Throughout the temporary shutdown of Hollywood, Matt Reeves’ The Batman has been one of the few projects we’ve gotten regular updates about, thanks in large part to it having been about a quarter of the way through filming when the shutdown hit, as well as being one of the first films to resume filming in the U.K. this month.
Adam Chitwood from Collider sat down with DP Greig Fraser for a lengthy interview that covered his long and respected career. We’re talking work from political-military thriller Zero Dark Thirty to dreamy biopic Bright Star, from the walk-and-talk Vice to Rogue One and The Mandalorian in the Star Wars universe, and the upcoming, hugely anticipated Dune. But he’s also the director of photography for The Batman, so he naturally had some interesting tidbits to dish about that project.
Firstly, The Batman won’t be as dark as many of us are likely thinking. We can’t be blamed for thinking it. After all, there was that initial, moody costume test drenched in lurid red. There’s also the fact that for many fans, Nolan’s The Dark Knight still sticks in our minds as the ultimate modern Batman movies. And though it’s simply not true, many people still associate a dark or desaturated color palette with an elevated movie, with quality.
Fraser says their goal isn’t to be the darkest of dark, however. He admitted, it’s something he and Reeves discuss often: How dark should they go? What’s the tone they want to aim for?:
“There’s darkness in the character for sure and we need to create a mood, which is obvious, it’s a Batman film. I don’t think it’s going to be oppressively dark in terms of visually, because that’s not what we’re trying to (do). We’re not trying to have a competition about who can go the darkest of the darkest of the darkest. We’re trying to create intrigue. I love the way some of the comics look. You can see relatively quite clearly in those graphic novels….I’m having a ball lighting it. It’s hard work but so rewarding.”
If The Batman doesn’t end up being oppressively dark like some superhero movies that have come before, that could very well be because the story isn’t just about Bruce Wayne/Batman. Previous Batman movies have all offered fantastic ensemble casts, but they have all clearly been Batman’s story. That won’t necessarily be the case with Reeves’ movie, said Fraser.
“It is a character-based movie about the characters, about Andy Serkis’ character and Robert Pattinson’s character,” the cinematographer revealed. “It’s a very good script, like all of Matt’s scripts it’s very good, very well thought out.”
Andy Serkis is set to play loyal and stalwart butler, Alfred Pennyworth. It’s not necessarily surprising that Reeves would want a script that offers a meatier role for Serkis. Serkis and Reeves previously worked together on the last two films in the Planet of the Apes trilogy and have a mutual respect for each other. If the script is as much about Alfred as it is about Bruce Wayne, it will make for a fascinating Batman story.
Alfred, at least in the movies, has always been sidelined and secondary. Yet, it’s always been clear, particularly in Caine’s iteration, that the butler is so much more than a butler. He is a mentor, friend, stabilizing force and father figure to the moody, broody Bruce Wayne. Alfred is who keeps Bruce grounded as Batman, and Alfred is the character who knows Batman better than anyone because he knows Bruce better than anyone. If this is a movie that offers the chance to see Batman’s early years through Alfred’s eyes as much as Bruce Wayne’s, it could, strangely enough, give us our most well-rounded and in-depth portrayal of Batman yet.
Personally, I’ve always found it hard to relate and warm to Batman, simply because we see so little of his personal life and are shown so little of his internal, emotional landscape. But Reeves is an excellent writer in regard to character, with the rare ability to give even secondary characters depth and layers. If he can bring that touch to The Batman, we might just be looking at the best Batman movie yet.