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Though it seems like ages ago at this point, many fans still remember that there was a time when The Batman was going to be every bit Ben Affleck's movie, with the star writing, directing, and playing the title role. Eventually, Affleck stepped away from the project altogether, leaving writer/director Matt Reeves with the opportunity to craft his own new take on The Dark Knight. But why didn't any of Affleck's take survive the transition, particularly when there was a point when Reeves was set to direct Affleck in the film?
In a new interview with Esquire, Reeves opened up a bit about the evolution of The Batman from Affleck solo project to fresh take starring Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne, including what happened with the script. Though he had kind words for Affleck's take on the character, Reeves made it clear that he knew early on that the initial approach wasn't how he'd want to do things.
“I read a script that they had that was a totally valid take on the movie," Reeves said. "It was very action driven. It was very deeply connected to the DCEU, with other major characters from other movies and other comics popping up. I just knew that when I read it this particular script was not the way I’d want to do it."
Reeves' encounter with The Batman's early script came as he was working to complete War for the Planet of the Apes, which meant that he had limited energy in the moment to actually do anything in the way of revisions. As he explained to Esquire, Reeves told Warner Bros. that he would need "months" to even come up with a new story for the film, and if he did, he'd want to do it his way.
“So what I’d love to do, if you’re interested, is I’d like to get involved and find a way to take the story and make it very, very personal and get to the place I want him to be, to make it a Batman story and give him the arc, and have the story rock him to his core," Reeves said. "It wasn’t going to be another origin story, not with Ben already in the character. But that’s what I would do."
To his surprise, Warner Bros. agreed to Reeves' terms, and when War for the Planes of the Apes was complete, he returned to develop his own approach to Affleck's Batman solo debut. Then, to the surprise of many, it suddenly wasn't Affleck's Batman solo debut anymore. The actor stepped away from the film, leaving Reeves with a chance to redefine the character on his terms. But, while trailers for The Batman have emphasized it as the story of a young Bruce Wayne still finding his way as a hero, Reeves was also clear that he was not interesting in doing another origin movie. Rather than the birth of Batman, what we're getting with the new film is something more like his troubled second year on the job, with a lot of Batman pieces in place and a lot of others still struggling to take shape.
“A lot of the Batman stories we’ve seen on film, you see an origin tale," Reeves said. "You see his parents killed, and then you see him perfecting himself into becoming Batman. A lot of times you see stories where he’s already become Batman, then the Rogues’ Gallery villain comes in, and it’s then their story, and you watch him go toe-to-toe with them.
“I wanted the main character in the story to be a Batman who was a year in and still trying to figure out how to do this, how to be effective, and he’s not necessarily succeeding. He’s broken and driven. He’d like to think that he is doing the right thing, that there’s another part of him that’s struggling right up against the limits. I think his biggest weakness is not realizing the extent to which the person that he’s fighting is himself.”
So, we got The Batman, a combination of gritty early years Caped Crusader and Gotham City psychological noir thriller. We'll see more of how Reeves' take pays off when the film hits theaters March 4.