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The Batman and Its Expanded Universe Landing on HBO Max Soon

Colin Farrell’s turn as a tough-talking Penguin in The Batman, wasn’t all acting. Turns out he was playfully miffed at being barred from arming the character with his typical cigar and umbrella.

“I fought valiantly for a cigar. At one stage I said, ‘I can have it unlit!’ They were like, ‘No,’” Farrell said in an interview.

The Riddler's signature question mark drawn into a cup of coffee in 'The Batman' film.
Warner Bros./YouTube

Looks like Farrell is going to have to be non-smoker at least for a couple of his new shoots. Matt Reeves, director of The Batman featuring Robert Pattinson as the titular superhero, confirmed in February that the film will expand into its own universe, beginning with Penguin and Arkham Asylum spinoff shows in the works. This series will chronicle Oswald Cobblepots’ “rise to power,” starring Farrell as the gangster who remained a low-level crook (though not without heinous potential) in the March release.

“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 in a spoiler chat.

This was a vision that Reeves didn’t think he’d have the chance to come to fruition. Initially, Ben Affleck was set to direct and star in his own Batman movie after donning the cape and cowl in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. But in 2017, the filmmaker ceded the director’s chair. This was the first step toward Reeves’ vision, as Reeves relayed to Esquire earlier this year.

“I read a script that they had that was a totally valid take on the movie,” Reeves said. “It was very action driven. It was very deeply connected to the DCEU, with other major characters from other movies and other comics popping up. I just knew that when I read it, this particular script was not the way I’d want to do it.”

Now separate from Affleck’s Caped Crusader, the Reeves-verse will roll out the Gotham quilt via HBO Max shows fleshing out main and off-shoot characters.

According to Reeves, the Gotham expose is a prequel, occurring during Batman’s first year of sporting the costume. In a statement, Warner Bros. said that the developing series will “build upon the film’s examination of the anatomy of corruption in Gotham City.” Developing is a key note here because the original idea was to follow the Gotham police department. In a March interview with The Cyber Nerds, however, Reeves revealed that the series will spend just as much time on Gotham’s bad guys.

“That story has story has kind of evolved,” Reeves said. “We’ve actually now [moved] more into the realm of exactly what would happen in the world of Arkham as it relates coming off of our movie. It’s like a horror movie or a haunted house that is Arkham.”

No word yet on whether this rot will result in more severed thumbs rather than thumbs ups, but considering it exists in the spirit of Reeves’ Bat, the answer is likely yes. Also in the works, the director takes a turn as executive producer for the animated Batman: Caped Crusader, a generational bridge from the 1990s The Batman: The Animated Series.

With The Batman now slated to stream on HBO Max on April 19, and The Batman 2 confirmed for late 2023 or 2024, there’s plenty dark new galaxy for Reeves to flesh out. Considering he referred to multiple characters getting shows and The Batman sequel likely featuring Paul Dano’s The Riddler, there’s still plenty of options like Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman, a view from Alfred’s butler post (with a game Andy Serkis), or any number of twisting alleys in Gotham’s noir setting.

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