It’s fair to say there’s a lot of interest in “The Batman” – how it was made, what decisions went into bringing this new reboot to light and what happens next. The good news is, director and co-writer Matt Reeves illuminates a lot of this on the audio commentary track that accompanies the film’s digital release. The bad news is, you can only hear the audio commentary track if you buy “The Batman” through Apple.
We took a listen to Reeves’ three-hour commentary track and pulled out some of the more fascinating nuggets of info that the filmmaker shared, offering insight into how he conceived of this story in the first place, how the film changed in post-production, and how so many of those stunning shots came to life.
The trivia runs the gamut from why Robert Pattinson’s Batman doesn’t disguise his voice to how “Goodfellas,” “Mindhunter” and “The Long Halloween” influenced Reeves’ take on the Caped Crusader. Read on below for 40 things we learned about “The Batman” from the audio commentary track.
The film is still playing in theaters but is also now streaming on HBO Max and available to purchase on Digital.
Reeves wanted the opening scene to have a “perverse difference” from how movies like this usually begin, hence the voyeuristic opening shot.
Originally, the opening scene had score over it, but during post-production Reeves suggested playing “Ave Maria” – which he already knew was important to the childhood of The Riddler’s character – over the scene instead.
Paul Dano suggested wrapping his head in cling wrap for the character of The Riddler, but after three or four takes of the first scene he took the wrap off and his face was “beet red,” according to Reeves. The director asked if he wanted to continue wearing the cling wrap, and Dano was committed to the choice.
Batman’s first scene was inspired by Reeves’ questioning of the practicality of being Batman. “When I was first sitting down to write, I was thinking about the challenge of the practicality of being Batman. The idea of how does he look for crime?” Reeves wanted to convey how Bruce walks the streets at night and doesn’t wear his Batsuit because he’d be immediately recognized. He chose to set the scene during Halloween – which was inspired by “The Long Halloween” – and to show Bruce not wearing a mask on a night when everyone else was.
Bruce dressing as a drifter in the first scene was inspired by a similar moment in “Batman: Year One.”
The journal that Bruce keeps throughout the film was inspired by “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” in which Jekyll keeps a log of his experiments. Reeves also found a journal online from a rookie cop working the night shift that inspired some of Bruce’s writings. “He’s sort of addicted to this activity… Being Batman is really him just trying to make meaning of his life, and so while it sounds very heroic in a certain way it’s actually personally driven. It’s really about him being driven to make sense of his life and what happened to him in the only way he can know how, which is to try and channel all of his energy into vengeance.”
Reeves says it was important for him not to do an origin tale, “but to do a story where we have an arc of Batman – not one of the Rogues Gallery characters after he becomes Batman – but Batman in his early days at a point where he hasn’t learned fully how to be Batman.” By the end, “Batman himself, not Bruce becoming Batman but Batman, has an awakening and has to change.”
The “I’m Vengeance” moment from the beginning of the film was inspired by the scene in “Goodfellas” when Henry Hill beats his neighbor with his revolver after his neighbor assaults Karen.
Reeves knew Batman would have a lot of long dialogue scenes in the shoot, which is why he and Robert Pattinson chose not to have Batman disguise his voice. “Even the tenor of his voice, how high his voice should be. I knew I didn’t wanna do a Batman that had been done previously, that had the growl that we’d seen. Because I knew that in this version, if you’re gonna do a detective story, Batman is gonna have a lot of dialogue scenes. Which, when you actually look at all the movies, Bruce may have a lot of long dialogue scenes but Batman’s dialogue scenes, he has dialogue but it’s controlled. This, by literally the necessity of solving this crime, was going to require him to have to have long dialogue scenes in that suit and some of them are very emotional. If he was growling, we wouldn’t be able to connect to him emotionally. So there was a real exploration to figure out how to make that work.”
Reeves was inspired by “The Long Halloween” to start thinking about serial killer stories and someone leaving clues behind at crimes, which led him to choose The Riddler as the villain who left clues and ciphers for The Batman in his film. He was also inspired by the Zodiac Killer and read “Mindhunter” to develop the serial killer aspect of the story.
All of the elements of The Riddler’s costume are elements that you could buy at a store, which was inspired by real-life serial killers.
As mentioned previously, Reeves took inspiration from Kurt Cobain for Bruce Wayne, who he calls a “tragic celebrity.” In contrast to the Bruce Wayne of other Batman stories, here he’s rarely seen out in public and “looks like a drug addict” because he works all night as Batman.
“He wasn’t emotionally equipped to be a father,” Reeves says of Alfred and his relationship with Bruce after the Waynes’ death. Two years into the Batman project, Alfred finally starts to see this may be harmful for Bruce.
John Cazale and Bob Hoskins from “The Long Good Friday” were inspirations for the look of The Penguin.
In some wide shots outside the Penguin’s hideout, you can see The Riddler in his apartment across the street from the Iceberg Lounge spying on what’s happening.
Reeves and cinematographer Greig Fraser gave the specs for the lenses they were going to use to the VR team so Reeves could use VR to scope out and plan his shots virtually. “I was able to storyboard the whole movie in VR, which was incredible,” Reeves says.
It was Zoe Kravtiz’s idea to bring in Selina’s tanktop and hair as inspired by the drawings of Selina in “Year One.”
Kravitz came up with the line where Bruce says, “You got a lotta cats,” as a lead-in to her saying she has a thing for strays, because she was passionate about including cats in the sequence.
The scene in which Gil Colson tells Selina about the rat inside the club had to be rewritten and reworked. Peter Sarsgaard said he didn’t feel like it was working in rehearsal, and Reeves says on the day of filming he realized was right. So he stopped the scene, reworked it, and they came back and shot it differently the next day, and that’s the scene in the film.
The scene in which Gordon and Batman meet in the high-rise under construction was inspired by the scene in which Deep Throat meets with Woodward and Bernstein in “All the President’s Men.”
Composer Michael Giacchino wrote the suite “Funeral and Far Between” before filming began, and Reeves listened to it right before Robert Pattinson’s screen test: “Normally what happens is I show a very long cut of the movie way before it’s done to Michael, and he starts writing suites. And this particular piece of music, I talked extensively to [Michael] about what I was doing, shared some script pages, and he wrote this theme before we were shooting and actually had an orchestra record it. And he sent it to me the night before Rob did his screen test as Batman.”
The scenes in the under-construction skyscraper were shot using volume technology – those are digital backgrounds.
Reeves didn’t want Gotham to look too much like any one American city, so they shot primarily in Liverpool and added the modern buildings digitally until they had their own signature skyline.
While there are plenty of visual effects in the Batmobile chase sequence, Reeves ensured “when we were doing CG shots, we didn’t do anything that would be impossible for the camera.” But the actual jump of the car through the fire was done practically.
All the rain in the car chase sequence was added digitally.
Reeves says he wanted the car chase to have a horror movie vibe, taking inspiration from Stephen King’s “Christine.”
The Riddler believes he and Bruce will have an “emotional romance” once they’re together in Arkham Asylum, Reeves says.
The Selina Kyle/Carmine Falcone connection was taken from comics written by Jeph Loeb, who was Reeves’ screenwriting teacher.
Reeves wanted to hint at but not answer the question of who killed Bruce’s parents. “There’s obviously the Joe Chill version from the comics, but there’s also this version, which I love, that they’ll never quite know who killed his parents and that that mystery will haunt him forever, and that nothing will bring us to the bottom of it. And I thought this was an opportunity to present some potential possibilities and that his father’s own corruption may have been one of the factors that led to their murders, and that was something that never occurred to Bruce.”
It was John Turturro’s idea for Selina to scratch Falcone in the same place where her mother may have scratched his face, leaving scars, as inspired by the comics.
Selina’s costume in her final fight with Falcone was inspired by Catwoman’s costume in “Batman: Year One” and was Kravitz’s idea.
The scene in which Batman is leading Carmine out in handcuffs and Carmine makes it clear to Batman that he’ll take all his secrets to his grave was written by Reeves as a way to further convince John Turturro to play the character.
The line The Riddler says about having ordered apple pie when he’s being arrested was inspired by the capture of the Golden State Killer, who said “I just put a roast in the oven” when he was arrested.
In the interrogation scene between Batman and The Riddler, there’s a “tug of war” between the Riddler’s theme and Batman’s theme. “When Batman realizes he’s missed something and he didn’t solve it, the music switches back around and it becomes The Riddler’s theme again.”
Reeves says they did 50 different takes of the interrogation scene to find the right balance between The Riddler and Batman, and make sure Dano didn’t give away too much.
The arena set was the only set surrounded by blue screen, but in order to make the backgrounds more realistic, Reeves and his team used photography from the O2 arena and encouraged the VFX team to embrace imperfections from the specific lenses they were using on the film for filling in digital backgrounds.
Reeves says Batman comes very close to killing in that final fight sequence. “He wants to believe that he wouldn’t kill, and yet at the same time he comes so close so many times throughout this scene, he’s in so many ways so recklessly close to the edge. And some of it is even luck, how close he is to committing murder really. And here I think if Gordon didn’t come and stop him, he would have killed this guy absolutely. That’s how out of control he is, and Gordon kind of brings him to his senses. In fact, he’s in a state right now where he is just in pure instinct. This is like the comic ‘Ego’.”
The idea for the end of the film was Bruce realizing that his actions as Batman have inspired some of the violence in the city. “I wanted this idea of him putting the message of vengeance out into the city to have an effect. Now he realizes in some certain way, he’s very implicated in this and everything that’s happened in the city, everything that’s happened here is in large part connected to the message he put out about being vengeance and that he has to change and do more.”
Reeves explained why the Joker scene is at the end of the film, and why they put it back in the movie after initially taking it out. “A lot of people ask me, ‘Is this a setup for another movie?’ and to be honest it really isn’t… It changed the stakes of the finale scene. When Selina says to him you know that this place is never gonna change and he’s like I gotta try, this idea that trouble is already brewing again. That in this moment of the power vacuum that people are already scheming. When you took this scene out it didn’t have that sort of same resonance and the idea that he could go away with her seemed more reasonable and you thought, well gee why is he staying? So that was critical, actually, to the ending of the movie and to the finishing of the Riddler’s arc as well. What we’ll do with these characters in the future remains to be seen, but it was never meant to be like an Easter egg scene, to say like, ‘Oh guess who we’re using in the next movie.’”
The final scene between Batman and Selina Kyle conversing on the rooftop was shot in the volume.