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The Batman’s trailer seems like another grim take on the hero. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Maybe The Batman will show that retribution rewarded with material wealth isn’t that great.

Robert Pattinson in The Batman.
Warner Bros.
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

This weekend was a boon for comic book superhero fans as DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. revealed a ton of new looks and info about upcoming movies and games in the DC Expanded Universe. There was Wonder Woman’s villain Cheetah, a trailer for the fabled Snyder Cut of Justice League, and a whimsical Suicide Squad cast reveal reel flaunting characters who will likely meet their eponymous doom, among others.

For fans who watched blockbusters like Wonder Woman 1984 and the rest of the Warner Bros. superhero calendar pushed back because of the pandemic, these morsels of content sparked joy, and maybe even brought some reassurance that things will eventually go back to normal sometime, someday.

But perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend was the first teaser trailer for The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson.

The doom-draped trailer offered a lengthy look at Pattinson’s turn as Batman, arguably the most popular and iconic comic book superhero in pop culture. There’s also a glimpse of Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz) burglarizing in action and the havoc of the film’s headlining villain, the Riddler (Paul Dano). It’s dark and brooding, and it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s Pattman!

That said, there’s plenty to fixate on and maybe even obsess over. Here are three reasons why the trailer is generating so much conversation:

1) After a pandemic hiatus, The Batman will be released next year

A big reason the trailer caused so much fanfare and buzz was that it wasn’t totally expected. The pandemic halted production on The Batman in March, and it was unclear how much was shot by then since Warner Bros. was still making casting announcements a few months prior, in October. From the trailer, though, it seems as though Reeves has shot scenes starring each of the central characters thus far — those being Batman, Penguin, and Catwoman.

Barring a virus resurgence, production will begin again in September in the UK. The movie is scheduled for release a little over a year later on October 1, 2021; it had originally been scheduled for release in June 2021.

2) The teaser is literally and figuratively very dark

The entire trailer looks like it was shot in the middle of the night. There is no sunshine in Reeves’s version of Gotham. It’s so dark that it took fans a couple of rewatches to figure out that Colin Farrell is actually in the teaser playing Oswald Cobblepot, a.k.a. The Penguin. In the shadows, Farrell looked like Richard Kind:

This movie appears to have little in common with the frothy and colorful Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Shazam!, and Birds of Prey (which all have sequels and spinoffs planned for the future). From the way it’s being marketed, The Batman appears more in line with last year’s subversive, grim spinoff Joker.

The against-the-grain tone makes sense in that, like Joker, The Batman is considered a standalone movie that bears no connection with the other DC movies. And that explains why the Riddler, the main villain featured in the trailer, comes off as a sadistic psychopath who feels more in line with the Zodiac Killer than the looney Jim Carrey iteration we saw in 1995’s Batman Forever.

3) Robert Pattinson is a dark, brooding, shadowy Bruce Wayne

Warner Bros.

I’ve made the argument that, for better or worse, Bruce Wayne’s parents’ death has become America’s nativity scene. There have been so many iterations of it — print comics, animation, live-action — that there are few more familiar origin stories than that of Bruce Wayne (and Baby Jesus). The trauma of watching his parents die in front of him as a child turned Wayne into a hero vigilante, with the end result being the brooding superhero we know as Batman.

Sometimes Bruce Wayne is a little less glum, a little more glitzy; he’s a very rich man, after all. But the idea that Wayne is very, very sad at heart is alive again with Robert Pattinson’s take. In the trailer, he lurks in the shadows, looking very sad and somber, and even sports some black eyeshadow (see above). At one point he even says in melodramatic earnest, “I’m vengeance.”

For those into this type of Batman, Pattman’s (Pattinson’s Batman) declaration of being vengeance personified is thrilling.

On the other side of that, early critics have said that Pattinson’s iteration is treading on the same ground established by all the previous “dark and gritty” Batman movies that came before it. Maybe some aren’t in the mood to watch all that darkness over again.

But I’d argue that the problem with unsuccessfully “dark and gritty” Batmen of the past is that they often mix up stylized grit and bloody violence without actually giving us the horror of actual trauma. The “coolness” of being Batman — the wealth, the high IQ, the good looks, the gadgets, the fighting skills — always outweighed his damaged side.

I’m holding out hope that director Matt Reeves (who directed the very contemplative War for the Planet of the Apes and hauntingly sad vampire love story Let Me In) explores the actual dark side of someone who truly believes he’s so-called vengeance personified. Maybe Pattinson’s Wayne will show that carte-blanche reactionary violence, retribution rewarded with material wealth, and a soulless existence driven by bloody, bone-snapping ambition isn’t actually something regular people want to emulate. And perhaps the idea of relentless trauma and no relief or healing is actually not something we should strive for and is exponentially less appealing than being like the more joyful Wonder Woman or Shazam.

We’ll all find out together as more and more of The Batman gets completed, and if we get back to movie theaters by October 1, 2021.

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