Ben Affleck, who portrayed Batman in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), was set to direct, produce, co-write, and star in The Batman in 2014, but in 2017 he chose not to direct due to dissatisfaction with his own script. Reeves was hired to take over and reworked Affleck's story to focus on a younger Batman. He sought to explore Batman as a detective more than previous Batman films, inspired by the comic books "Year One" (1987), The Long Halloween (1996–1997), and Ego (2000). Affleck left The Batman entirely in January 2019 and connections to the DCEU were removed. Pattinson was cast in May 2019, with further casting later that year. Principal photography took place in the United Kingdom and Chicago, lasting from January 2020 to February 2021.
The Batman was scheduled for release in June 2021, but production was delayed between March and September 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is scheduled for release in the United States on March 4, 2022. Two sequels are planned and two spin-off television series are in development for HBO Max.
In his second year of fighting crime, Batman uncovers corruption in Gotham City that connects to his own family while facing a serial killer known as the Riddler.
Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne / Batman: A billionaire socialite who protects Gotham City as a masked vigilante. Batman is around 30 years old and is not yet an experienced crime fighter, as director Matt Reeves wanted to explore the character before he becomes "fully formed". Reeves and Pattinson described Batman as an insomniac who cannot delineate between the Batman persona and his "recluse rockstar" public identity as Wayne. Pattinson said the film would question the nature of heroism, as Batman is more flawed than traditional superheroes and unable to control himself, seeking to work out his rage and "inflect his kind of justice".
Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle / Catwoman: A nightclub worker and cat burglar who comes into contact with Batman while searching for her missing friend. Kravitz described Catwoman as a mysterious character with unclear motivations, who represents femininity in contrast to Batman's masculinity. She said the pair are drawn together by their desire to fight for vulnerable people, and become "partner[s] in crime". Kravitz focused more on Kyle than her Catwoman persona because she did not want to distract from the character's emotional journey, and drew inspiration from Michelle Pfeiffer's portrayal of the character in Batman Returns (1992) as well as the Batman story arc "Year One" (1987).
Jeffrey Wright as James Gordon: An ally of Batman in the Gotham City Police Department. Wright is the first actor of color to portray Gordon, and felt his casting reflected how much more diverse America has become since Batman's introduction in 1939. He described Gordon as "relative to Gotham City, to the Gotham City Police Department, to Batman, to justice and to corruption—and none of those things require that he be white." In preparation, Wright read the Batman: The Long Halloween (1996–1997) comic book series.
Affleck and Johns finished the first draft in March 2016. Johns hinted that the film would explore the death of Robin, which was suggested in Batman v Superman. Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara confirmed at CinemaCon in April that Affleck was directing. In the following months, Jeremy Irons was set to reprise his Batman v Superman role of Alfred Pennyworth, and Affleck revealed that Joe Manganiello would portray Deathstroke.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 release in 2018. That month, a planned Justice League sequel was delayed to accommodate The Batman. However, in January 2017, Affleck stated that the film had no script and he might not direct 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. He still planned to star and produce. By this point, Chris Terrio had turned in a rewrite of the script.
Affleck's script, set after the events of Batman v Superman and Justice League, featured an original story inspired by elements of the comics, which Affleck compared to director Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman story. Cinematographer Robert Richardson was attached early in development, and said Affleck's script was primarily set in Arkham Asylum and dealt with insanity. The script reportedly featured Deathstroke orchestrating a breakout at Arkham to tire Batman and make him vulnerable, drawing inspiration from the comic books Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (1989) and "Knightfall" (1992–1994), as well as the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009). Manganiello explained that Deathstroke believed Batman was responsible for the death of his son, and the script featured Deathstroke systematically dismantling Batman's life and killing those close to him like a "horror movie villain". Manganiello noted that the story bore resemblance to David Fincher's The Game (1997).Batgirl was planned to appear and help Batman during the climax, in which he fought Deathstroke through the streets of Gotham. Snyder enjoyed Affleck's story and included a post-credits scene at the end of Justice League—featuring Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) revealing Batman's secret identity to Deathstroke—to help set up The Batman. The scene was altered in post-production to be about the Injustice League instead, but the original scene was restored in the 2021 director's cut, Zack Snyder's Justice League.
Matt Reeves took over as director and co-writer from Affleck, and reworked the film to feature a younger version of Batman.
Affleck initially stated that he had stepped down as director to focus more on starring as Batman, but later acknowledged that he had been unable to get the script where he needed it after various attempts and simply felt that it was time for someone else to "have a shot at it". Warner Bros. was also re-evaluating its approach to superhero films following the releases of Batman v Superman and Justice League, which led to Affleck's film being "sidelined" according to Borys Kit of The Hollywood Reporter.Matt Reeves, Matt Ross, Ridley Scott, Gavin O'Connor, George Miller, Denis Villeneuve, and Fede Álvarez were all considered as replacements for Affleck, with Reeves, a longtime Batman fan, quickly moving to the top of the shortlist. He entered negotiations to direct after meeting with Warner Bros. on February 10, but talks broke down a week later over salary. This issue was soon overcome, and Reeves was officially hired to direct the film on February 23. Reeves was also set to produce the film with Dylan Clark. Reeves began working on a completely new script by March, and would not meet potential actors until at least July.
Reeves initially planned to keep The Batman in the DCEU, and spoke with Affleck during the writing process. However, he reworked the story to focus on Batman earlier in his vigilante career, and reports indicated that Reeves wanted a younger actor to play Batman. Affleck's involvement was cast further in doubt in July 2017, when reports emerged that Warner Bros. was looking for a new star. Manganiello was also unsure if Deathstroke would still appear following Reeves' re-writes. In August, Reeves said the film would connect to the broader DC universe, but it would be a standalone story that was not "filled with cameos servicing other stories", a sentiment he reiterated the following year. Reeves wanted to explore the question of how the Batman mythos could exist in the real world, and chose to use the Riddler as the main antagonist after noting parallels between the character and the Zodiac Killer.
On a Television Critics Association panel in August 2018, Reeves said that the script was nearing completion. He added that he hoped to finish it within a couple of weeks, and was aiming to begin production in early-to-mid 2019. Reeves submitted his first draft to Warner Bros. the following month. At that time, Affleck went to rehabilitation for alcohol abuse, making it unlikely that he would reprise his role. In January 2019, Warner Bros. set a June 25, 2021, release date for The Batman, and Affleck confirmed that he was no longer starring. Affleck later explained that he stepped down due to a combination of factors, including his divorce from Jennifer Garner, the tumultuous production of Justice League, his lack of enjoyment in the role at that point, and his alcohol problems. He recalled that he had shown a version of the script to a friend who 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 [on Justice League] again."
Robert Pattinson (pictured in 2017) was cast to replace Affleck in May 2019.
By May 2019, Robert Pattinson, Nicholas Hoult, Armie Hammer, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson were on a shortlist to replace Affleck as Batman, with Pattinson the frontrunner. Reeves considered Pattinson early in development, but was unsure if he would be interested and did not contact him. Pattinson had avoided large franchise films since his work on the Twilight series, as he wanted to avoid paparazzi and found those roles dull. This meant he had not appeared in any of Marvel Studios' rival superhero projects, which made him desirable to Warner Bros. Hoult, the other major contender for the role, appeared in the Marvel Comics-based X-Men films, but those did not take place in Marvel Studios' Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and Hoult was unrecognizable for large amounts of the films due to prosthetics and make-up.
Reeves spent hours reviewing Pattinson's and Hoult's previous work before meeting with them in April. They were the only contenders for the role by May 20, and both flew to Burbank, California, for a screen test. Pattinson wore Val Kilmer's Batsuit from Batman Forever (1995) during his test, which made the audition challenging because he found the suit difficult to move in. Reeves, who had specific requirements for the role, chose Pattinson to star, and he was officially cast on May 31. Batman had captivated Pattinson for a long time, and he signed on because he was interested in the character's lack of superpowers. Pattinson also had ideas about how to bring a unique portrayal of the relationship between Batman's superhero activities and his public identity, Bruce Wayne, compared to previous film adaptations.
On March 25, Reeves announced that filming had been suspended indefinitely. Shortly after, the production's dialect coach, Andrew Jack, died from COVID-19.Variety reported that production was unlikely to restart until at least mid-May, and the film's release was expected to be delayed; Warner Bros. pushed the release date back to October 1, 2021, in April. Reeves said around a quarter of the film had been shot prior to the filming suspension, and he had been looking over that footage to help plan for the rest of filming. Reeves did not intend to perform script rewrites in the meantime, but was using the opportunity to explore the film's tone. On May 12, the British government said high-end television and film productions could resume shooting as soon as employers put COVID-19 safety measures in place. A month later, The Batman was given permission to restart production in July at the earliest. Clark said Jack's death haunted the crew as they prepared to resume production.
By August, production was expected to resume in early September at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden in Hertfordshire, England. At the virtual DC FanDome event that month, Peter Craig was revealed to have contributed to the script, and Barry Keoghan was announced as portraying Stanley Merkel in the film.DC Films president Walter Hamada also confirmed that the film was no longer part of the DCEU, and would take place in a different universe within the DC Films multiverse known as "Earth-2". 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 then entered a two-week quarantine, after which filming was set to resume, while construction on the sets and props at Leavesden Studios continued. Filming resumed on September 17, after Pattinson was cleared to return to set. At this point, the film had approximately three more months of filming and was expected to finish by the end of 2020. Filming was limited to England, and crew members were required to live close to the production area and not leave the surrounding community until production ended.
In early October, the film's release was pushed to March 4, 2022, due to the production delays. Filming resumed with Pattinson for a funeral scene at St George's Hall in Liverpool, with the location doubling for Gotham City Hall. Set photos of the shoot revealed that Rupert Penry-Jones had a role in the film. Lawson resumed filming her scenes during this time. Filming also took place in Liverpool at Anfield Cemetery and the Royal Liver Building.Industrial Light & Magic began providing the StageCraft virtual production technology that Fraser developed on the Disney+Star Wars series The Mandalorian, with a wall of LED panels allowing visual effects backgrounds to be rendered in real time during shooting for certain scenes. The wall was built around existing practical sets for the film. Exterior shots and stunt scenes for Gotham City were filmed in Chicago in the middle of October. Later that month, Farrell said he would film the remainder of his scenes "on and off" until February 2021. Filming wrapped on March 13, 2021.
Soon after filming concluded, Con O'Neill was revealed to be appearing in the film.Dan Lemmon serves as the visual effects supervisor, after previously collaborating with Reeves on the Planet of the Apes films.
In October 2019, Reeves announced that his frequent collaborator Michael Giacchino would be composing the film's score. Later that month, Giacchino said he had already finished writing the main theme for the film because he was so excited to do so; because this music was written much earlier in the production than is usual for a film, Giacchino and Reeves were able to use it in promotional materials. Giacchino said he felt total freedom to write the music that he wanted for the film, agreeing with Reeves that this was their vision of Batman similar to how different comic book and graphic novel authors and artists over the years had been able to create slightly different versions of the character.
Reeves released "moody, red-saturated" test footage of Pattinson in his Batman costume on February 13, 2020. The footage included early music written by Giacchino, and generated discussion about the film's approach to Batman. Chris Evangelista of /Film thought Pattinson's Batman looked much different from previous film depictions, while Richard Newby of The Hollywood Reporter identified the costume's various references to past incarnations. Newby also noted that the bat emblem on the costume's chest resembled 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 adaptations. On March 4, Reeves released an image of the film's Batmobile. Dino-Ray Ramos of Deadline Hollywood opined that it seemed "sexier and more streamlined than Batmobiles from the past", giving off "James Bond-meets-Fast and Furious energy" that seemed appropriate for Pattinson's version of the character.
Reeves debuted a teaser trailer during the virtual DC FanDome event on August 22. It features a remix of the Nirvana song "Something in the Way" (1991) combined with Giacchino's score. The trailer, according to CNET's Bonnie Burton and Jennifer Bisset, "set the internet on fire" and was noted for its somber, grim tone. Katrina Nattress of Spin and John Saavedra at The Ringer respectively described its depiction of Gotham City as "dystopic" and "nightmarish". Adam Chitwood of Collider praised the trailer for showing off the "genuinely refreshing" approach that the film seemed to be taking in depicting the world of Batman, and Saavedra wrote that it made The Batman look more like a detective film than a standard action-oriented superhero film. Alex Abad-Santos of Vox opined that the film seemed to have more in common with the R-rated Batman spin-off Joker (2019) than other contemporary DC films. Abad-Santos noted that some critics disliked the trailer's dark tone, as previous Batman films were similarly dark and "some aren't in the mood to watch all that darkness over again", but felt The Batman could 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."
Reeves and Pattinson discussed the film at the Warner Bros. CinemaCon panel on August 24, 2021, where a sizzle reel of new footage was shown. Reeves, Pattinson, and Kravitz debuted a second trailer as the finale of DC FanDome on October 16. Daniel Chin at The Ringer said the trailer had been a highly anticipated part of the virtual event, and felt it did not disappoint. He and other commentators highlighted the trailer's dark, violent, and brutal approach to the character, which Chin felt was consistent with the teaser trailer. Adam B. Vary of Variety specifically compared the tone to Christoper Nolan's "gritty" Dark Knight films, believing The Batman would be darker and more violent than even those films. Vary, Chin, and Entertainment Weekly's Chancellor Agard all highlighted the trailer's footage of Farrell and his physical transformation for the role of Penguin. Merchandise promoting the film includes Batman-themed Hot Wheels toys from Mattel, several Lego sets, and a The Batman Box Settrade paperback collection from DC Comics which features a slipcase with art by Jim Lee and includes the "Year One", The Long Halloween, and Ego comics.
The Batman is scheduled to be released by Warner Bros. Pictures in the United States on March 4, 2022. It was originally set for release on June 25, 2021, before it was pushed back to October 1, 2021, and then to the March 2022 date, both times after Warner Bros. adjusted its release schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
WarnerMedia plans to use The Batman to establish a new shared universe, and the film is intended to be the first of a Batman film trilogy. Key cast members were reported to have signed on for future films as of November 2019.
Gotham City Police Department series
HBO Max began developing a spin-off police procedural television series in July 2020, to be written by Reeves and Terence Winter and centered on the Gotham City Police Department. The series was intended to expand on the universe of the film and its exploration of Gotham City corruption, with Reeves and Winter executive producing the series alongside Daniel Pipski, Adam Kassan, and Dylan Clark. Upon the series' announcement, it was unclear if actors such as Wright and Pattinson would reprise their roles from the film. During the DC FanDome event in August, the series was revealed to be set during Batman's first year of crime-fighting, from the perspective of a corrupt GCPD officer. In November 2020, Winter left the series over creative differences, and was replaced as showrunner by Joe Barton in January 2021.
By September 2021, HBO Max was developing a spin-off series focused on the Penguin. Lauren LeFranc was hired to write the series, and Farrell had been approached about reprising his role from the film though no deal had been made. Reeves and Clark executive produce the series, which Deadline Hollywood compared to the 1983 film Scarface.