The Batman franchise will enter a new era with the release of Matt Reeves's The Batman in 2022, but details still remain hazy about what the Planet of the Apes director has planned for the caped crusader. The trailer teased a dark, gritty, neo-noir take, but it's unclear how this Gotham will differ than others. A new set photo may hold a clue, but it isn't exactly comforting.
A set photo taken by ComicBook reporter Brandon Davis was posted on Twitter showing a sticker on a taxi displaying the year "2019." Speculation grew from there. Is The Batman set in 2019? Is Bruce Wayne a nineties kid? Did Thomas and Martha Wayne face their deaths under the marquee for Ace Ventura Pet Detective? There are all sorts of possibilities.
However, this rumor begs the question — does the time period of a Batman film matter? The original Adam West Batman series not only acknowledged its 1960s setting but reveled in it, but other Batman properties have been hesitant to pin their works to any specific era.
Part of the reason these movies hold up all these years later is their surreal nature. Whether it's the over-the-top camp of the Burton and Schumacher Batman films or the grittiness of the Dark Knight trilogy, they're all distanced enough from any specific place and time to stay timeless. The Batman would be doing itself a disservice to make its action specifically 2019-based.
If this isn't just an Easter egg hidden in the production design, 2019 as a setting is certainly a deliberate choice. Considering how tumultuous 2020 has been, setting a movie the year prior has massive implications. If there's a sequel, will we see Batman quarantine with Alfred and pair his cowl with a face mask?
Batman's innate charm lies is in his own timelessness. His technology is always light-years beyond our own, his deductive powers are applicable in every situation, and if there's one superpower that's been useful across centuries, it's money.
The Batman is also posing itself as a noir, a genre intrinsically tied to Old Hollywood. If Batman whips out a smartphone and discusses impeachment hearings, the entire "neo-noir" influence may be undermined. Anachronisms are part of the comic universe, but a film shouldn't live or die by its topicality.
A Batman film definitively set in 2019 would be fine in twenty years when there's enough distance to generate nostalgia. (This worked for Joker with its casual nod to crime-ridden 1970s New York.) But for The Batman, the best plan of action is to let Bruce Wayne exist in his own world and his own time, separate from the dystopia we live in currently.
The Batman premieres March 4, 2022.