[Editor’s note: The following article contains spoilers for “The Batman.”]
Pattinson certainly left his stamp on the famed DC superhero, following in the footsteps (most notably) of Christian Bale, Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Val Kilmer, and Michael Keaton’s respective takes on the Caped Crusader. Co-written and directed by Reeves, “The Batman” admittedly is a “sad movie,” per star Pattinson.
“It’s kind of about him trying to find some element of hope, in himself, and not just the city. Normally, Bruce never questions his own ability; he questions the city’s ability to change,” Pattinson told GQ. “But I mean, it’s kind of such an insane thing to do: ‘The only way I can live is to dress up as a bat.'”
Add in The Penguin (Colin Farrell), The Riddler (Paul Dano), Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), and clues pointing to an anonymous El Rata Alada, or winged rat, and the world on offer in this film seems to be just the tip of the iceberg. The “B-verse” is expanding into an HBO Max spin-off series, with a rumored film sequel on the way before 2027.
So, what questions are we left with after seeing “The Batman”?
Cue up every rendition of “Something in the Way” and keep scrolling to read all the riddles we can unravel. [One more warning: spoilers ahead.]
The History of Gotham Is at the Core of “The Batman”
Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection
It’s tempting to spot The Riddler’s motivation as a blood tie to the murdered newspaper reporter who threatened to dismantle the Wayne family name (bear with us here), but apparently all The Riddler — later learned to be forensics accountant Edward Nashton — wanted to do was to reveal all the lies within Gotham.
“The crimes that The Riddler is committing, they’re all meant to describe a history of [Gotham],” Reeves told Den of Geek. “In the wake of each of these murders, he leaves information about these supposedly legitimate characters and shows you how they are illegitimate, and how they’re corrupt.”
Kicking off with the murder of the mayor and eventually leading to the beheading of the District Attorney, The Riddler’s mission to right the past wrongs — or “sins of our fathers” — culminates in a reckoning for the Waynes.
“This story of corruption goes way back and actually becomes something that touches onto Bruce’s past and becomes very personal,” Reeves said, citing Bruce’s “awakening” about his parents’ past that “shocks him to his core.”
Keep an Eye on Bruce Wayne’s Family Tree
Bruce’s parents Martha and Thomas Wayne founded an all-boys orphanage that fell into disrepair after their double homicide, allegedly on the order of mob boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro). Two decades after mayoral candidate Thomas’ death, The Riddler brings forth evidence that proved Thomas hired Falcone to kill a journalist who threatened to reveal the truth about Martha, whose maiden name is Arkham in “The Batman.”
The long-standing Gotham elites, the Arkhams and the Waynes, cemented their status as the wealthiest families in the city with Thomas and Martha’s marriage. Little did Bruce Wayne know, however, that his mother had a long history of mental illness and was the first patient at Arkham Asylum, where she was treated after witnessing her parents’ murder-suicide.
In the comics, Martha’s maiden name is Kane (after Batman co-creator Bob Kane), and her niece Kate Kane becomes Batwoman. One comic, “The Flashpoint Paradox,” did capture Martha’s insanity, showing her as The Joker and Thomas as the original Batman. The Arkham family, however, has always been portrayed as suffering from mental illness in the comics, leading to the founding of the asylum where “Batman” villains are famously held captive.
Which Comics Were Referenced?
The film opens with a sweeping look at Halloween in Gotham, seeming to cite the 1996 limited comic book series “The Long Halloween,” which takes place during Bruce Wayne’s early years as Batman. While “The Batman” is supposed to be set during Bruce’s second year donning the superhero mask, Reeves told CNET that his personal connection to “The Long Halloween” goes back decades.
“[Author] Jeff Loeb was my screenwriting teacher at the University of Southern California. He was the one who told me that I should become a writer,” Reeves explained. “When I was doing my [Batman] deep dive, I realized all of the ones that he’d written: ‘Hush,’ ‘Dark Victory,’ and ‘The Long Halloween,’ so many iconic classics, very inspirational.”
Reeves continued, “I think that ‘The Long Halloween’ probably had a greater influence on the narrative because it was the one that unlocked the idea of doing a serial killer movie. I just kind of went backwards from that and thought about what it would be like in the real world; it made me think of the Zodiac Killer, leaving ciphers and puzzles for the police, which made me think of the Riddler.”
Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s “Year One” also was a large influence on the film, especially the nods towards “Taxi Driver” within the comic itself. Darwyn Cooke’s “Ego” also provided insight into the “psychology of the beast within being Batman, this drive for vengeance, this instinctual side,” as Reeves added.
Catwoman Always Had Mob Ties
OK, so not always always, but as part of the New 52 comic book series, Selina Kyle aka Catwoman learns her real father is mafia enforcer Rex “the Lion” Calabrese, who was a mentor of crime boss Carmine “The Roman” Falcone. Carmine is played by John Turturro in “The Batman,” and is confirmed to be Selina’s true dad — and murderer of her mother, Maria.
“The Batman” Was a Direct Response to Christopher Nolan’s Trilogy
Producer Dylan Clark revealed that “The Batman” was openly in (mock) competition with Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy.
“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 said to Empire magazine.
With that in mind, Reeves actively chose which of Nolan’s design aesthetics to carry over to his film. In lieu of the technologically-savvy Lucius Fox, played by Morgan Freeman in the Nolan movies, Bruce Wayne favors practicality — which included diary entries, camera lens contacts, and a “practical” Batsuit, as Reeves said during DC FanDome, as reported by Collider.
“The whole idea is that he’s made it himself. And so, we needed to be able to see how it would fit on him and all the ways he could move but also make it look like something that was still evolving,” Reeves said. “Even the idea of the story, he’s in year two so he’s been wearing it and so every night, he goes out looking for trouble. You look at his cowl and actually see there are gashes in it. All of that detail was an incredibly exciting dialogue between me and the costume designers [Glyn Dillon and Jacqueline Durran], and then having Rob [Pattinson] involved.”
Design elements for the Batsuit drew upon military tactical equipment used in the Vietnam War, as producer Clark told Den of Geek. Pattinson also confirmed Batman’s combat sequences mirrored “an Indonesian style of fighting where you have these two sticks, and it all was based around movements with weapons, and then you take away the weapons afterward,” which is starkly different from Nolan’s rough-and-tumble attacks.
Reeves additionally opted to shift away from Nolan’s tank-like design of the Batmobile, and instead sought a “muscle kit car” aesthetic, much like the supernaturally-possessed vehicle in Stephen King’s “Christine.”
“I liked the idea of the car itself as a horror figure, making an animalistic appearance to really scare the hell out of the people Batman’s pursuing,” Reeves told Empire magazine.
Pattinson clarified, “Bruce built it himself so there’s this kind of tangibility to it.”
Who Played The Joker?
The twin motif throughout the movie was capped off with The Riddler finding a fellow traveler in a prostheses-clad Joker, his cell mate neighbor in Arkham Asylum. Turns out, it was Barry Keoghan underneath that crazed Joker makeup, urging Dano’s Riddler to stage a “comeback” in Gotham after his thwarted terrorist attack.
Keoghan’s casting seems to further separate Reeves’ “The Batman” from the most recent DC installment, Todd Phillips’ “Joker,” which portrayed a young Bruce Wayne opposite Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker in the 1980s–set origin story. (The timeline for the Wayne family Renewal fund took place exactly 20 years prior to the events of “The Batman,” and a glimpse at Selina Kyle’s mother’s grave indicated the film was set in 2022.)
What Does That Post-Credits Scene Mean?
Yes, now even you can communicate with the Riddler as El Rata Alada by going to rataalada.com. The website was originally unveiled in December 2021 as part of a marketing campaign for the film, as Inverse reported. Fans previously decoded a cipher to find the website; now it’s revealed during the post-credits sequence for “The Batman.”
The website prompts users to correctly answer three questions so the “truth will be exposed,” much like The Riddler challenged District Attorney Gil Colson (Peter Sarsgaard) before his head exploded. Of course, you have to answer the trio of riddles to discover what really lies beneath Gotham…