How ‘The Batman’ does Batman differently

How ‘The Batman’ does Batman differently

Nate Langley, Staff Writer

[This article contains mild spoilers for The Batman]

The movie opens on a gloomy Halloween in the crime-ridden city of Gotham. From delinquents to murderers, criminals run rampant through the rainy and dimly lit streets of the urban jungle, all the while a haunting score of violent strings and intense horns sets the mood for an impending doom. For the first time in years, Gotham City feels like an unredeemable hell-hole. The hopeless and unwelcoming atmosphere of The Batman is pervasive and remains present throughout the entire 3-hour runtime.

Matt Reeves’ latest film marks the first solo Batman outing in 10 years, and while it still serves us something familiar in comparison to Christopher Nolan’s more recent trilogy, it maintains its own identity by shifting the focus solely to the character of Batman rather than his rogues gallery. This, along with the darker tone, makes the movie a concoction of many of the best elements a Batman story has to offer; serving as a half murder mystery similar to Se7en and half tale of corruption akin to Chinatown

The film’s plot loosely adapts some of the caped crusader’s most iconic comic plotlines to carefully craft something unique and never-before-seen on the big screen. Matt Reeves show’s his knowledge of the character by writing a detective centered, neo noir film that creates an emphasis on Batman’s ethics and psyche. The movie is almost exclusively shown from his perspective which gives greater insight into his thought process as he begins to unravel the mystery of the Riddler. Additionally, the movie’s psychotic take on a serial killer Riddler creates an effective dynamic between the two characters, as they both battle each other with their wits and effectively establish a character foil. 

In Reeve’s film, Bruce Wayne is no longer the popular and voguish playboy he’s typically known to be—he’s a reclusive loner. He avoids public attention, wears sunglasses indoors, and seeks solitude in his batcave; which in this interpretation is basically an abandoned train station with a couple of computer screens. Wayne’s dull and isolated way of life almost aids the movie in being more believable as it would make more sense for this version of the character to dress up as a bat and beat up thugs than it would if he was a more prominent public figure.

This idea of an “emo Batman” is established in some of the opening minutes of the movie where Bruce Wayne applies black eyeliner, dawns his cowl and rides his motorcycle as Nirvana’s ”Something in the Way” gently scores the scene—all of which makes clear that Wayne is a tortured character. Instead of using his parent’s death as a motivator to fight crime and protect the city, he uses it as an outlet to take out his anger and enact vengeance. Rather than being two distinct and separate alter-egos, Reeve’s shows Bruce Wayne and Batman as one in the same, effectively making Wayne’s nightly habits a really screwed up form of coping and self-therapy.

Because Bruce uses the costume as a way to release his built-up turmoil and unleash his trauma, the approach he takes to fighting crime also changes from previous iterations. The people of Gotham simply call him “the Batman” because he’s shrouded in mystery. No one in the city knows anything about him and for all the criminals know, he could be the boogeyman. This leads him to rely on the idea of striking fear into people more heavily. That’s partly the reason Reeves uses the movie’s prologue to establish the power and sheer concept of the Batman. When a criminal looks down a dark hallway, they’ll run in the opposite direction out of fear that the Batman is watching them, waiting. He isn’t just a man, he’s a presence in every shadow; he can’t be everywhere, but he could be anywhere.

The film combines both the mystery and reclusiveness of Batman to create a much more complicated relationship with his allies. This is evident in his close connection with Jeffrey Wright’s Jim Gordon, a police captain in Gotham. Gordon is one of the few officers in the city to trust Batman and because of this, he’s viewed as a lunatic by the other members of the force—and for good reason. While this much about the character hasn’t changed, The Batman makes the interactions between the police captain and caped crusader much more casual. Gordon is practically Batman’s only friend, further driving home the idea of Wayne’s isolation and social awkwardness.

An equally big part of the movie is Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman/Selina Kyle, a cat burglar playing cards for both sides of the law, inspiring Batman to look deeper into the Riddler’s string of targeted crimes. Selina Kyle serves as the femme fatale in Batman’s detective noir and perfectly treads the line of being an anti-hero. The two end up teaming up when Selina goes searching for her missing friend, but tension between them brews as they begin to highlight the similarities and differences they share. Despite this though, they’re still drawn to each other for better or worse. The Batman sees the hero as an elusive hermit while Catwoman serves as a call to action to be more than a symbol of fear. Both of their pasts play a role in their relationship, which further adds to the weight of their encounters.

This all culminates to one of the final scenes—an interrogation between the hero and villain. Following the eventual capture and arrest of the Riddler, he reveals his plan to Batman; through his string of murders and Batman’s subsequent investigations, Gotham’s systematic corruption is brought to the public’s attention. Just as much as Batman is a symbol meant to elicit terror in criminals, he is also an example to the public that they can act out their own, corrupt form of justice. As originally brought to light by Catwoman, this makes the movie come full circle with its overarching theme. While Bruce’s intentions might have been good, by the end of the movie he comes to realize what he must become in order for there to be real change within the city—a symbol of hope, rather than one of vengeance. 

In a way, The Batman is a coming of age story; Reeves writes a vulnerable version of the character where he is young and makes mistakes. The core of what makes the character recognizable is clearly present, but he’s not the Batman audiences are familiar with—making it a breath of fresh air. Bruce Wayne’s character arc, accompanied by a bold vision, unique score, and breathtaking cinematography makes the movie something to admire. The Batman will, without a doubt, go down in history as one of the best adaptations of the character ever put to screen.