Batman, despite pandemic, remains a box office draw

Poster for The Batman

The Batman, Warner Bros.’ latest take on the iconic comic book character, got off to a rousing start at the box office despite the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.

The Matt Reeves-directed film generated an estimated $128.5 million at the U.S. box office (including preview showings), according to Exhibitor Relations Co. The company tracks box office data.

Globally, The Batman is on track for an opening weekend of $248.5 million, ERC said.

In 2021, Warner Bros. was used by owner AT&T to drive business to streaming service HBO Max. Warner Bros. would release movies at the same time in theaters and on HBO Max.

Since then, AT&T has agreed to combine its WarnerMedia properties (including Warner Bros.) with Discovery. That deal is expected to close later this year.

Regardless, when I saw The Batman on Thursday night, it was preceded by a Warner Bros. trailer emphasizing how its major 2022 releases would be “only in theaters.” That trailer suggested an apology for 2021.

The Batman’s opening weekend reinforces Batman’s prominence in Warner Bros.’s collection of movie properties.

The Batman goes even darker

The Batman poster

Minimal spoilers

The Batman, Warner Bros.’ latest take on its most popular comic book character, goes even darker than previous incarnations.

Prime example: The Riddler, the movie’s primary villain, has traded in his bright green outfits for a much darker uniform. Also, this version of the Riddler really enjoys killing his enemis.

Beyond that, scenes are relentlessly dark. Anyone who watches a matinee showing will really squint their eyes after they leave the theater.

Besides more darkness, Gotham City is even more corrupt than before. The mob has its fingers into everything and seemingly everybody.

Still, director/co-screenwriter Matt Reeves finds a way to make Batman (Robert Pattinson here) his own. For example, Reeves plays up Batman’s role as a detective.

In the comics, Batman was billed as “the world’s greatest detective” and we get at least some of that here. However, the Riddler provides one clue that Pattinson’s Batman is slow to pick up on. Many members of the audience will be ahead of the game.

Pattinson seemed to be an unusual choice to play Bruce Wayne/Batman. Supposedly, he and Reeves had disagreements during production. But Pattinson is just fine, although you’d think a rich guy like Bruce Wayne could afford a hairbrush.

Reeves wisely avoids a detailed flashback of how Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed. Those events are referenced but there are no falling pearls as some movies have depicted when Martha Wayne got killed.

Also, Reeves sets his story two years into Wayne’s career as Batman. The relationship between Batman and Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) is established when the movie begins.

One big plus for the movie is the score by Michael Giacchino. The composer has done scores for a number of Marvel films, including Spider-Man No Way Home. But Giacchino’s score for The Batman is nothing like that. His takes on two very different comic book characters are appropriate for each.

Is the movie flawed? At almost three hours, it’s too long.

At the same time, Reeves isn’t concerned with making Batman fit into a connected film universe. Everything is focused on Bruce Wayne, his personal issues, and a grim story.

The movie is worth seeing unless you hate comic book-based films on principle. It is ambitious. For me, it fell short. But fans of a dark, dark Batman will be enthusiastic. GRADE: B.

A year later, another Cavill-is-done-as-Superman story

Will play superheroes for food.

Talk about a slow-motion way to lose your job.

In September 2018, The Hollywood Reporter said Henry Cavill was out as Superman. Cavill’s agent tried to dispute that, but Warner Bros. only offered up a vague statement that didn’t say much.

Flash forward a year. A website called Cosmic Book News this week came out with a story saying Cavill is still out. It also adds a wrinkle that stems from more recent developments.

One change from a year ago is that Warner Bros. has secured the services of J.J. Abrams. One Abrams project may be jumpstarting the cinematic Superman and the director-producer likely wants his own choice in the role.

Something similar happened when director Matt Reeves was given the keys to the Batcave. Soon, incumbent Ben Affleck was out and Reeves cast Robert Pattinson as a younger Batman for a 2021 movie. That project reportedly may pick up the services of Jeffrey Wright as the new Commissioner Gordon. THR said this week the actor is in talks for the part. Wright currently is reprising the role of Felix Leiter in No Time to Die.

Nothing is official, of course. Still, it’s interesting to see how Cavill has been left hanging for so long.

There’s been no sign that “Mr. Warner” wants to proceed with Cavill. For example, this year’s Shazam! movie ended with a Superman cameo but it wasn’t with Cavill. It was a guy in a Superman uniform whose face the audience never sees.

Still, Cavill is not out officially, either. In comic books, kryptonite was Superman’s weakness. In real life, Cavill/Superman’s weakness is inertia.

Cavill, of course, has played one spy hero (Napoleon Solo in 2015’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) and one spy villain (Mission: Impossible-Fallout). He was tested in play Bond for 2006’s Casino Royale, but Daniel Craig got it, in large part because Eon boss Barbara Broccoli wanted him and wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

Cavill’s name still gets speculated about as the next cinematic James Bond. But given how more men have walked on the Moon (12) than have played Bond on-screen in the Eon series (six) that’s hardly a sure thing.  Besides, one suspects Barbara Broccoli will try to keep Craig in Bondage beyond No Time to Die.

Warner Bros.’s Batman PR problem

Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill in a Batman v Superman poster

UPDATE (July 22): Ben Affleck said at the San Diego Comic Con today he’s still playing Batman, according to numerous reports.

Among the outlets reporting on Affleck’s remarks: COLLIDER.COM, the New York DAILY NEWS and THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

It was the latter, in a story on Friday, that said Warner Bros. was ready to ease Affleck out of the role.

ORIGINAL POST (July 21): Just when Warner Bros.’s DC Extended Universe seems to get on track, it’s undergoing a public relations problem during the San Diego Comic Con.

You remember when the DCEU finally was getting good PR? It was just last month when Wonder Woman generated both ticket sales and positive reviews.

Just weeks later, the buzz is that Warner Bros. (aka “Mr. Warner,” this blog’s nickname for the studio) is getting ready to ease the current Batman, Ben Affleck, out of the role. At least’s that’s according to a story by Kim Masters in The Hollywood Reporter.

Affleck got top billing in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. That movie introduced Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman. It did good (but sub $1 billion worldwide) business while getting terrible reviews.

Still, Affleck’s Batman created a buzz. First, it was the actor would write, direct and star in a solo Batman movie titled The Batman. Then, well, he wasn’t going to direct after all.

A new director, Matt Reeves, was hired. Initially, the buzz was that Affleck’s script would be used. Then, this month, the news came out that Affleck’s script was being jettisoned and things would start over.

Now, Affleck himself may be out. Here’s an excerpt from The Hollywood Reporter story:

(A) source with knowledge of the situation says that the studio is working on plans to usher out Affleck’s Batman — gracefully, addressing the change in some shape or form in one of the upcoming DC films. Exactly when and how that might happen has yet to be determined, but it would be wise to bet against Affleck starring in The Batman.

The thing is, the massive San Diego convention has become a forum for studios to promote upcoming films, and not just movies based on comic books.

Justice League is the next DCEU film and a followup to Batman v Superman. It’s supposed to address some of the faults (i.e. too gloomy) present in the 2016 film.

In Batman v Superman, Affleck, who turns 45 on Aug. 15, played an older Batman. It was very much influenced by the 1986 mini-series The Dark Knight Returns by writer-artist Frank Miller. In that story, Batman comes out of retirement.

We’ll see how all this turns out. Still, it’s doubtful Mr. Warner appreciates the “Affleck is out” buzz generated by The Hollywood Reporter story.