? GOOD BYE
The Batman ends with the simplest riddle of all. Of course this isn’t goodbye. The film explored Batman’s psychological and greater perspective shift from the embodiment of vengeance to hope, something Gotham needs more than ever, but this is clearly a single step on a much larger journey. I enjoyed The Batman very much, and while my investment in the plot waned at times, as a mood piece of rich atmosphere, deliberate pacing, and incredible style, I thought it was exceptional. Leaving the cinema, I was begging for five more films in this new continuity, but hints indicate that The Batman is to be the first in a trilogy of films from writer/director Matt Reeves. Now that the film has proved to be a box office hit, a sequel is guaranteed and fans search for teases in The Batman that could indicate what is to come. There are several: some obvious, some subtle. Let’s investigate.
The main set up for future stories I hope Matt Reeves fully commits to is ‘No Man’s Land’. In the comics, an earthquake decimates Gotham, the city is cut off from the mainland, and villains carve up the territory. Riddler’s destruction of the seawall is a similar event and The Batman concludes with the titular hero commenting on criminals occupying new territories in the wake of Falcone’s death, including Penguin. Whether it dominates the sequel or not, I hope there is no sudden fix by the time of the next film and that Riddler’s plot continues to have consequences. Although, the inspiration could have come from Zero Year, a great comic storyline of Riddler presiding over a flooded Gotham, where there is a disappointing and fast reset at the end.
No Man’s Land would allow Batman to continue to be a beacon of hope but place insurmountable pressure on him that he would struggle with. It feels like the perfect continuation of the first film’s ending. Although, Batman does say that the government has vowed to help Gotham in the film, which would indicate a quicker fix than in the comics where they refuse. It would also give us a brand-new visual style for Gotham: a flooded, almost apocalyptic disaster zone. Committing to the destruction allows for more of a Bruce Wayne story too. Batman’s alter ego barely featured in the first film but now Bruce would naturally and dramatically become a much more important figure. He could commit to rebuilding the city, a hero on two fronts, day and night. Maybe he could even correct past sins and set up a new renewal fund, done right this time.
In the final battle, Batman injects himself with a drug that gives the battered superhero the ability to fight on and save Catwoman. This could easily just be adrenaline but the green colour is a tantalising detail. That, and the fact Batman is his most violent while on the drug, indicates that it could be Venom from the comics, something that could be expanded in the sequel. In interviews Robert Pattinson has described his take on Batman as being like a drug addict so it’s not a giant leap to suggest maybe the films will literalise this struggle. To ensure the safety of the city after the unprecedented collapse of the seawall, Batman will have to push himself, perhaps too much, and may come to rely on such drugs, affecting his psychology as well as physiology. Bane may be watching in the wings to steal the formula or maybe Venom is explored purely with Batman. I certainly think there’s more credence to this Venom theory than that of the mayor’s son being Robin.
Joker. Again. Already. The Joker tease is the film’s biggest and the one that left me completely cold. I just didn’t need it. The baddies we got were more than enough and The Riddler was such a great villain that I was disappointed when he became seemingly deferential to another villain in his final scene. The moment was unnecessary and too similar to the Joker tease at the end of Batman Begins, a comparison that is nigh impossible to compete against. We have very little to go on but I will say I like the ‘year two’ vibes of not only Batman but also his villains. This may not be Joker as we know him but a proto version a storyline away from blossoming into his true lunatic self. I guess I’ll have to wait and see how this Joker plays out but I’m currently completely unexcited for it and I didn’t like the performance very much, although it’s such a small sample size that I don’t want to prejudge.
But while the Joker tease disappointed, I love all the incarnations of the film’s other villains. Colin Farrell is amazing as the transformative Penguin, Zoe Kravitz is the best Catwoman we’ve ever had onscreen, and no one can play the fragile white Redditor version of Riddler like Paul Dano. What’s better is that they are all still alive as the credits roll! I like the idea of continuing villains in the sequels. The Batman creates a realistic world where characters can exist but aren’t always the focus. Much like the comics, villains can easily drop in and out depending on the story. I hope for more Penguin and Catwoman, maybe Riddler too but less so, and they can appear in more films without having to dominate. And in TV series, too, of course. Both a Penguin and Arkham show are in development.
With The Batman Matt Reeves has created a grounded world (except for the indestructibility of its characters, which is one of my few complaints) but in a recent interview has stated he is tempted to “try and unwind the fantastical”, even mentioning Mr Freeze. Adapting Freeze to fit in this world would be an almighty challenge but I would absolutely love to see the attempt. It would also create a fascinating visual palate for a sequel, maybe keeping the rich blacks but moving towards a blue or white tint instead of the first film’s deep reds. Freeze would fit a winter setting and seeing Gotham in the dead of winter would be fantastic, a throwback to Batman Returns and make the devastation of Riddler’s attack even worse. Power is down in the freezing city and the flood water has frozen into ice. Just the idea of Pattinson’s Batman walking through the snow gives me chills.
During one of Riddler’s videos, the death of a journalist with the last name ‘Elliot’ is mentioned while the word “Hush” fills the screen, referring to hush money. Some people see this as yet more set up for a sequel but I disagree. I think it is more just a nod to the Hush storyline and character from the comics, which has inspired Riddler and his plot in the movie. I just don’t see how Reeves now adapts Hush without it being wholly repetitive. The same is true for the Court of Owls, which Pattinson has said he’d love to do something with in a sequel. Don’t get me wrong, I love the comics storyline, and The Batman certainly seems inspired by Scott Snyder’s New 52 run with Zero Year, but the first film already covered the secret people who run Gotham. Perhaps it could be expanded on in a sequel but it would be repetitive and likely undermine what The Batman says about Falcone.
Is The Batman full of teases for future stories or are we looking too hard? What are you expecting/hoping for in a sequel? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.