There is a whole new Batman in town.
Despite that familiar name, upcoming “Aztec Batman: The Clash of Empires” will introduce an original hero, assured its team during their riotous presentation at Annecy.
Overseen by Warner Bros. Animation and DC, the film is produced in Mexico in partnership with Ánima and Chatrone.
“This is a bold project,” admitted director Juan Meza-León, joined on stage by character designer Marvick Núñez and art director Diego Olascoaga. Promising an alternate take on the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, but also opening up about his protagonist’s surprising yet apparently historically accurate look.
“No big jaw, no big shoulders. Slimmer. A little less Schwarzenegger, a little more Bruce Lee. We had to focus on the man underneath the armor,” he said.
“We wanted to be true to the story we were telling. We hired an expert on Aztec matters, who was advising us every step of the way,” added producer José Carlos García de Letona. It was said expert who, among others, suggested opting for a leaner physique.
“The word you are going to keep hearing is authenticity. Even though it’s a fantastical story,” observed Peter Girardi, executive vice president of alternative programming at Warner Bros.
“We have done different interpretations of Batman in the past, specifically in Japan, so it’s a format we were familiar with. But it’s a whole new story, set in that [specific] time. It wasn’t about saying: ‘Oh, he has a shark repellent now’,” he said, referring to an infamous moment in the Batman canon.
“It was about being authentic to Aztec culture.”
In the film, Yohualli Coatl (voiced by Horacio Garcia Rojas) is marked by a tragedy after witnessing his father’s murder by the hands of Spanish conquistadors. Soon, he will have to face the likes of Yoka (aka Joker, voiced by Omar Chaparro), the high priest and a counsellor to Moctezuma, who ultimately chooses the dark path.
“We explored having him tear off his cheeks as a form of sacrifice, but we got the note that it was a little too gory,” admitted Meza-Leon.
Also introducing his very own Two-Face, Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés (Álvaro Morte), as well as Forest Ivy (Poison Ivy), inspired by the legendary Mexican actress María Félix, faithful Acatzin (Alfred) and Jaguar Woman (Cat Woman).
“She is the one who helps him embrace his spiritual animal and to become this warrior. The Aztecs only fought during the day, but she is a little thief in the night, the Robin Hood for the Aztec people. She is teaching him how to make his way around darkness and use it as a weapon.”
As noted by Girardi, the characters will change gradually.
“In typical Batman mythology, they have all these overnight transformations. But Yohualli doesn’t immediately have his armor and the same goes for Yoka.”
Still, as he starts using the bat god Tzinacan’s temple as his lair and uses the technology from the Spanish to fight them, and to avenge his father – explained Meza-Leon – things are bound to get serious.
“I didn’t want it to be some ‘cartoony’ thing. I wanted it to be serious, dramatic and dark. As a Batman fan, growing up with the Aztec culture, hearing these two words together…POW! It just had so much power.”
“I am very excited that all this Mexican talent is working so hard to elevate Latin American animation. This is a big project, and hopefully it will be just the beginning of many things to come,” he said, before answering some questions from the clearly excited audience.
“How about Batman’s ‘no killing’ rule? Oh shit. We have to make some changes,” he joked.
“Yes, we definitely implemented it – he incapacitates [his opponents] in the film but he doesn’t kill. You are disappointed?! Take this guy out of here. Security!”