In 2005, Warner Brothers and Christopher Nolan released ‘Batman Begins’, starring Christian Bale in the titular role of the caped crusader, to positive critic reviews and a successful box office of $370million on a $150million budget. I was young at the time, but I distinctly remember not hearing much fanfare around the release. It wasn’t a global phenomenon that some movies can be. Comic book movies in particular were still only finding big, mainstream success with just two IPs back then, X-Men (FOX) and Spider-Man (Sony). However, the 2005 reboot did well at changing the public perception of Batman, and garnered enough money for a sequel to move ahead.

‘The Dark Knight’ was that sequel. A title that by itself evokes style and coolness to the everyman, this film was released in 2008 and I feel confident in saying it changed the world in terms of entertainment. I vividly remember the scale of the excitement around this film, which came from people having given its predecessor a chance on home release, eagerly awaiting more from Nolan’s interpretation of Batman, and from the anticipation of seeing Heath Ledger’s portrayal as The Joker. The build up to release was insane and the film went on to break records and become the fourth film ever to break $1billion at the box office. It redefined the combination of cinema and comic books. It helped solidify that comic book movies were cool (granted, as did Jon Favreau’s Iron Man which released just a few months prior, but certainly not to the scale of The Dark Knight) and also showed that they could be done seriously. It brought Batman back, without a shadow of a doubt, from the dwindling middle realm of “cheesy but kinda cool” to just straight up efn cool. The acting, the music, the set design, the narrative choices – being so grounded with such eccentric characters, Nolan’s Batman set the bar high. The film is now considered one of the best films of its decade, ranked at number 4 on IMDb’s Top 250 films, and seen as one of the most influential pieces of cinema for comic book adaptations. Not just in public perception, but in how they’re made as well. ‘The Dark Knight’ was somewhat expensive, with a reported budget of $180million, which although less than 2-out-of-3 of Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, it was still a relatively bold move for DC and Warner Bros to spend that much on a comic book movie. It’s not unheard of for movies in this genre now to typically come with a $200-250million budget – just look at ‘Man of Steel’; $225million in 2013, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’; ~$200million in 2014, ‘Black Widow’; $200million in 2021. Of course some still hover between $120-180million, but it’s rare for iconic characters to have less than $100million.

Warner Bros recently found gigantic success with ‘The Joker’ in 2019, directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix in an Oscar winning performance. This movie had a budget of just ~$60million, and that was dwarfed by its box office of over $1billion. The artistic style and subsequent promotion of this movie however made it very clear that this wasn’t a popcorn flick, akin to the comic book movies that people know and love in 2019. No, this was a drama, it was even more grounded in reality than any comic book predecessor and overall, it was an arthouse film. One that just happened to be (some might say very loosely) based on a DC property. It was a surprise success, on multiple accounts.

Director Matt Reeves releases his project, ‘The Batman’, next year – with Robert Pattinson playing Bruce Wayne. It has a reported budget of just $100 million. For a character as iconic and bankable as Batman, a budget of that size, in the modern era of cinema, is unheard of. Compare this to another Warner Bros release from 2019, ‘Shazam!’. A more typical comic book movie, but with a more obscure hero to general audiences from DC Comics, with a budget of $100million as well. That was clearly a business decision, to not risk too much money on a lesser known title, which is most certainly not the case with ‘The Batman’. Personally, I think it’s clear that Warner Bros are trying to see if they can replicate the success of ‘The Joker’ with one of their most profitable and prolific heroes. Even down to the casting. While most know Pattinson from ‘Twilight’, his career since then has been an array of fantastic indies and festival films, earning himself a plethora of awards with some of the most diverse acting in recent years. No longer just “that guy from Twilight”, that’s for sure.

Everything we know so far from interviews with Reeves states that this is very much a character driven story, taking us back to the mystery noir vibes of the world’s greatest detective. The trailers show this, along with a struggling Bruce Wayne who is still trying to establish his new life in the shadows of night, but they also still show the grand action that you would expect from a modern Batman film. There’s a strong chance that, much like Phoenix in ‘The Joker’, Pattinson could earn himself some very prestigious awards from this portrayal, pushing his already impressive career to the next level, if executed right. The hype around this film is insane, increasingly more so due to Covid pushing the release date more than once, but people are also very excited because of the director (very good body of previous work), the cast (excellent, inspired choices) and the fact it’s a new, supposedly standalone, universe in the DCEU.

There’s more than just “another Batman film” on the table here. If Warner Bros can pull off another successful box office run on a budget of just $100million – I genuinely think it might set a precedent for their films going forward.

Lower budgets. Characters over action.

Let’s see.

‘The Batman’ is released in cinemas March 4th 2022, courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.