With Robert Pattinson set to star in The Batman in 2021, we take a look at the DC villains rumored to be doing battle in Gotham City. After many months of trouble and a change of director, script, and lead actors, the latest Batman film finally looks as though it’s ready to head into production. Originally intended as both a starring and directorial vehicle for Ben Affleck, the project switched hands to Matt Reeves (War For the Planet Of the Apes) and soon saw Affleck bow out of the leading role as the world’s greatest detective. The fate of The Batman has been in the balance for a while now, particularly as the fortunes of the DCEU overall went through a whirlwind of ups and downs. Now that the franchise seems on more solid ground, Warner Bros. are ready to give Bruce Wayne his first solo movie since 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises.
Robert Pattinson officially joined the film in the lead role after months of speculation, but otherwise, not much else is known about the film. Ben Affleck’s original script was rewritten by Reeves but no details have been given on its story, and it’s unlikely that the previously attached Joe Manganiello will join the cast as Deathstroke. The movie won't be an origin story, instead preferring to tell an original, noir-driven story, reports are conflicting on whether or not it will connect to the established DCEU. Reeves has talked of his desire to create a more Hitchcock-style narrative that focuses more on Batman's detective skills, something we haven't seen as much of in Batman cinema.
Of course, at the heart of any great Batman movie is a villain, and Gotham City has always been populated with a veritable murderer’s row of antagonists worthy of Bruce Wayne and company. So far, the past three decades of Batman movies have stuck to a pretty small circle of the character’s most well-known nemeses, most notably the Joker, Catwoman, Two-Face, the Penguin, The Riddler, Scarecrow, and Bane. It’s not uncommon for said films to feature multiple villains, often teaming up to take on Batman together. Reeves also said that there would be "a Rogues Gallery" of villains, continuing that multi-baddie tradition. But who will be Batman’s latest foes?
Reeves Teased a Trio of Villains
In a September 2018 Twitter post, Reeves shared an image of the original costumes from the 1960s Adam West Batman series, including that of Burgess Meredith's Penguin, the Riddler (who was played both by Frank Gorshin and John Astin), and two versions of Catwoman (as portrayed by Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt). Fans, of course, saw this tweet as a big hint for things to come in Reeves’s own Batman.
— Matt Reeves (@mattreevesLA) September 9, 2018
As with anything on social media, this can be taken with a heavy pinch of salt, and it very well may simply be that Reeves has a great appreciation for the Adam West series. Still, if Reeves were to fully commit to a 1940s style noir take on the series, it would certainly be fitting to give the movie multiple iconic villains who cross paths and cause trouble for one another, not unlike this trio of terror.
The Penguin has long been rumored as a Batman villain, partly due to continuous teases from Josh Gad. His last appearance on the big screen was 1992’s Batman Returns, played by a wonderfully grotesque Danny DeVito. That version of Oswald Cobblepot was far more monstrous than he is in the comics, where he is mostly a mobster with good fashion sense who Batman has often come to for information.
Gad, best known for films like Frozen and Beauty and the Beast, is also friends with Reeves, which only heightens gossip. He later said he was “just having some fun” on the internet but it certainly caught some fans’ attention and seemed like a popular piece of fan-casting, if nothing else.
Fans have been hungering for a Catwoman return for many years now. Michelle Pfeiffer defined the character for a new movie age in Batman Returns, while Anne Hathaway gave a sinfully underrated performance as Selina in The Dark Knight Rises. The character has also undergone major changes in the comic books over the past decade, including fully settling down into a serious relationship with Bruce. There is certainly room to mine that dynamic further on the big screen with the right actress.
The Riddler hasn’t has as rich a big screen life in the Batman cinematic canon. Jim Carrey’s performance in Batman Forever is better remembered as a Jim Carrey slapstick showcase more than a portrayal of what Edward Nygma represents in the comics (and was famously dismissed by Carrey’s co-star Tommy Lee Jones, who told the actor on-set, “I cannot sanction your buffoonery.”)
The benefit of including any of these three villains in The Batman is that audiences are already pretty familiar with them, so no groundwork would need to be done in establishing them (something that would fit with the film’s decision not to include Bruce’s origin story, which has become almost mandatory for prior films). If The Batman wants to avoid being an origin story for Bruce, it makes sense that they’d also want to avoid having to do multiple origin stories for villains who have less audience familiarity than those great icons.
Who Else Could Batman Fight?
Of course, there is still plenty of room for The Batman to delve into myriad villains who have never appeared in prior Batman films. If the movie wishes to be a more unique experience in terms of its detective noir tone and choice of actor, it stands to reason that a fresh adversary would be appropriate for the narrative. Reeves’s use of the phrase “rogue’s gallery” could apply to a pre-established collective of villains from the canon rather than a rag-tag ensemble.
One enticing possibility for such a role would be the Court of Owls, the crime organization and secret society who kidnap child circus performers and train them to be world class assassins. The court made their first appearance in 2011 under the creation of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, and their iconic owl masks are fan favorites. They would certainly be appropriate for a noir narrative. Another top fan choice has been Hugo Strange, one of Batman's first recurring villains and one of his first adversaries to uncover his secret identity. The genius professor has most recently been seen in Fox's Gotham, as played by BD Wong, if The Batman were to venture to Arkham Asylum, Strange could prove particularly threatening.
Reeves has also previously revealed Batman: The Long Halloween is among his favorite Batman stories. Batman: The Long Halloween is one of the most famous Batman detective stories and notably takes him through encounters with many of his most famous rogues. It would fit both known prerequisites of it being a noir driven story and feature a rogues gallery, specifically including Catwoman, Penguin, and Riddler, along with cameos and appearances by many other famous Gotham criminals and supervillains like Carmine Falcone or The Joker.
DC certainly aren't short of options for their latest slate of villains in The Batman and it's clear that this film could help to launch a new age of the franchise after a rocky few years and the admittedly thankless task Affleck was given when he donned the mantle. Whatever the case, be they familiar faces or new threats, it’s safe to say Gotham will once again be chock full of great villains very soon.
- Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
- Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
- The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021
- The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021