Matt Reeves always wanted The Batman to be PG-13

Robert Pattinson, who’s playing Bruce Wayne in Matt Reeves’ new movie The Batman, has talked before about the “nihilistic slant” he’s taking with the character. “There’s this scene where he’s beating everyone up on this train platform, and I just love that there’s a bit in the script where the guy he’s saving is also just like: Ahh! It’s worse! You’re either being mugged by some gang members, or a monster comes and, like, f***ing beats everybody up!” he said.

It sounds pretty intense, and indeed, the trailers have made this movie look like it’s gonna get pretty heavy. So fans were surprised to hear that The Batman will have a PG-13 rating. But apparently, that’s how Reeves always wanted it. “In my mind, the movie was always going to be a gritty, edgy, noir, thrilling spectacle that was PG-13,” the director told Den of Geek. “That was always what it was, but I always knew that we’d be pushing the limits of what that could be, and so we didn’t really have to cut anything. The promotional materials that you’re seeing, they’re fully reflective of the tone of the movie.”

There isn’t some special cut of this movie where it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, here’s the R rating that you’ve been desperately wanting.’ I didn’t have to suddenly start drastically cutting the movie or anything like that…I’m happy we got the rating because I want people to be able to come to see the movie. But as far as people being excited about the tone that they’ve been seeing in the promotion materials, that is totally faithful for the tone of the movie.

The Batman Cinematic Universe

So do we buy that? Cause honestly, I’m having a little trouble given what this film is: not just a new Batman movie, but what Warner Bros. hopes will be the foundation of a Batman cinematic universe.

Listening to Reeves talk about The Batman, it sounds like the movie is intended at least in part to establish a cast of characters Warner Bros. can explore for years to come. “The thing about the movie is that it isn’t a Batman origin story, but it is the origin story of every Rogue’s gallery character that you come across,” he told Insider. “Selina Kyle is not yet Catwoman and the Penguin is not yet the kingpin.” He was even more explicit talking to Entertainment Weekly:

What I really wanted this movie to do is create a Batverse. You don’t do a story and go, ‘This is Chapter 1’ because you might not get to do Chapter 2. So, the story had to stand on its own. But the thing about it is that the Bat world is so rich with character that as you’re starting to come to an end, you can already start thinking about the next thing. Because the idea, of course, is that Gotham’s story never ends.

And WarnerMedia is already planning for the future. They’ve greenlit two HBO Max TV spinoffs: one about the Gotham City police department and another about the Penguin, played here by Colin Farrell. “I said [to HBO Max], ‘To be honest with you, the thing that was going to be the seeds of what I thought the next story could be in terms of the Penguin is that I saw there being this kind of ‘American dream in Gotham’ sort of story, almost like Scarface; the rise of this character who we all know will achieve mythic status,'” Reeves said. “He is underestimated and he’s like a time bomb… They were like, ‘Oh my God, we’re in!’ And that was really exciting because, by that point, Colin had already given life to this character.”

The point of a cinematic universe is to make as much money as possible, which means drawing in as large as audience as possible, which means you don’t want to keep people under the age of 18 out of the theater; there’s a reason Marvel Studios has never made an R-rated movie. So looking at what WarnerMedia is trying to start with The Batman, I can’t help but wonder if the PG-13 rating is less of an artistic choice and more of a studio mandate to ensure they have butts in seats.

Matt Reeves wants a “grounded” version of Mr. Freeze

And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that as long as the movie and its inevitable sequels and spinoffs are good. Per Collider, Reeves has already talked about ideas for other villains he could bring in for future installments:

In my view, I just feel drawn to finding the grounded version of everything. So to me it would be a challenge in an interesting way to try and figure out how that could happen, even the idea of something like Mr. Freeze, that such a great story, right? I think there’s actually a grounded version of that story, which could be really powerful and could be really great. So, I love the fantastical side of Batman, but this iteration, obviously, while being, to me, I think it is very comics faithful, but I don’t think that this one is necessarily, it doesn’t lean as hard into the fantastical, I guess. But I think to me what would be interesting would be to try and unwind the fantastical and see, well, how could that make sense here? And so that’s kind of my view, how I see it.

Something tells me we’ll be seeing Reeves’ take on Mr. Freeze sooner rather than later.

The Batman comes out in theaters on March 4.

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