July 18th, 2008 – Midnight. That was the time that I, along with a packed house of fans (many of whom were wearing Red & White face paint) sat down to watch the trailers before the most anticipated movie of that year: The Dark Knight. I still remember some of the trailers that delighted (Tropic Thunder) or intrigued/confused (Watchmen) the audience. But none of that mattered once the lights went down. A good two and a half hours later, I walked out convinced that I had not only seen the best Batman movie ever put to film, a Batman movie that had no right to be as great as it was, but I didn’t know if I could ever duplicate my level of enthusiasm for a Bat-centered flick ever again.

Oh, I tried for The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Everyone involved did their best, but my reaction (and eventually the internet writ large) was much more lukewarm. Not upset, just disappointed. Then Ben Affleck picked up his tiny-eared cowl – and starred in some very poorly written films. He was positioned as the Iron Man of the DCEU, but it didn’t feel authentic with his constantly changing personality, or the inconsistent tone of the franchise as a whole. For a while, some wondered if we even needed another Batman reboot, or if Warner Bros should have focused on the lesser known characters they’ve never been in a hurry to make movies about. Why not a movie about the Green Lantern Corp, they said. Pull from the extended Justice League Unlimited roster, they said. And then that trailer dropped:

And it looks amazing! Although, looks can be deceiving. Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes) has stepped into the director’s chair and is possibly gifting us the most aestetically cinematic Bat-flick to date, with a visual flair that perhaps not even the Nolan films could match. This Batman, played by Robert Pattinson, is a young lad early in his crime-fighting career. The big bad of choice, of course, is The Riddler, and Reeves is clearly taking inspiration from Se7en to craft a mystery that will challenge the Dark Knight’s deductive skills. These all seem like deliberate choices in response to a common critique among fans: the “World’s Greatest Detective” doesn’t do enough detective work in his own movies. I never felt this was a big problem in the Batman movies, but I’m very interested in the potential mystery hanging over the film. Hearing the Riddler’s dialogue, it seems Bruce, the Waynes, and many of Gotham’s elite will be taken to task for some type of misdeed.

It’s worth noting that The Batman takes place in a different timeline from the DCEU. While some critics may bemoan yet another reboot, this is actually one of the best times to start fresh with the Caped Crusader. Even though DC hasn’t been perfect even in the last few years, films like Wonder Woman, Shazam, The Suicide Squad, and Aquaman were well received among critics and audiences alike. While they’re still trailing Marvel’s popularity, DC films for once are working towards an identity beyond their big two of Superman and Batman. So a Batman reboot isn’t the regression it could be, considering the successful projects that are being produced concurrently.

Ultimately, The Batman represents another critical checkpoint for DC movies. If the movie is rejected by fans, Warner Bros can quickly nix any sequels in this world without compromising any other projects that are currently scheduled. However, if it’s successful and accepted as the fans’ new Batman of choice, things could get interesting. Will Robert Pattinson and company continue to operate in their own little corner, or could a movie like The Flash (which will feature the notorious Flashpoint storyline) bring Pattinson’s Batman in contact with the greater DCEU?

Depending on how good and lower stakes this movie is, it could be for the best that it remains cornered off from the DCEU. But with an increasing obsession with multiverses in our superhero flicks, that idea looks less likely by the day. It would be fitting after their concerted effort to rush towards a Justice League movie, that Warner Bros would now find themselves stumbling into the Batman-centered cinematic universe they’ve always wanted. But I don’t want to put too much pressure on the film. This doesn’t need to be as good as The Dark Knight, or lead to some new Justice League. Just don’t disappoint us.

The Batman hits theaters everywhere March 4th.