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The Batman release date, cast, plot and villains

Since its launch in 2013 with Man of Steel, the DC Extended Universe has undergone a few major renovations. Initially envisioned as a sprawling, intertwined cinematic universe meant to rival Marvel, DC has since re-evaluated their approach to their superhero franchise more than once, toying with tone, continuity, and casting in an attempt to find a formula that sizzles. Films have appeared and disappeared from DC's schedule, blinking on and back off again like a Bat signal on the fritz, as the studio attempts to land on a formula that allows them to capitalize on their expansive character roster while also (hopefully) pleasing their fans.

Through it all, one of the biggest question marks in the DC landscape has been what it will do with one of its most significant heroes, Batman. A new solo Batman movie has been in the works since before 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but since then, the film has lost its writer, its director, its star, and possibly even its universe. Still, despite these massive changes, The Batman remains on DC's schedule, albeit looking quite a bit different from how it was originally conceived. Here's everything we know about the movie in its current form.

Robert Pattinson will be portraying the Caped Crusader

After the tepid reception for both Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, the first two appearances of Bruce Wayne's billionaire vigilante in the DCEU, DC reconsidered their plan to have Ben Affleck helm his own solo movie. In 2017, Affleck announced that he was stepping away from the director's chair for The Batman, saying that he wanted to be able to focus entirely on his performance in the lead role. But then in early 2019, Affleck confirmed that he was walking away from the film entirely, and that someone else would be donning the cowl whenever The Batman eventually swooped into theaters.

That someone is now confirmed to be Robert Pattinson, best known to many as Edward, the sparkling vampire from the Twilight movies. However, he has demonstrated impressive range in his post-Twilight career, giving critically acclaimed performances in films such as Good Time and High Life. Pattinson has also been tapped to star in Christopher Nolan's upcoming film, Tenet.

In The Batman, Pattinson will portray a younger Bruce Wayne than Affleck's grizzled version, exploring Batman's early days as the Dark Knight rather than following him toward the end of his tenure.  

The Batman will be helmed by Matt Reeves, who is also writing the script

Soon after Ben Affleck walked away from The Batman directing gig, news broke that Matt Reeves would be taking on the gargantuan task of shepherding The Batman from concept to completion. While The Batman will be Reeves' first foray into the world of superheroes, he is no stranger to films featuring high concepts and larger-than-life characters, as evidenced by his directorial work on Cloverfield and the rebooted Planet of the Apes films.

At first, the intent was for Reeves to use Ben Affleck's script, which still had Affleck starring in the titular role. However, a few months after he was brought on board as director, Reeves announced that he was tossing out Affleck's screenplay and starting from scratch.

While Reeves' script will feature a younger protagonist than Affleck's, the director still hopes to deliver a mature, ambitious film that doesn't talk down to its audience and offers an "epic and emotional new take" on the character.

The film will have no ties to Ben Affleck's Batman

Even after Affleck severed ties with The Batman and his script was discarded, it was thought that Matt Reeves' screenplay would still serve as a prequel to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, following a younger version of Affleck's Bruce Wayne and filling in some of the blanks on the path that led to the older hero who appeared in Zack Snyder's film.

However, a source told We Got This Covered that Warner Bros. has pivoted yet again, opting instead to make The Batman a standalone film with no ties to the previous appearances of Batman in the DCEU. If the film does well, it could conceivably spin off an entirely new Gotham Cinematic Universe, leading to eventual follow-ups like Nightwing and Batgirl.

And this could just be the beginning, with rumors beginning to circulate that Warner Bros. may be rebooting the entire DCEU into multiple new universes with no ties to previous movies, including a brand new take on Superman. So while The Batman will likely be pretty self-contained when it first hits theaters, all these new continuities could eventually get braided together, finally giving DC the expansive cinematic universe it's been hoping for.

The film will play up Batman's skills as a detective

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Reeves said that his screenplay for The Batman will be a "point of view-driven, noir Batman tale," which leans into the notion of Bruce Wayne as the world's greatest detective. Contrasting his take on a Batman movie with previous films, which he says haven't really delved as deeply into the Dark Knight's detective skills, Reeves promised to send Pattinson's Batman on a "journey of tracking down the criminals and trying to solve a crime," while also delivering an emotional, transformative arc for the character.

"I hope it's going to be a story that will be thrilling but also emotional," Reeves said, discussing his character-driven approach to this iteration of Batman. Previously, while talking to Digital Spy, Reeves said that he sees Batman as "a tortured soul who is struggling to find a way to do the right thing in a very imperfect world."

As Christian Bale's Batman famously said in The Dark Knight, "It's not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me." However, based on Reeves' comments, we expect his take on the character to be more introspective and intellectual than what we've seen in previous films. While it's probably a safe bet that The Batman will feature its fair share of fistfights, explosions, and mind-blowing Bat-gadgets — after all, this is still a DC superhero movie — don't be surprised if Reeves' Batman turns out to be defined by who he is underneath after all.

Zoë Kravitz will be slinking into the role of Catwoman

It was revealed early on that key villain roles in The Batman would be filled by the Penguin and Catwoman. After several rounds of lively casting rumors that included Vanessa Hudgens, Aubrey Plaza, Lupita Nyong'o, Tessa Thompson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alexandra Shipp, and Logan Browning, speculation about who will be portraying Selina Kyle in The Batman can now come to an end, because the black catsuit has officially been claimed. Big Little Lies star Zoë Kravitz will be portraying the Caped Crusader's iconic femme fatale in Matt Reeves' film, although we don't yet know whether she'll be playing an antagonist, love interest, ally, or all of the above. Selina has a rich and complex history with Bruce Wayne in the comics, and her role in the film could go any number of directions. 

The Batman won't be Kravitz's first or even second foray into comic fare, although it'll be her first starring role in a superhero film. She previously played the mutant Angel Salvadore, a.k.a. Tempest, in 2011's X-Men: First Class, and also provided the voice for Mary Jane Parker (née Watson) in 2018's Oscar-winning animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. In addition to her Marvel credentials, the actress also already has familial ties to the DC universe through her stepdad Jason Momoa, who starred as Arthur Curry, a.k.a. Aquaman, in the DCEU's Justice League and Aquaman. But the most purr-fectly relevant gig on her resume? She's already played Catwoman once before, having lent her voice to The LEGO Batman Movie

Outside of superhero films, Kravitz has appeared in Mad Max: Fury Road, most recently starred in season two of HBO's Big Little Lies, and will be leading the upcoming Hulu series High Fidelity.

The Batman will finally flap into theaters in 2021

DC announced in early 2019 that The Batman is slated for a June 25, 2021 release date, which will make it nearly four years since Bruce Wayne was last seen on screen in 2017's Justice League. While this may seem like an interminable length of time to have to wait for our next glimpse of the Caped Crusader, fans of the studio's film universe will have plenty to tide them over in the meantime.

Although the Bat himself (probably) won't be making an appearance in the 2019 film Joker, the choice to center a film around Batman's most notorious archnemesis may still scratch that bat-shaped itch for fans. Joker is set to make audiences smile on October 4, 2019.

Then, in 2020, DC fans can look forward to Birds of Prey (featuring Suicide Squad's Harley Quinn), and Wonder Woman 1984, which follows up on 2017's Wonder Woman. Both of those movies' predecessors featured nods to Ben Affleck's Batman, with Affleck making a cameo appearance in Suicide Squad and his character of Bruce Wayne sending Diana Prince the photograph that kicked off her trip down memory lane in Wonder Woman. So while we don't really expect Robert Pattinson to make his debut in either of these upcoming films, we wouldn't be surprised if the character at least receives a mention. Birds of Prey comes to theaters February 7, 2020, with Wonder Woman 1984 arriving a few months later, on June 5, 2020.

It will not be another Batman origin story

Despite the fact that The Batman will follow a younger, less world-weary Bruce Wayne than the version we've seen previously in the DCEU, don't expect Robert Pattinson's first foray into the world of Gotham to be an origin story. Although rumors had been circulating that Reeves' script would be an adaptation of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One comics, Reeves squashed that buzz in 2018, saying at the Television Critics Association, "Obviously we're not doing any origin tales or anything like that."

While Reeves says that Miller's Year One is among his favorite Batman comics, and may have even been included among the "deep dive" into the source material that he did in order to prepare for The Batman, the director hasn't yet named a specific title that he'll be adapting, or even if he's adapting an existing storyline. All we know for now is that Reeves' script will lean into Batman's skills as the world's greatest detective, which could speak to a number of different Batman storylines, or to something entirely original.

The Batman will assemble a "rogues gallery" of villains

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter in early 2019 about which DC baddies Robert Pattinson will be fighting in The Batman, Reeves promised, "There will be a rogues gallery." While Reeves declined to elaborate on just how many rogues would make up this gallery or who they might be, his comment seems to imply that there will be more villains appearing in The Batman than just Catwoman and the Penguin.

We Got This Covered reported in the summer of 2019 that potential villains for The Batman included Two-Face, the Riddler, Firefly, and Mad Hatter. Two-Face has appeared twice already on film, first in 1995's Batman Forever, when he was played by Tommy Lee Jones, and then again in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight in 2008, this time portrayed by Aaron Eckhart. The Riddler has also shown up before, teaming up with Jones' Two-Face in Batman Forever courtesy of Jim Carrey. 

Meanwhile, The Batman would be the first appearance of Mad Hatter and Firefly in a mainstream Batman film. In the comics, Firefly is a sociopathic pyromaniac and Mad Hatter is a scientist who specializes in technological mind control. If they're working with the rest of The Batman's rumored rogues gallery, Pattinson's masked vigilante will certainly have his work cut out for him when it comes to keeping peace in the streets of Gotham.

Deathstroke is a maybe for The Batman

After making an appearance as Deathstroke at the end of Justice League, Joe Manganiello was lined up as the big bad for Ben Affleck's The Batman, but that seems up in the air with Matt Reeves at the helm. While Manganiello had spoken enthusiastically about his participation in the film in the past, he seemed less certain in 2017, responding to a question from Pittsburgh Today Live about whether he'd be playing Deathstroke in The Batman with, "Um, maybe. We'll see."

According to We Got This Covered, Ben Affleck's original script would have seen Bruce Wayne face off against Deathstroke, which would've spun off into a solo Deathstroke film, also starring Manganiello, with Gareth Evans rumored to be at the helm. However, in an interview with ComicBook.com in 2017, Evans said that he was never formally attached to a Deathstroke film, and that although he had some good conversations about it, he hadn't heard anything about it in a long time.

In the same interview, Evans praised Manganiello's knowledge of and commitment to the character, saying that the actor was "super passionate" about Deathstroke, and that he has "never met anyone who knows more about their character." So although it sounds like Deathstroke is probably not playing a major role in Reeves' film, we can still hold out hope for Manganiello to show up as part of the "rogues gallery," so that he can put some of that character knowledge to good use.

Josh Gad is not-so-subtly campaigning to play the Penguin

So far, casting information on The Batman has been scarce, possibly because Matt Reeves wanted to lock in his lead actor before dropping hints about who will be playing the supporting roles. However, this hasn't stopped Beauty and the Beast actor Josh Gad from campaigning for one of the main villain slots: Oswald Cobblepot, a.k.a. the Penguin. Gad has been humorously gunning to play the Penguin for years, tweeting vaguely but insistently about his interest in the role.

Sadly, Gad recently tweeted that he's not playing the Penguin in The Batman, much as he has enjoyed pursuing the part. Of course, since no actor has been announced as Cobblepot yet, there's still a slim chance that Gad could eventually be brought on for the role. Still, it seems as though despite Gad's insistence and his fans' enthusiasm, his version of the Penguin may not be meant to be.

The Batman will introduce a new Commissioner Gordon

While J.K. Simmons' casting as Commissioner Gordon was one of the most universally well-received parts of the uneven Justice League, don't hold your breath for Simmons to appear in The Batman. Despite Simmons' three-movie deal, the actor says he hasn't been contacted about reprising the role in Reeves' film, although he's still hoping to one day step back into Gordon's shoes. Speaking with Entertainment Tonight, Simmons said, "I know that I signed up to do three movies and I hope there are going to be two more."

In the comics, Commissioner Gordon has been around as long as Batman has, with both characters first appearing in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. Since then, Gordon has been reimagined a few times, sometimes functioning as a foil for the Caped Crusader, while other times showing up as a strong ally. He's had a bigger role in some Batman movies than others, but he's always been there.

As with the recasting of Bruce Wayne and the discarding of Affleck's script, it seems as though Reeves and Warner Bros. are determined to sever any and all ties with the earlier films in the DCEU — even if those ties were actually pretty good the first time around.

Jeffrey Wright has been commissioned to play Jim Gordon

It appears as though The Batman has found its Jim Gordon, but DC is going to have to share him with Marvel. THR reports that Westworld's Jeffrey Wright is in negotiations to step into Gordon's city-issued shoes, which would make him part of the elite club of actors who have appeared in both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DCEU, including Shazam!'s Zachary Levi and Man of Steel's Laurence Fishburne

Wright will be voicing Uatu the Watcher in Marvel's upcoming What If...? series, set to premiere on Disney+ in the summer of 2021 — right around when The Batman will be swooping into theaters. While it's unusual for an actor to appear in both an MCU and a DCEU project that will be released around the same time, it's not unheard of; Djimon Hounsou previously appeared in both Shazam! and Captain Marvel, which hit theaters just a few weeks apart. Wright will have the added benefit of his Marvel role being animated, meaning he'll only need to record his voice for the role, freeing up his schedule for plenty of bat-tastic DCEU hijinks. 

That's fortunate, because if there are ever any sequels to The Batman — a scenario which Pattinson won't confirm one way or the other — Gordon will need to come along for the ride. The commissioner is a key figure in every version of the Batman mythos, so if The Batman is intended to spin off more films, we can hopefully expect Wright to return for each and every one.

Jonah Hill won't be in The Batman after all

In September of 2019, Variety reported that Superbad actor Jonah Hill was in talks to join The Batman in an undisclosed villain role. By mid-October, however, news broke that although talks had indeed taken place, Hill had passed on the project. The deal was never official, but it sounded as though everyone involved is anxious for Hill to come aboard, which of course raises the question — which now-vacant role was he being considered for?

The most obvious answer is The Batman's already confirmed villain, Oswald Cobblepot, otherwise known as the Penguin. Hill's comedic background would have equipped him well to play the cartoonish baddie, and it's easy to imagine him in the role. However, Hill would have also been an interesting choice for the Riddler, Mad Hatter, Firefly, or any number of Batman's other larger-than-life antagonists that haven't even been rumored yet. We'll learn more about The Batman's rogues gallery once someone takes the role that would have been Hill's.

Paul Dano is donning The Riddler's green suit

On the heels of Jonah Hill's negotiations to join the cast of The Batman falling through, a different actor was added to the film's rogues gallery. Warner Bros. confirmed in October 2019 that Paul Dano has officially come aboard the film as the Riddler, whose real name here is Edward Nashton (though he may change his name during the events of the film to the classic Edward Nygma). 

Dano is well suited for a dark and menacing villain, having recently been nominated for an Emmy for his work on the Showtime limited series Escape at Dannemora, in which he portrayed real-life convicted murderer David Sweat, who escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York in 2015. However, Dano has played a wide variety of roles during his eclectic career, from gently comedic turns in films like Swiss Army Man and Little Miss Sunshine, to more serious roles in films such as Prisoners, Okja, and There Will Be Blood.

The thread that seems to tie all of Dano's characters together is a sense of deep interior personality and emotional complexity, which will serve him well as the enigmatic Riddler. Matt Reeves' casting of the soulful, often somber Dano is a far cry from the rubber-limbed Jim Carrey, who played the role in 1995's Batman Forever, making us even more curious to see exactly what Reeves' grounded and cerebral take on a Batman story is going to look like. 

Andy Serkis could play Batman's right-hand man

The Wrap reports that chameleonic actor Andy Serkis, certainly no stranger to super-franchises, is in talks to play Bruce Wayne's stalwart butler, Alfred Pennyworth. Serkis is best known for his groundbreaking motion capture work in films like Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes, and Star Wars, in addition to his live-action role as Ulysses Klaue in Marvel's Black Panther. The Batman would see Serkis stepping outside his highly kinetic comfort zone to play the polished and formal valet, who often serves as a stabilizing presence for Bruce. 

Serkis is also signed on to direct Venom 2 for Sony, which is currently scheduled to release in October of 2020. With The Batman slated to start filming in January of 2020, that could make it difficult for Serkis to commit to both projects. Then again, while Alfred is a vital part of the Batman mythos, acting as a surrogate father figure to Bruce from childhood through to adulthood (and superhero-hood), we have no way of knowing how big of a role he plays in Reeves' script. If The Batman has the Dark Knight out investigating in the streets of Gotham for most of the film, Serkis may be able to get away with filming just a few brief scenes in Wayne Manor, leaving him free as a bird (or a bat) for Venom 2

Is Colin Farrell cool enough to play a Batman villain?

In a surprising bit of casting news, Colin Farrell is in negotiations to join the cast of The Batman — but probably not as the character you think. If Warner Bros. is able to close a deal with Farrell, Deadline reports that the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them actor will come aboard The Batman as Oswald Cobblepot, a.k.a. The Penguin. 

Previously, comedic actors such as Jonah Hill, Josh Gad, and Seth Rogen had been rumored for the villainous role, suggesting that the character in The Batman might be interpreted similarly to Danny DeVito's version of Cobblepot in 1992's Batman Returns. However, it now appears that Matt Reeves is headed in a completely different direction with the murderous mobster, altering the character from both his typical portrayal in the comics and his previous depictions on screen from a short, stout man with a bird-like face to, well, Colin Farrell. 

If Farrell officially signs on, this will mark the second comic book villain the Irish actor has played on the big screen. He previously co-starred as Bullseye in 2003's Daredevil, opposite the DCEU's original Caped Crusader, Ben Affleck.