There is perhaps no better modern comic book adaptation than Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. That said, Matt Reeves is making no bones about the fact that he’s hoping to take the crown from the veteran director with the release of The Batman when it drops in March of 2022.
Producer Dyan Clark even called his shot, so to speak, in a conversation with Christopher Nolan while he and Matt Reeves were making the Robert Pattinson-led Batman film. Speaking to Empire in a recent interview all about the newest caped crusader to grace the big screen, Clark explained that he spoke with Christopher Nolan and told him directly that their aim while making The Batman was to make a better version of his already incredible and fan-beloved adaptation. “We’re going to try to beat you,” Clark told Christopher Nolan in no uncertain terms.
Clark stopped short of revealing how the director responded to that line, but it seems he didn’t challenge him to a gentleman’s duel or anything. Indeed, each version of Bruce Wayne’s story is different for its own myriad of reasons despite being based on the same source material. While the trailer for The Batman shows a gritty, noir-inspired world similar to that of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, it seems that there will be a significantly different focus.
Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins was loosely inspired by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Year One comic storyline and Reeves’ will be the same. However, while the first in the Dark Knight trilogy showed how Bruce Wayne went from some snot-nosed punk kid to the hero Gotham deserves, Reeves told the outlet that he wasn’t interested in telling the story of how Batman became Batman for yet another turn on the big screen. Instead, he’ll focus on Batman after he’s already become a capable hero, complete with armor and gadgets. Instead of figuring out how to fight crime and preserve a secret identity, he’ll instead be grappling with what it means to be a hero and a symbol of justice in a city gone mad with corruption and high-concept Warriors-like gangs. He even went as far as to call it Year Two.
Indeed, it seems that Matt Reeves will be focusing more on Batman the hero rather than any of his outside supporting villains or even Bruce Wayne himself. That’s a subtle but decidedly different approach than Christopher Nolan took. Speaking to Variety in 2018 and reflecting on the trilogy that was, the acclaimed director noted that his aim was to ensure that Batman’s villains took center stage.
One could make the reasonable argument that Batman is the least interesting part of any Batman story. He’s a rich guy who puts on armor and kicks the crap out of bad guys because one killed his parents. While there’s room for some nuance there, it’s not nearly as complicated a character as the Joker, Riddler, Penguin, or even Bane. Christopher Nolan knew that that and prioritized it, allowing the villains to set the thematic tone of the movies. Batman Begins was inspired by kung-fu movies with a somewhat mystical mentor-turned-adversary, The Dark Knight was a noir-crime thriller with a terrorist attacking the city and The Dark Knight Rises was a military strategy film with an invading force taking over Batman’s home. Three different movies, three different villains, three different tones, one Batman.
Can Matt Reeves top Christopher Nolan’s trilogy by focusing on the hero and his relationship to villainy rather than villains? Only time will tell.