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With “The Batman” opening in theaters nationwide, many comic book movie fans want to know whether Matt Reeves’ film noir-inspired vision has what it takes to match or surpass Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” as the high point of Batman cinema. Beating “The Dark Knight” was on the mind of “The Batman” producer Dylan Clark, and he went as far to ignite some friendly competition by telling Nolan as much. An Empire magazine interview with Clarke started recirculating this week ahead of “The Batman” release because of Clarke’s comment.

“I’ve said this to Chris Nolan directly: ‘Look, we’re trying to be the best Batman ever made, and we’re going to try to beat you’,” Clark told the publication. “Matt [Reeves] is interested in pushing this character to his emotional depths and shaking him to his core.”

According to Variety film critic Peter Debruge, “The Batman” registers “among the best of the superhero genre” just like “The Dark Knight.” As Debruge writes in his review: “Where do you go after ‘The Dark Knight’? Ben Affleck blew it, and even Christopher Nolan, who brought unprecedented levels of realism and gravitas to that franchise-best Batman saga, couldn’t improve on what he’d created in his 2012 sequel. So what is Matt Reeves’ strategy? Answer: Go darker than ‘The Dark Knight,’ deadlier than ‘No Time to Die’ and longer than ‘Dune’ with a serious-minded Batman stand-alone of his own.”

“This is first and foremost a detective story, unsentimental as they come — one half-expects Gwyneth Paltrow’s head to show up in a box at some point,” Debruge continues, comparing “The Batman” to David Fincher’s bleak serial killer drama “Seven.” “A movie like this will inspire countless debates: Does ‘The Batman’ really need to be this dark? Can it hold a candle to Nolan’s trilogy? There’s room enough for both to exist, and space for sequels to build on this foundation.”

Even if “The Batman” matches the highs of “The Dark Knight,” Reeves’ film is going to have to turn out all the tricks at the box office if it wants to beat Nolan’s tentpole. “The Dark Knight” grossed $533 million in the U.S. and $1 billion worldwide, unadjusted for inflation. “The Batman” is tracking for an opening weekend in the $100-$125 million range, although some pundits believe it could go as high as $140 million.