After he was cast as Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Ben Affleck began developing a DC Extended Universe (DCEU) Batman film with Geoff Johns, and was attached to direct, write, produce, and star. In January 2017, Affleck stepped down from directing and writing after struggling with the story and so he could focus on playing Batman. Reeves took over directorial and scripting duties the following month and reworked the story to focus on a younger Batman, hoping to emphasize the detective aspect of the character to a greater extent than previous films. Affleck stepped down from all involvement in January 2019, and Pattinson was cast the following May. The film's connections to the DCEU were subsequently eliminated. Principal photography began in London, England in January 2020 but was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Production resumed in early September, but was halted again a few days later after Pattinson tested positive for COVID-19.
The Batman is scheduled to be released on October 1, 2021. Two sequels are planned, while a spin-off prequel television series is in development for HBO Max.
In his second year of fighting crime, Batman explores the corruption that plagues Gotham City and how it may tie to his own family, in addition to coming into conflict with a serial killer known as the Riddler.
Affleck and Johns finished the first draft in March 2016, with Johns implying that the film would explore the death of Robin which was hinted at in Batman v Superman. At CinemaCon in April, Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara confirmed the film was moving forward, with Affleck directing. In the following months, Jeremy Irons and Joe Manganiello were confirmed to appear—with Manganiello playing Deathstroke—and Jared Leto expressed interest in reprising his role as the Joker from Suicide Squad. Affleck revealed the title of the film was The Batman in October, and in December he said filming was on track to begin in mid-2017 for a release date in 2018. That month, a planned Justice League sequel was delayed to accommodate The Batman. However, in January 2017, Affleck said the film had no script and that he may end up not directing it. While Affleck reaffirmed his commitment to direct in an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, by the end of the month he decided to step down; nonetheless, he stated he would still star and produce. By this point, Chris Terrio had turned in a rewrite of the script.
Affleck initially cited his intentions to step down as director were to focus more on starring as Batman, later acknowledging that after various attempts to get the script where he wanted it, it simply became "time to let someone else have a shot at it". Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter added that Affleck's film was "sidelined" after Warner Bros. began re-evaluating its approach to superhero films.Matt Ross, Ridley Scott, and Fede Álvarez were considered to replace Affleck, before Matt Reeves joined to direct and produce in February 2017, and production was delayed until 2018 so he could complete War for the Planet of the Apes. By March, Reeves had begun working on a completely new script, and would not meet potential actors until at least July. In August, Reeves said the film would still take place within the DCEU, but that "it wouldn't be filled with cameos servicing other stories". After Reeves began rewriting the script, Manganiello said he was unsure if Deathstroke would still appear.
In August 2018, Reeves appeared on a Television Critics Association panel and revealed many details about the film. He confirmed that The Batman would be an original, noir-driven story and not an origin story. He also revealed that the script was nearing completion and that the film's connections to the DCEU would be minimal. Reeves said that he was "working on getting our draft in the next couple of weeks and things are progressing," hoping to begin production in early-to-mid 2019. Reeves submitted his first draft to Warner Bros. the following month. Affleck's involvement was in doubt; Kim Masters of The Hollywood Reporter reported in July 2017 that Warner Bros. was looking to replace him. This was strengthened by further reports indicating that Reeves wanted a younger actor to play Batman. In August 2018, Affleck went to rehabilitation for alcohol abuse, casting further doubt that he would be reprising his role. In January 2019, Warner Bros. set a June 25, 2021 release date for The Batman, and Affleck confirmed that he was departing. Affleck revealed in 2020 that he stepped down due to a combination of factors, including his divorce from Jennifer Garner, the tumultuous production of Justice League, his personal lack of enjoyment in the role, and his alcohol problems. "I showed [my friend] the Batman script," he recalled. "They said, 'I think the script is good. I also think you'll drink yourself to death if you go through what you just went through again."
When Affleck was writing The Batman, it was intended to be set after the events of Batman v Superman and Justice League. Affleck said his film would feature a "mostly original" story that used elements of comic books for inspiration, like what director Zack Snyder did with Batman v Superman. According to Robert Richardson, who was attached as cinematographer early in development, Affleck's script was set in Arkham Asylum and dealt with insanity.
When Reeves took over writing duties, he reworked the story to focus on Batman earlier in his career as a vigilante and sought to explore the detective aspect of the character to a greater extent than previous films. Reeves stated in an interview that the film would feature "an almost-noir driven, detective version of Batman" emphasizing the heart and mind of the character and taking inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock. Reeves stated that he aimed to make a film that seemed believable, and said that Chinatown, The French Connection, and Taxi Driver were sources of inspiration. Another critical influence was Batman: Ego, a 2000 story by Darwyn Cooke and Jon Babcock that explores Batman's psychology.
By May 2019, Robert Pattinson, Nicholas Hoult, Armie Hammer, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson were on the shortlist to replace Affleck as Batman, Pattinson being the frontrunner. Reeves began to consider Pattinson early in development, but was unsure if he would want to take the part and did not contact him. Pattinson's avoidance of "big studio franchise films" meant he had not appeared in any of rival Marvel Studios' projects, something that made him desirable to Warner Bros. Hoult was the other major contender for the role. While Hoult had appeared in the Marvel Comics-based X-Men films, those did not take place in Marvel Studios' Marvel Cinematic Universe, and, as Kit noted, "Hoult spent large chunks of those movies unrecognizable" due to his makeup.
Reeves "spent hours poring over the two actors' work", and in April met with them both. By May 20, they were the only contenders, and both flew to Burbank, California for a screen test. Reeves, who "wanted very specific things" for the role, chose Pattinson, and on May 31 Pattinson was cast. News of Pattinson's casting leaked shortly before he screen-tested, with Pattinson recalling: "I was fucking furious. Everyone was so upset. Everyone was panicking from my team. I sort of thought that had blown up the whole thing." The casting was also met with backlash from Batman fans—with some setting up a Change.org petition to have it reversed—but Pattinson said he found responses "less vitriolic than I was expecting [...] it's much more fun when you're an underdog. There's no expectation of you."
On March 25, Reeves announced that filming had been suspended indefinitely, with plans to resume once it was safe to do so. Shortly afterward, the production's dialect coach, Andrew Jack, died from COVID-19.Variety reported that production was unlikely to restart until around mid-May, and that the release date was expected to be delayed as a result. In April, Warner Bros. pushed the release date back until October 1, 2021. Reeves stated that around a quarter of the film had been shot prior to suspension, and that he had been taking time to look over what had already been shot and think about "what's to come." Reeves said that he was not planning to perform script rewrites in the meantime, but was using the opportunity to explore the film's tone. On May 12, the British government gave the green light for high-end TV and film productions to resume shooting, as soon as employers put coronavirus safety measures in place, and The Batman was given permission to restart production around July. By August, production was expected to resume in early September at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden in Hertfordshire, England. Filming will be limited to England, and crew members will be required to live close to the production area and not leave to the surrounding community.
At DC FanDome in August 2020, DC Films president Walter Hamada confirmed that the film was no longer part of the DCEU, but took place in a different universe within DC Film's multiverse. It was also revealed that Peter Craig had contributed to the script and that Barry Keoghan had been cast as Stanley Merkel. By September 3, filming had resumed for three days at Leavesden Studios, only to be put on pause again after Pattinson tested positive for COVID-19. The filming crew entered quarantine for nearly two weeks, by when filming will resume, while construction on the sets and props at Leavesden Studios continued. The film has approximately three more months of filming and is expected to finish by the end of 2020.
In October 2019, Reeves announced that his frequent collaborator Michael Giacchino would be composing the film's score. Later that month, Giacchino confirmed that he had already finished writing the main theme because he was so excited to do so. In film production, the music is not written until later, but since Giacchino wrote the music early on, he and Reeves were able to use it in promotional materials. Giacchino said he "felt total freedom to do whatever I want. Matt always agreed, this is our Batman, this is our vision. In the same way that I always loved, what I still do about Batman comics and graphic novels is that each of these artists, each of these authors, they take their own crack at what they want this to be. It's their version of Batman."
On February 13, 2020, Reeves released "moody, red-saturated" test footage revealing Pattinson in his Batman costume and Giacchino's theme. The one-minute video generated a great deal of speculation and discussion of what approach the film would take in depicting Batman's world. Chris Evangelista of /Film thought Pattinson "looks much different than any onscreen Batman we've seen before", while Richard Newby of The Hollywood Reporter identified the Batsuit's various references to previous incarnations. Newby also noted that the bat emblem on the costume's chest bore a resemblance to a pistol, and wondered if it was the pistol used to kill Batman's parents in his origin story. The footage's use of the color red also led to discussion of how The Batman would differ tonally from previous Batman adaptations. On March 4, 2020, Reeves released an image of the film's Batmobile. Dino-Ray Ramos of Deadline Hollywood opined that it "seems sexier and more streamlined than Batmobiles from the past" and "gives off some serious James Bond-meets-Fast and Furious energy and seems right on point for Pattinson."
Reeves released a teaser trailer on August 22, 2020, during the virtual DC FanDome convention. The trailer, according to CNET, "set the internet on fire" and was noted for its somber, grim tone. Adam Chitwood of Collider praised the trailer for showing off "the genuinely refreshing approach" the film seemed to be taking in depicting the world of Batman.
The Batman is scheduled to be released by Warner Bros. Pictures in the United States on October 1, 2021. It was originally scheduled to be released on June 25, 2021, but was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Potential sequel films
The Batman is intended to be the first of a Batman film trilogy. In November 2019, Kroll and Brent Lang of Variety reported that key cast members are signed on to reprise their roles in future DC films.
In July 2020, HBO Max began developing a spin-off police procedural drama television series that would be written by Reeves and Terence Winter and centered on the Gotham City Police Department, sharing continuity with the film. The series was intended "to build on the film's examination of the anatomy of corruption in Gotham City". Reeves and Winter will executive produce the series, along with Daniel Pipski, Adam Kassan, and Dylan Clark.The Hollywood Reporter reported that it was unclear if actors such as Wright and Pattinson would reprise their roles for the series. In August 2020, during the DC FanDome event, it was revealed that the series will be a prequel to the film, as it is set during Batman's first year from the perspective of a crooked cop in the GCPD and the battle for his soul.