Matt Reeves & Robert Pattinson On Why They Didn’t Want To Do An Origin Story For ‘The Batman’
Coverage for The Batman continues on GOC!
In this article, Robert Pattinson and Matt Reeves discuss why they thought it was important to start us with a Bruce Wayne who is already Batman when audiences meet him in the film.
You both have talked about how you didn’t want to do a Batman origin story. But I am curious. How much did the two of you discuss where this Batman came from, or where this Bruce Wayne came from, and his experiences in the lead-up to the events of this movie?
Pattinson: We discussed it a lot. Like yeah. And it’s funny because you try and use everyone to avoid an origin story. But then, invariably, it’s a new version of the character. And you kind of, you’re so aware of the origins of it, you end up trying to sort of play it in the subtext and little moments. And because the story is set over such a short period, as well, it’s actually really difficult to kind of shove in as much as you can, the kind of emotional weight that just kind of lies in your body language on your face. And hopefully, it kind of comes across. And it’s also, it’s kind of different to the traditional origin story as well. He doesn’t go away and train and come back as a fully mastered Batman at all.
And, and he’s not the traditional kind of Playboy persona as well. He’s kind of, it’s just something, something has happened to him in this way. Basically there’s too much trauma him to deal with. The residue of the trauma is still there, but he’s basically kind of mastering it and turned into Batman. Whereas I kind of I think… especially as when he’s Bruce, it’s still the day his parents died. Like, I mean, he hasn’t gotten over it at all. And he’s become Batman almost in order to survive his present rather than to think, “Oh, I’m going to make a new future.” It’s to protect himself as much as anything else.
And as soon as he takes [his mask] off, then he’s he just goes back to being a 10-year-old boy again, and the pain is still very much real. And I think that’s kind of what we were talking about, he’s sort of addicted to putting on the suit. Because as soon as he puts that suit on, he goes into a kind of primal state where he can eliminate the baggage of his past and can just have these kind of super-heightened senses in the present. And it’s a relief as much as anything else. It’s a relief to be hurt and inflict that pain inside your head on others and to kind of get it out yourself when he’s had it, you know, for most of life, like inside his own mind.
Reeves: I think that the idea of being Batman, honestly, it’s not altruistic. It’s a desperate attempt to make meaning, right? And that was the thing I think we always talked about was this idea of like, I’ve heard [Pattinson] say, that in some way, the faces of everyone you come up against, they’re the faces of the killers of your family.
So that idea of personalizing everything and the idea that is Bruce Wayne, he’s totally lost. Like I think when I was thinking at the script stage because you know, there are a lot of great Batman movies. And so you want to find a way to do something that feels like it’s true and iconic and connects to the story but is still fresh. And I kept thinking, well, there’s another way to go, which is this idea of thinking of him almost as a member of the Kennedy family or like one of the royals. And in the wake of this death, he’s never quite recovered. And that if you were to see him on the street, he’d become reckless. But if you saw him, he would look very pale, kind of bruised up, and you think this guy’s a drug addict. What is his problem? And you think he was a real screw-up, but I guess in a certain way, maybe he is. But what it is, is that that drug that he’s addicted to is escaping himself and doing this thing. It’s this thing of trying to make meaning. And we talked a lot about that.
For me what really stood out was this like Western kind of Old West standoff with the spurs every time Batman walks into the scene. What was the moment for you where you’re like, I want to do something like that for this character, this version?
Reeves: One of the things we tried to figure out was why would someone put on a suit? And of course, some of that, you know, from the comics, it’s about intimidation, you’re trying to create an image, and then the practicality of that is nonexistent. It doesn’t make any sense. If you’re looking for crime and you’re walking around in that suit, you’ve got issues. Like how does that work? Like, you’re going to go to a 7-11 and you’re worrying that they’re gonna go, “That’s that guy.” That’s really weird. He’s gonna drive around his Batmobile, so that didn’t make any sense. So I was like, okay, we have to think about this.
Year One was very important for me because there’s a moment when Bruce, before he becomes Batman, he goes to the East End and he actually meets that version of Selina Kyle for the first time. And in the commemorative edition where you see Frank Miller’s notes to Mazur Celli, and it says that Bruce looks like he’s just won the Travis Pickle look-alike contest, and he’s put a scar on his face. And I thought, Oh, this is it. He can be a drifter. Okay, so there’s some practicality here. So when he’s looking for crime, he has to have an alter ego because he can’t be Batman. And he can’t be Bruce because he’s Bruce Wayne. That guy’s like royalty. So that doesn’t work either. So there was the practicality of that. But then it was like, okay, so then when he’s coming out, it’s a theatrical event. He’s coming out on purpose. He’s wanting to create an aura. He’s an apparition. He’s telling you and he’s an apparition. And we added this.
I mean, this is the thing when I was working Greg Fraser, our brilliant cinematographer. We’d be like, “You know what? When you put too much light on Batman, it doesn’t work. Put it on his face. He looks ridiculous.” But when he comes in robbing a house, because he stood there forever, and I’ve heard him say, like, he thought that I hated all of his tapes because we kept going. But no, just the cowl isn’t lit right.
But the thing about those theatrical appearances, part of that is the sound he makes. And so we work with the sound guy. So Rob comes out and he does this great thing. In Lost Highway, there’s a David Lynch thing where Bill Paxton comes out of this very dark, solid sort of shadowy hallway and he materializes. It’s one of the scariest things in a completely uncanny way. Like, you’re like, I don’t know why this is scary. He’s just walking out of the hallway. This is awful. And I thought, “Gosh, can we do Batman like that?” And actually Rob [did this] when he did his screen test. I had him walk out of the dark like that, and you’re probably like, what are we doing here?
We have the sound guys, we have these brilliant guys who have worked with me since Cloverfield and did the Planet of the Apes movies with me. They had these things the first attempt. It was like he had metal, some that were like lead. I was like, those are too heavy because, yeah he’s Batman, but that’s crazy. He’s like, he’s like Frankenstein coming out of the dark. That doesn’t work.
Then it got to this place where we talked about Sergio Leone, and the idea of it being like a Western thing, like he’s gonna stop out. It’s like, it’s gonna be like the opening of once upon a time the West. And I said, “Could we have a spare sound with no spurs?” And they go out, there’s metal on those boots. And so they did create a kind of a spur-ish sound. So anyway, you spend endless time going through all these details, and it’s actually the joy of making a movie like this.