‘The Batman’ Just Added Another Star to Its High-Profile Cast
The rogues gallery of The Batman keeps growing larger now that Colin Farrell has joined the cast as the Penguin. He joins Paul Dano as the Riddler, Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Jeffrey Wright as Commissioner Gordon, and Peter Sarsgaard in a role that has not been identified yet.
This raises a lot of questions, not the least of which is how a comical villain like The Penguin could fit into the supposedly darker take on the Batman mythos that director Matt Reeves is concocting. If anyone can make it work, it’s Farrell, who moves quite deftly between the mainstream and indie movie worlds.
March of the Batman penguins
Some people might guess that the not-that-menacing-sounding Penguin came from the campy ’60s Batman TV show, where the character was played by Burgess Meredith with a cackle that sounded like a maniacal Donald Duck. Meredith also played him in the 1966 theatrical movie that sprang from the show starring Adam West and Burt Ward.
The Penguin actually first appeared in December 1941, not long after Batman himself made his debut, Whereas the Joker is “the clown prince of crime,” the Penguin is the “gentleman of crime,” with his tuxedo, top hat, and umbrella. The umbrella was to the Penguin what the utility belt was to Batman – the device that housed various weapons. What distinguishes the Penguin from other Batman villains is he’s not insane like the Joker. He just wants to rule the underworld.
The version younger fans are most familiar with is Danny DeVito’s grotesque take on the character in 1992’s Batman Returns, the second in that series of movies. Since this was Tim Burton directing, he envisioned the Penguin as being like Batman in that he too was an abandoned child. He was abandoned on purpose, as his well-to-do parents couldn’t stand having a disfigured son, Oswald Cobblepot.
What else has Colin Farrell done?
Colin Farrell first became widely known thanks to another Batman director, Joel Schumacher, who directed Farrell in the 2000 military drama Tigerland. He teamed with Schumacher again in the thriller Phone Booth about a man being held hostage in an enclosure you don’t typically find anymore
At first, he tended to star in mainstream action movies like S.W.A.T. and Daredevil, which gave him his first experience in the comic book world, playing the villain Bullseye. He also worked with A-list directors like Steven Spielberg (Minority Report) Oliver Stone (Alexander) and Terrence Malick (The New World).
More recently he began gravitating toward indie fares, like Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, which got him a Golden Globe Award, and The Lobster, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, who went on to direct The Favourite. Most recently he starred in 2019’s Dumbo, coming full circle with Batman directors as that film was directed by Burton.
Are there too many villains in ‘The Batman?’
The Batman has a lot going for it – maybe too much going for it. With at least three villains in the movie, it runs the risk of overkill. Some people feel excessive villains hurt Batman Forever, which had Two-Face and the Riddler; Batman and Robin, which had Mr. Freeze and Poison Ivy; and The Dark Knight Rises, which had Catwoman, Bane and the return of the League of Shadows. That many villains could make the story unwieldy and unfocused, and that’s risky, especially when the film is also introducing a new Batman, Robert Pattinson.
That said, Reeves has proved his mettle with franchises, having kicked off Cloverfield and directed two of the three Planet of the Apes reboots. We’ll see how well he wrangles all those villains when the movie comes out June 25, 2021.