It’s been five years since The Dark Knight Rises ended Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Those films constituted a single coherent story, from Batman’s beginning to his explosive end. Since then, Warner Bros. has moved its DC characters into cinematic universe territory, with Ben Affleck debuting his version of the Caped Crusader in last year’s mash-up crossover Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Affleck reappeared in Suicide Squad and is one of the headlining heroes of November’s Justice League. But the studio has promised another solo Batman film. What that film will be, precisely, isn’t clear. Affleck worked on a version of The Batman but stepped back from directing the film. The studio hired Matt Reeves, director of the last couple Planet of the Apes movies. When Affleck spoke to EW at Comic-Con, he expressed his admiration for Reeves but admitted he didn’t know what Reeves had planned. “Matt hasn’t really unveiled his full vision yet,” Affleck told EW. “He wanted to wait until Apes came out, and he was obviously consumed with that. So I’m looking forward to hearing what his story is.”
One thing is becoming clear: Whatever The Batman is, it will represent Reeves’ unique vision – and, maybe, sidestep certain elements in the studio’s burgeoning DC Extended Universe. “I have a vision for a way to do something with that character that feels like it resonates with me personally,” Reeves told KCRW in a July interview resurfacing this week in the wake of the Joker movie announcement. According to Reeves, the studio approached him with the promise of taking the character in a direction that could go outside the Justice League continuity. “When they approached me, what they said was, ‘Look, it’s a standalone, it’s not part of the extended universe’,” Reeves explained.
It’s long been theorized that The Batman would be set sometime before the graying Bruce Wayne we met in Batman v Superman, so it makes sense that the film wouldn’t necessarily cross into films like Wonder Woman or the upcoming Aquaman. And “standalone” is a hip new thing now for superhero franchises. The Wolverine sendoff Logan was purposefully set decades after the confused X-Men continuity, in what star Hugh Jackman described (vaguely) as a “slightly different universe.” Jackman seemed to be using the term “universe” in a stylistic sense. Which could be what Reeves means, and credit WB’s DC division for pursuing fresh superhero flavors (the Scorsese-produced Joker origin story being the most recent example.) Whether Reeves’ vision involves Affleck remains to be seen.