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SYFY WIRE The Batman

Why Robert Pattinson says 'The Batman' is more '70s noir detective story than Marvel spectacle

The world’s greatest detective is on the hunt for clues.

By Benjamin Bullard
The Batman (2021) PRESS

Director Matt Reeves has made it no secret that he wants the Dark Knight to  dive deep into Gotham City’s urban grit and grime when The Batman arrives in theaters next month. His inspiration for the film’s mystery story, as he’s previously teased, is taken from moody noir thrillers of the 1970s — minus the superhero genre trappings, of course — like Chinatown.

Now Batman himself is weighing in on the movie’s dalliance with the seedy, sleuth-story dark side. In a recent chat with GQ, Robert Pattison said it was “jarring” to watch an early cut of the film and realize just how strongly the Dark Knight-as-detective angle stand apart from the iconic Batman films that’ve come before.

“I watched a rough cut of the movie by myself. And the first shot is so jarring from any other Batman movie that it’s just kind of a totally different pace,” Pattinson said. “It was what Matt was saying from the first meeting I had with him: ‘I want to do a ’70s noir detective story, like The Conversation.’ And I kind of assumed that meant the mood board or something, the look of it. But from the first shot, it’s, Oh, this actually is a detective story.”

For fans of old-school mystery noir, The Conversation is Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 ode to pervasive paranoia in the early days of the technological surveillance state. Starring Gene Hackman as the privacy-obsessed surveillance snoop Harry Caul (alongside a pre-Star Wars Harrison Ford), t’s a high-stakes whodunnit whose main character tugs at exactly the wrong threads — with unsettling results.

Pattinson said it took him a moment to get up to speed on Batman’s gumshoe past. “…I didn’t even know that Batman was ‘the world’s greatest detective,’” he said, harkening to the Caped Crusader’s early appearances in DC’s Detective Comics days. “I hadn’t heard that in my life before — but it really plays. Just ’cause there’s a lot of stuff where he’s in amongst the cops. Normally, when you see Batman he arrives and beats people up. But he’s having conversations, and there are emotional scenes between them, which I don’t think have been in any of the other movies.”

Reeves told MovieMaker Magazine last month that The Batman carries a “very narrative” story thread through all the action and genre thrills; one with close ties to the 1970s noir films that inspired it. Though that doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of superhero spectacle, it does hint at a different kind of comic book film; one that takes a drama-driven approach in getting to the bottom of Gotham’s best-kept secrets.

“…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,” said Reeves. “It’s very narrative.”

Because it’s Batman (and not, say, a classic movie private eye hiding out behind a frosted glass office door), at least Bruce Wayne can call on limitless resources to help him solve the case. Then again, what else would you expect from a guy with billions to spare and a loner’s obsession with details? Catch Pattinson behind the cowl as Gotham City’s vigilante clue chaser when The Batman premieres in theaters on March 4.