Director Matt Reeves reveals the gritty '70s cop movie influences on The Batman, characterized by the filmmaker as a street-level and noir-driven detective story. Focusing on an early-days Dark Knight (Robert Pattinson) in his second year as the vengeful protector of a Gotham City riddled with crime and corruption, The Batman unravels a murder mystery with the emergence of an enigmatic serial killer known as the Riddler (Paul Dano). Batman's investigation into these crimes brings the caped crusader up against professional prowler Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), a.k.a. Catwoman, and Oswald Cobblepot, the so-called Penguin (Colin Farrell).
"Because the movie is a detective story, because it is a thriller in the sort of cop world, and because it's about corruption, we're treating this Batman story as if this could have happened," Reeves said Saturday during DC FanDome. "The idea is that Batman doesn't have sort of the ability to have super-heroic powers, he just has super-heroic focus and super-heroic drive."
A key influence is 1974 neo-noir mystery Chinatown, about private investigator J. J. "Jake" Gittes (Jack Nicholson), who discovers the depth of corruption in 1937 Los Angeles while investigating a conspiracy.
"In that way, it's like a classic noir, and this series of murders that Batman investigates is very much in that mode. So Chinatown was a really big one," Reeves said, pointing to the "gritty, flawed humanity of it."
"[Batman] was very inspired by those kinds of movies, by French Connection, and other sorts of cop movies like that," he added. "I would say even a movie like Taxi Driver, the description of a place, and very much getting inside of somebody's head. I guess a lot of '70s, sort of street-grounded stories."
Unlike past Batman movies following a more experienced crime-fighter who is "his best self," Reeves added, "For me, what was exciting was not doing that. Not doing the origin, not doing what we've seen done so beautifully in other movies, but instead to meet him in the middle of this criminological experiment to see him in the becoming of Batman."
Pattinson's Bruce Wayne is described by Reeves as "broken," and his Batman not yet fully-formed. Reeves wanted to explore the character in a way that is "very human and very flawed."
"I hope is what's different about what we're doing is to try and do it in exactly that sort of manner and then, of course, the other things that are from the earlier history of the comics, like him being the world's greatest detective and how we got there," Reeves said. "Those things have been touched on, but I don't know that they've been central to the plot, as they are in this particular Batman. So there's a lot of things I hope that will be totally different."
The Batman opens October 1, 2021.