Matt Reeves’ interpretation of Batman is finally in theaters, and critics love it. It’s earned millions of dollars at the box office and comics fans are calling it the most accurate on-screen depiction of the caped crusader yet. But doesn’t this all sound a bit familiar?
After all, Christopher Nolan’s dark, gritty Batman series started in 2005 with Batman Begins. That series only ended a decade ago, with the bombastic Dark Knight Rises in 2012. Christian Bale wasn’t even the most recent actor to portray Bruce Wayne on the big screen. Ben Affleck has starred as Batman in recent films like Batman v. Superman and Justice League.
So, why does DC reboot Batman so often?
Everyone knows Bruce Wayne’s origin story. He’s a billionaire who lost his parents in a random act of criminal violence when he was young. Bruce swears vengeance on all criminals and starts a one-man crusade against evil. While Batman has headlined his own comic series for over 80 years and starred in countless movies and TV shows, these basic facts are almost invariably the same.
This makes Batman something of a modern myth. Since so many people are familiar with the basics of his backstory, filmmakers can use him as an effective symbol in almost any kind of superhero story.
Writers initially portrayed Batman as a gritty detective hero who had no issue using guns or killing criminals. DC swiftly abandoned this version of the character and softened his moral code to make him more palatable for young readers. They also introduced Robin, the caped crusader’s young sidekick, to give kids someone to relate to in the popular detective series.
Over the years, DC has presented Batman as everything from a campy goofball to an armored juggernaut. Typically, though, he’s the World’s Greatest Detective, a modern-day Sherlock Holmes in a bat suit. These varied portrayals make it easy for directors to put their own spin on the classic character.
The simplest explanation for DC’s compulsive need to reboot Batman is that it makes them money. Batman is one of the most successful cinematic franchises in movie history. His films bring in viewers without fail, and his myriad comic book portrayals make it easy to recast the character and present him in a new light for another generation of moviegoers.
Audiences love it, too. According to Box Office Mojo, the franchise has raked in over $2 billion across its ten highest-grossing entries. Rebooting the Bat is apparently good for business!