As Robert Pattinson’s debut as the Dark Knight approaches, it’s time to consider that The Batman’s Year 2 setting may risk creating a villain problem for future films. The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves, is set to hit theaters in the spring of 2022 after a series of COVID-19 related delays continued to set back the production of the film. While many were initially reluctant to accept Pattinson as Batman, some began to come around after the first trailer dropped at DC’s 2020 FanDome. The trailer gave audiences their first look at Reeves’ aggressive young Batman, whose unexpected brutality did not disappoint.
The trailer also provided glimpses at Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz), Penguin (Colin Farrell), Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), and Riddler (Paul Dano), the film’s primary antagonist. Though few details have been revealed, it is safe to say the film features a relatively inexperienced Batman in a race against time to defeat the mysterious Riddler, who seems to have a vendetta against the Dark Knight. Given that this is Batman’s second year on the streets of Gotham, it may also be safe to assume that he will have had previous dealings with Falcone and Penguin as they are most likely to be part of Gotham’s established criminal underbelly.
Batman’s relationship with them will definitely provide an interesting narrative as he attempts to find the man behind the riddles. These storied relationships Batman shares with his rogues are part of what makes the world of Gotham City so interesting in the comic books. This is the hidden threat in starting a new franchise with a second-year Batman. Doing so, requires each new villain to receive an origin story and hinders the film’s ability to tell a more subtextual and integrated story. This requirement risks bogging each film down with repetitious story beats and exposition; screen time that could have been used for more interesting character work.
The lack of an established rogues’ gallery in Gotham restricts the types of stories one can explore in future films. Part of Ben Affleck’s appeal as Batman was his storied history in Gotham. Zack Snyder’s vision provided 20 years’ worth of adventures and relationships that could be referenced and built upon. Instead, The Batman returns Batman to a more grounded reality with the grit of someone just beginning their mission to bring justice to the city. The absence of pre-existing rogues and Gotham City history will force each film to provide exposition for characters with whom the Batman fandom is already well-acquainted.
The screen time spent with these introductions could have instead been used to explore relationships between not only Batman and the villains, but the relationships among the villains as well. Creating a year two Gotham also limits the potential for Batman's rogues gallery to work together in a way that doesn’t feel narratively rushed. For example, the use of Penguin and Carmine Falcone in the upcoming film will most likely make perfect sense, as they are both likely to have a pre-existing relationship and possess a shared history of run-ins with the Bat. It’s this shared history that will make these characters interesting, and it’s this shared history that is at risk in future films.
Batman’s rogues are as much of his story, as his parents’ death. Thus, their absence impedes this new franchise’s potential to craft a comic book accurate Batman and Gotham City. Unfortunately, the issue of a year two Batman is not limited to villains. It also places limitations on the franchise’s ability to introduce members of the Bat-Family in an intuitive and narratively driven manner. For example, a year two, or even year three, Batman cannot reasonably introduce Nightwing without jumping years into the future. Nonetheless, Matt Reeve’s The Batman may set a new bar for Batman, even if the franchise, once again, avoids a comic book accurate world.
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