Third part of our interviews with the team of “The Batman”. This week, place only Matt Reeves who evokes the films and comic books which inspired him in a very long answer.
“I immersed myself in depth in comic books”answers Matt Reeves when we ask him about the sources of inspiration for The Batman. “When I started my work, I wanted to read and see everything. I can’t make a film if I can’t find an entry point that is personal to me. It has to be connected to something that, d ‘somehow, motivates me.”
The motivation of the director and co-screenwriter of the film led by Robert Pattinson is not very difficult to detect in this case: it is enough to listen to him speak with passion about his intentions, his vision or, here, of his sources of inspiration. And realize that his answer to our question lasts… 7 minutes 30!
“I could go on forever”, he says when he realizes he’s going to have to quote fewer titles to shorten his answer. In the end, it evokes three comic books and as many feature films, which you can (re) read and (re) see before the release of The Batman on March 2. Or to extend the experience afterwards. And it will be all the easier ifUrban Comics has reissued some volumes related to the feature film.
Interview by Maximilien Pierrette in Paris on December 6, 2021
“THE BATMAN”: THE SOURCES OF INSPIRATION BY MATT REEVES
A few years before “The New Frontier”, considered his masterpiece, Darwyn Cooke had attacked Batman with “Ego”. Already with this style of retro drawing which contrasts with the darkness of the story in which the Bat Man flirts with madness after the suicide of a henchman of the Joker.
Matt Reeves : What spoke to me first – and that’s how Batman started – was that film noir, fatalistic vibe. This fight against a corrupt world. Bob Kane’s and Bill Finger’s comic books really started with this tone and, as I read, the ones that interested me the most were those that delved the most into the psychology of the hero, and his darkness. Darwyn Cooke’s “Ego” was therefore important, because we see him fighting an internal battle there. [Bruce Wayne] fights the beast that is Batman, and it happens within him. The idea of finding a way to bring out this, this internal conflict, really appealed to me.
“Ego” was recently reissued by Urban Comics, alongside the release of The Batman, as was “Catwoman – The Last Heist”, also by Darwyn Cooke and in which Selina Kyle, whom the screenwriter and designer based on the figure by Audrey Hepburn, climbs a final spectacular flight before, perhaps, changing his life.
YEAR ONE (1987)
When it comes to quoting the inspiration for a Batman movie, three names keep coming up: Bob Kane and Bill Finger of course, creators of the character. And Frank Miller. Unlike Zack Snyder, influenced by “The Dark Knight Returns”, Matt Reeves is in line with Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan by quoting “Year One”, a very dark account of Bruce Wayne’s vigilante debut.
Matt Reeves: “Year One” was pivotal in my exploration of comic books. Because there is really something in the tone and the way that Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli found to make Batman a down-to-earth character that then seemed realistic and believable to us. It wasn’t like a lot of those superhero stories that we find fancy, with characters in costume. And I wanted to focus on the fact that someone could really do that.
A moment ago [dans “Année Un”] where he must find an alter ego as Bruce Wayne. He then goes to the East End [quartier de Gotham où se trouve notamment la célèbre Crime Alley, dans laquelle ont péri ses parents, ndlr] and looks a bit like Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver, with his hands in his pockets. Looks like a wanderer. He can’t go after crime in a bat suit because he would get people’s attention, it wouldn’t make sense.
That simple detail really captivated me because I realized that’s how he could do it: as Bruce Wayne, people would recognize him. But disguised as a vagabond, he could go in search of crimes. While wearing her costume under her clothes, in order to appear out of the shadows. Because the purpose of this outfit is as much anonymity as the idea of creating a vision of terror, a vision of this kind of revenge. “Year One” was very important in this regard.
A LONG HALLOWEEN (1996)
When it was revealed that he was planning to bring Batman’s detective skills back to the fore, many thought Matt Reeves was going to sign an adaptation of “A Long Halloween,” in which the hero tracks down a serial killer who commits his worst crimes. festive days (Halloween therefore, but also Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc.). A frame that allows the story to stick to the rhythm of monthly publication of its episodes, and which gave rise to one of the most famous stories featuring the Bat Man.
If the rumor of a faithful adaptation has since been denied, its influence is felt in the trailers and the director has confirmed it to us. In addition to admitting, in an interview given later, that this was the reason why his film started on Halloween night.
Matt Reeves: “A Long Halloween” was very important for the creation of The Batman, because it is based on a long investigation around a series of murders. And I really wanted to have a detective story: in classic film noir, it’s common for the main character to try to solve a crime that somehow will end up involving him emotionally. . But I realized that “A Long Halloween” had a great version of this pattern.
It’s all the more interesting that my screenwriting teacher, the person who advised me to start writing, was none other than Jeph Loeb, the screenwriter of this series of comic books. And the funny thing is, I knew he had done all that big stuff around Batman, but I had never read it.
I’m a huge Batman fan though. But it all started with Adam West and the 1966 series. Then there were the movies. And of course I had read some comic books, but not as thoroughly as I did to write this film. I then realized, discovering the work of Jeph and Tim Sale, that this was exactly what I was looking for.
“A Long Halloween” was also reissued in early 2022 by Urban Comics. Just like its sequel, “Bitter Victory”, released in 2012, and in which Batman is faced with a new series of murders. So much so that he doubts he has arrested the right culprit. So the red on its cover is reminiscent of the posters of Matt Reeves’ feature film, could the comic book serve as the basis for a sequel?
If he says he was greatly inspired by film noir, Matt Reeves does not cite Humphrey Bogart and the classics of the genre born during the golden age of Hollywood but rather those of the 70s and New Hollywood. Starting with Chinatown by Roman Polanski, in which Jack Nicholson investigates the streets of Los Angeles.
Matt Reeves: I also looked for black stories on the film side, and Chinatown was very important to me. Because Jake Gittes [Jack Nicholson] is someone who happened to have something in Chinatown in the past, who moved away from it to become some kind of ambulance chaser [personne qui suit les blessés jusque dans les hopitaux pour leur proposer ses services sur le plan judiciaire, ndlr] doubled as a cynical man.
But he’s got a conscience deep inside him and he’s getting into this story with Evelyn Mulwray. [Faye Dunaway], but she takes his head because he has been made the turkey of the farce. And the more he advances in his investigation, the more he must confront the darkness of the city of Los Angeles and what Chinatown represents. And in the end, he is back in Chinatown as he had tried to escape from it.
I thought it was a story that would stick to the Batman universe, with this idea of making Gotham a character in this story where the hero is trying to solve a crime or a case. Because his investigation leads him into the depths of the city to reveal the nature of the place, its history and how some of its worst aspects are insoluble and seem impossible to change. But yet, this guy keeps going no matter what.
It’s also what Batman is all about: Gotham never seems to get better, but he just keeps pushing himself, because it’s obviously a personal need for him. He’s a broken guy. So in that sense Chinatown was important.
TAXI DRIVER (1976)
Taxi Driver is popular at DC! After Todd Phillips and his Joker, it is Matt Reeves who cites Martin Scorsese’s Palme d’Or as a source of inspiration, the descent into hell of a Vietnam veteran who decides to play the vigilante to free a young prostitute of her pimps.
Matt Reeves: Taxi Driver was super important in that regard to have a character with a displacement of his anger towards the city, as he’s lost and trying to figure himself out. This translates here to me seeing Batman as someone conducting a criminological experiment. He also keeps a diary, much like Doctor Jekyll in “The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, when he tells how he felt as Hyde. When Bruce becomes Batman, he almost loses himself. So he has to keep a diary so he doesn’t lose track. And it gives him that Travis Bickle side.
Five years before Taxi Driver, Klute immersed us in the streets of New York during an investigation led by Donald Sutherland. On arrival, a slow-paced classic, which is certainly not the most quoted of films but which served as inspiration for the father of The Batman.
Matt Reeves: Alan J. Pakula’s Klute also had a lot to do with the creepiness of the city’s corruption, which almost makes it look horrific. This movie is very scary and spooky at times, and I wanted The Batman to be like a film noir, but veer towards horror at times. And Klute was also important vis-à-vis its main character, who we discover is incredibly inhibited.
He is obviously very attracted to Bree Daniels, played by Jane Fonda, but he judges her because of who she is, and begins to make assumptions. But in the end, he is completely attracted to her. There was something about that dynamic, and the assumptions he makes about her and her morals, that went with the version of Selina Kyle that I wanted to develop. As Batman embarks on this investigation to solve these murders, he encounters someone who is involved in a way he doesn’t understand. And so he assumes that, since she is involved in this world, she can only be morally corrupt.
Which is not the case. He had to survive. She doesn’t have the resources he has through his wealth, and their relationship makes him realize how naive he’s been about what it takes to survive in a city like Gotham. The film therefore inspired me for the tone, as much as for the relationship between Batman and Selina Kyle, which refers to that of Klute and Bree Daniels.