In Marvel’s limited series The Defenders, a key scene took place between Mike Colter’s Luke Cage and Finn Jones’ Danny Rand. The streetwise Power Man told Iron Fist that his real superpower has always been the fact that he’s a billionaire. Just 25 percent of his wealth could more positively change the world than Iron-punching a million bad guys. Independently wealthy superheroes are nothing new. Tony Stark, Ted Kord, Oliver Queen, Warren Worthington, T’Challa, and (of course) Bruce Wayne are just some of the bigger names. So, in a new interview, The Batman director Matt Reeves (kinda) explained why in today’s sociopolitical climate a billionaire superhero can still work.
Like the transporter on Star Trek, Bruce Wayne’s wealth is less a character trait and more a device for story convenience. Part of what makes Batman so awesome, to quote Nicholson from Tim Burton’s Batman, are his “wonderful toys.” From Bat-planes to Batmobiles to NSA-level devices that turn every cell phone into a listening device, only a rich dude could get all this stuff. Bruce Wayne being a billionaire allows him to not have to handle a job like Spider-Man nor have to explain how he’s able to afford all of his gadgets.
Yet, in an age where income inequality is at the highest point in history, will audiences still respond to a billionaire superhero like Batman whether Matt Reeves or anyone else is behind him?
Why Batman Being a Billionaire Is Problematic If You Dive Down Into the Story
Image via DC Comics
As mentioned, Bruce Wayne’s wealth is merely a story convenience. Not only does it allow him to purchase all his bat stuff, but it also helps him clean up his messes. Did a fight with the Joker destroy a hospital? No worries, Wayne Foundation will rebuild it better than it was. Did some mad scientist or something have a change of heart while working for the Riddler? Great, Bruce Wayne will fund his or her research going forward.
The amount of wealth that Wayne holds has never been the point. Some fans, like myself, are old enough to remember when he was still just a millionaire. (Wayne is first referred to as a billionaire starting in the mid-1990s with The Mask of the Phantasm and Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight.) The change was made because Bruce Wayne isn’t just supposed to be rich, he’s filthy rich.
Yet, if we look at this practically, Wayne’s wealth is an insane detail in a story about a man who routinely punches people much, much poorer than he is. As Luke Cage told Danny Rand, a billionaire can do more to stop crime, often a direct result of poverty, than any costumed vigilante. This could also be, partly, what Robert Pattinson meant when he said that Batman is not a hero. And with more people looking at any billionaire as villains then ever before, Bruce Wayne could be in trouble.
What Matt Reeves Said About Batman Being a Billionaire Superhero
Despite a number of movie leaks related to The Batman, the plot of the film is still a carefully guarded secret. So, when asked in an interview about Batman and his billionaire status, Matt Reeves answered without really answering. Reeves said that The Batman production process was going well, and that they have “three-quarters” left to shoot. Reeves said he felt drawn to Batman in the same way he did his Planet of the Apes films. Like those, he wants to tell a story in these established franchises that are “something different” and “humanist.”
But when it comes to Batman being a billionaire today, Matt Reeves almost skirted the issue save for promising that it will be addressed.
As he told The Daily Beast:
“Everybody has a particular take. For me, I knew that I would be coming into a history of some pretty great movies. And I didn’t want to just do a Batman film; I wanted to do a Batman film where I was allowed to explore the things that matter to me. I was really lucky that they were very excited about that take.
“All those aspects you’re talking about, they all fit within a context. The movie that we’re making, which is now on pause, is absolutely made in the context of today. It doesn’t ignore any of that. I think that becomes incredibly exciting. It’s like any great tale that you can keep revisiting though the context of the times, and also through the context of human experience, and find new ways to come at the character that illuminates something that’s meaningful to you, and hopefully meaningful to an audience.”
Reeves referenced both Burton’s Wayne and how Christopher Nolan crafted his version of the Dark Knight. Burton’s Wayne is reclusive and mysterious, rich but only as an afterthought. Nolan’s Wayne was a reluctant businessman who say Wayne Enterprises as a way to fund his war on crime. Zach Snyder’s Wayne was shown as a man who cares about his employees, yet perhaps not enough. (And was the first live action character to admit his wealth is his superpower.) Still, Reeves promises that Wayne’s wealth will be addressed in a way that hasn’t “been explored yet.”
What do you think? Do you agree with Matt Reeves that Batman being a billionaire is something worth examining? Or, do you think it’s just part of his mythos, like Superman being an alien or Spider-Man being radioactive? Share your thoughts below.
Featured image via screengrab
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.