured soul who is struggling to find a way to do the right thing in a very imperfect world.”
The Nolan Batman films are the jewels in the DC cinematic crown, but unless a director steps up to the plate soon, they run the risk of becoming an albatross tied around DC’s neck. Batman needs to be a film that stands on its own two feet, without using the popularity of Nolan’s work as a crutch. Wonder Woman has set a high benchmark for what is possible with a DC film that plays to the strengths of its characters rather than pandering to its audience. We hope that Reeves is able to do the same for Batman.