“Must be your favorite night of the year, huh, mate?” Happy fucking Halloween. —Commissioner Pete Savage in The Batman
Batman was always built for Halloween. You really can’t be more Halloween than someone who dresses up as a bat and runs through the streets, fighting off a rogues gallery that includes a creepy clown and a lady in a sexy cat costume. Tim Burton admitted that when he set up the events of Return of Batman at Christmas, to pit its hero against the quintessentially gothic backdrop of Gotham City. And Matt Reeves acknowledged it in his moody superhero reboot The Batman, which is expressly fixed towards the end of October. COVID-19 delayed Reeves’ film by almost two years, and it finally hit theaters with an inauspicious release date in early March. But now that it’s available to stream, we can finally watch The Batman in October – the time of year for which it was always designed and intended.
Due to the congruence between Batman and Halloween, the holiday has been steeped in style in many Batman stories, including Batman: Arkham Knight, the supposed last installment of the hit Arkham video games. One of the most visually satisfying mashups is coming Batman: Haunted Knighta collection of Legends of the Dark Knight comics that all take place during or around the holidays, and see villains like Scarecrow get into the spirit of things by disfiguring the Bat-Signal to launch a giant pumpkin into the sky. The comics were written by Jeph Loeb (one of Reeves’ screenwriting professors at the University of Southern California), who went on to create one of the most influential Batman graphic novels of all time: The Long Halloween. But until The Batmanthe party was mostly absent from major Batman movies.
Movies that weave holidays into their stories are usually meant to tap into a collective seasonal sentiment, with the narrative’s greatest impact arriving while the actual festivities are at their peak. People who like movies like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Christmas may still find it fun in June, but it doesn’t hit the same way it does for people who are actively stressing out about buying presents and spending time with their extended family.
And this principle applies to The Batman, which takes place in its entire first act on Halloween. Reeves and co-writer Peter Craig use the holidays to reinforce the weird but thrilling tone of the whole movie. The weather is starting to cool. People are going out late wearing masks and face paint, getting themselves into all sorts of trouble. A jerk even assassinates the mayor. Everyone in Gotham is restless. Come October, those same vibes are already in the air for audiences before they even start watching, adding a layer of fun and immersion that’s certainly less distracting than 3D glasses.
At the end of January 2019, when Warner Bros. announced that The Batman would be released in June 2021, no one knew what a Robert Pattinson Batman movie might look like, so a summer release was no surprise. Every solo Batman movie — even the campy 1966 flick — had been released in June or July, when the action-packed blockbusters were about to make their biggest comebacks.
But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and production began. The Batman took a break. Star Wars actor Andrew Jack The Batman, was among those who died of COVID. (The film is dedicated to him.) It took six months for the cameras to start rolling again — then they were shut down again, after Pattinson also reportedly contracted the disease.
At that time, the film’s release date was pushed back to the first weekend of October 2021. Joker, another Warner Bros. film. which had also benefited from an eerie fall vibe, was released two years prior on the same weekend, and it garnered $1 billion and 11 Oscar nominations, as well as a pair of wins. The studio seemed to be trying to repeat that success with The Batman pushing back its release to a month not traditionally reserved for comic book properties of this stature, a weekend it had already dominated with a similar release. The October release date took on another level of excitement when the first images were shown at DC FanDome 2020, and a brief glimpse of a Halloween-themed greeting card teased the film’s set.
The first Batman movie to briefly incorporate Halloween into its story was batman forever, which features a scene where Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones) and Riddler (Jim Carrey) disguise themselves as deceivers to break into Wayne Manor. But the film’s tone is set before the holidays arrive in the film’s final act, and that’s only there to give the unsuspecting Alfred (Michael Gough) an excuse to open the door to the mean as he hands out candy.
The Batman takes it much further, with Reeves maintaining a deadly grip on the holiday by infusing its opening sequences with imagery of pumpkins, spooky masks, Halloween greeting cards, a costumed child ready for the trick or treat, and a TV presenter describing the night as “dark and stormy. But in this film, Halloween continues long after October 31. The death of the city’s corrupt rulers at the hands of the Riddler has created a power vacuum that will intensify the decadence of Gotham Troublemakers flamboyantly dressed like Penguin, waiting in the shadows, will now swoop in to stir up further trouble Barry Keoghan’s film-ending cameo as the Joker suggests other crooks and killers costumed like Riddler are on the way. For Batman, the vibes and traditions associated with Halloween now live on. The Long Halloween has begun.
All this thematic underlining would have hit harder if the pandemic hadn’t delayed the film until March. Now we’ve finally come back to The Batmanis the appropriate season. We can finally watch the movie the way Reeves always wanted: while tapping into the spirit of Halloween and the dark, eerie vibes of the season, with a much clearer sense of how cold all that rain is meant to be.
The Batman is stream on HBO Max and is available for rental or purchase on Amazon, Vuduand other digital platforms.
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