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With The Batman (out in early March), writer-director Matt Reeves wants to paint Gotham as a bubbling cauldron of sin and iniquity. No one — perhaps with the exception of Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) and Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) — remains untouched by the rampant corruption that runs deep in the city's veins. From the Iceberg Lounge where Colin Farrell's "Oz" holds court to the offices of Mayor Don Mitchell Jr. (Rupert Penry-Jones), every citizen is in on the seedy grift.
To really drive that point home, the director and his team looked at a pair of classic movies from the 1970s: Roman Polanski's Chinatown and Alan J. Pakula's All the President's Men — both of which center around massive conspiracies and cover-ups. The former has the added bonus of being one of the greatest noirs ever put to screen. Since Batman is often described as the world's greatest detective, Reeves wanted to dig into the character's innate hardboiled elements, which haven't been fully explored in previous onscreen iterations.
“I wanted to do a story in which the corruption of Gotham was one of the most important aspects of the story, because Gotham is a sick place," the filmmaker explained to MovieMaker Magazine. He later added: “This idea of a place that is corrupt, and you try to swim against the tide in order to fight against it and make a difference, is quintessential Batman. And at the center of those noir stories is almost always the detective, right? And that’s why he is the world’s greatest detective. And so this story is, in addition to being almost a horror movie, and a thriller, and an action movie, at its core, it’s also very much a detective story. It’s very narrative."
“In the first meeting, he was saying, we want to lean into the ‘world’s greatest detective aspect,’ and be a detective noir movie,” said Pattinson. “And, you know, normally when directors say that, they just do like a mood board, and it’s just about the imagery. But I read the script, and it is! It’s a detective movie. It happens all the time in the graphic novels, but it’s always kind of on the backburner in the movies."
While Chinatown is a work of fiction, All the President's Men is firmly rooted in reality. Based on the book of the same by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the iconic political thriller chronicles the crusade of two Washington Post journalists to expose the infamous Watergate scandal that ultimately led to Richard Nixon's resignation as president. “There had to be a very deep conspiracy going on," Reeves continued. "And so I watched All the President’s Men, I re-read the book, and I just started saying, 'OK, so how do we start to describe just how high the corruption went? It’s very much like All the President’s Men in that way."
The main antagonist of the film is Paul Dano's Riddler, depicted here as a Zodiac-inspired killer who leads the Dark Knight across town with an ever-growing trail of bodies and brain teasers. Round and round they go, but where it all ends up may shine a light on the origins of Gotham's proclivity for crookedness.
"I knew that this story was going to be, as he went on this path, to come to understand these crimes that he’s being led on by the Riddler — it needed to go back ultimately into a sense of expansive history that started to explain why this place was this way in a way that, while it starts seemingly on this path that’s impersonal, because he’s investigating these crimes, it ends up taking him in unexpected ways to something that was incredibly personal," Reeves concluded.
Co-written by Reeves and Peter Craig, The Batman opens in theaters everywhere Friday, March 4. The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that the movie's runtime clocks in at 2 hours and 55 minutes with credits For those of you keeping score at home, that makes it the longest Batman film of all time (beating out The Dark Knight Rises by 10 minutes minutes) as well as the second-longest superhero movie ever to be released into theaters (Avengers: Endgame still sits atop the runtime throne with three hours and two minutes). Nevertheless, it's still leaner than some of the early test screenings, which allegedly ran for a total of four hours.
Yeah, don't be getting the large soda for this one, folks!