One Year Of ‘The Batman’ – The Near-Perfect Immersion Into The World Of The Caped Crusader

In his 84 years of existence, Batman has mostly been at the topmost spot of pop culture iconography and has retained his staying power for such a long duration by being appropriated through generations. In live-action media, be it the campy Adam West-starring Batman of 1966, the highly stylized and gothic elements in Tim Burton’s “Batman,” Christopher Nolan’s grounded, realistic take on the Bat-lore in his “Dark Knight Trilogy,” or Zack Snyder’s weary, rugged, and edgy vision of the character, being modified through the ages to match the taste of the contemporary audience has only increased the character’s acceptability even more.


But at the same time, it has created some near-insurmountable hurdles for creators, both in qualitative and creative scope aspects, given how much exploration has been done already. Therefore, when prolific director Matt Reeves was undertaking the daunting task of reinventing the bat-themed vigilante, curious eyes veered towards him to note what elements he might make use of to establish his Batman in a distinctive position of its own. What the meticulous attention of the director and an arduous production period of three years resulted in was a personal statement addressed to the Dark Knight, one that went beyond the trappings of the genre and managed to carve out a distinctive position of its own amidst the timeless legacy of the character. As “The Batman” completes one year since it hit the theaters to much critical acclaim and fan fervor, we will try to trace the elements that contributed to the evocative experience, which just got better with each revisit.

Spoilers Ahead


Immaculate World-Building 

The setting is a pivotal part of any story, and more so when the lore is associated with Batman, given how much the character’s background, motivation, and perspective are shaped by the sprawling cityscape of Gotham. Erstwhile, we saw the highly stylized, German expressionism and art-deco-inspired Gotham created by Anton Furst for Tim Burton’s Batman movies and Christopher Nolan’s version of Gotham, which was rooted in real-life locations and could remind viewers of cities like New York, Atlanta. While both conveyed the distinctive vision of the director, the Gothic designs that constitute the city’s characteristic in the comics were somewhat missing. During his Fandome 2020 panel, Matt Reeves mentioned that he wanted to bring a perfect assimilation of the styles of his predecessors to bring Gotham to life. He looked to “Batman the Animated Series” for inspiration and created a Gotham that acted as a separate character in itself.

The arching Victorian structures of mausoleums and graveyards, the ornate, baroque decorations of public places, the gargoyles overlooking the city from the corners of sky scrapers, the gloomy atmosphere contrasted with neon lights, and the incessant downpour created the familiar hellhole that seems stuck in a time bubble, a cesspool that churns out corruption, agony, and apathy, and almost mocks Bruce’s never-ending battle with crime by towering over any petty consideration the denizens of the city might have. “The Batman” shows a Gotham that can be felt more than it can be seen. Gotham feels exactly as fans visualized it while reading the comics: a decorated urban squalor real enough to become a breeding ground of drudgery, crime, and poverty but also a place where you can encounter flamboyant and scary characters, some dressed as bats and some as clowns.


Gotham twists the worldview of Bruce, Nashton, Selina, and Oz and uses them as puppets forever dancing to the whims of the puppeteer. Like Wessex in Hardy’s novels, Gotham becomes Bruce’s regret, reckoning, and redemption through different stages. By the end of the movie, Bruce hopes that he, along with others, can help the city heal, but the oppressive structures seem more interested in snuffing the humanity out of the hapless victims in their grasp.

Dissection Of The Psyche And Batman At The Forefront

Bruce Wayne might be the ultimate skilled urban ninja and the famously regarded “world’s greatest detective,” but he cannot be said to be the most mentally stable person in the room. Taking a cue from some of the most acclaimed Batman comics, which showcase Bruce’s fractured psyche, Matt Reeves managed to delve deeper into the dual persona that goes beyond the necessity of an alias to protect close ones. The childhood trauma of parental loss birthed feelings of guilt and desperation, which created an immense emotional void that submerged Bruce within and gave rise to Batman. More than punishing the criminals, it guarded Bruce as a shield, and the movie craftily shows how. Bruce is withdrawn, vulnerable, unsure of himself, and at times shuts out his own father figure out of fear of emotional pain, while Batman is the myth brought to life. The fear incarnate dreadful angel of vengeance, who is able to wrest control of situations using brains and brawn, asserts himself confidently, and almost relishes beating up goons and chasing criminals in high-stakes situations. In a deleted scene, the Joker accurately states that Batman was even secretly supporting Riddler’s perspective that the white-collar corrupts deserved death, and no matter how much Bruce struggles with the fact, Batman still perceived the world in absolutes and binaries. 


Batman is the coping mechanism that Bruce wears not only with his cowl and armor but also with his physical and psychological mannerisms. The internal monologue at the beginning of the movie and the journal entries are the results of the oscillations between the personas of Batman and Bruce, with Batman gaining the upper hand most of the time. Batman starts as a symbol of vengeance, and part of Gotham sees him as a vigilante menace; another part is terrified of him, and a smaller part, like the Riddler and his followers, is attracted by his brand of swift justice. It’s the realization that his cause of honoring his parents has turned out to be partly ineffectual when the Wayne corruption is exposed by Riddler that deconstructs Batman, and he recognizes his purpose of being better than the conditions around him limit him to be. During the climactic sequence of the movie, when Batman extends his hand to the deceased mayor’s son, he is almost rescuing a young Bruce from the purgatory the latter has subjected him to since childhood. By rescuing people from the drowned city hall, Batman uplifts Bruce and accentuates the greater purpose of saving lives. Starting as a symbol of vengeance, Batman eventually transforms into a symbol of hope for the people of Gotham city. The all-pervasive red color palette, which symbolizes fury, danger, and a vengeful perspective during the initiation, turns into a signifier of courage and sacrifice by the end.

The movie also shows Batman in the driver’s seat, both literally and figuratively, and the majority of the narrative is shown from his perspective. For a decent change, Batman is shown to earn the moniker of “World’s Greatest Detective” by actually doing investigative procedures, which is backed up pretty well by the 70s crime noir vibes pervading the movie. The element of fear often associated with Batman has unfurled itself in all its glory as evident in multiple scenarios, subway sequence and the end of Penguin chase to name a few.


The Characters And Soundtrack

Keeping in with the tradition of multiple antagonists appearing in most modern Batman movies, “The Batman” brings the classic baddies Riddler, Catwoman (not in a negative role in the movie), Penguin, and Falcone into the narrative. While the movie could have felt overcrowded otherwise, the plot progression allows all the characters to position themselves rightly in their designated places without burdening the structure in any way. Riddler and his actions become a commentary on the still-green vigilante, who hasn’t quite figured out his purpose and has yet to become a heroic presence. From the appearance of their masks to their mirroring ideologies, the Riddler grows as a parallel to the Caped Crusader and becomes the perfect antagonist by destabilizing his opposition to the core. There is an age-conscious approach to the character as well, which shows Riddler live-streaming murders, provoking his followers to enact terrorism.

Michael Giacchino’s iconic theme, along with other soundtracks, imbued a hypnotic quality to the movie and was a beautiful tribute to legendary composer Shirley Walker’s iteration of Batman themes. The gradual progression of Batman’s theme hints at nostalgic melancholy, the dreadful character, and a hopeful recognition, which is very aptly suggestive of the movie’s narrative as well. Catwoman’s theme at once reminds us of the mysterious noir vamps, fitting the character’s role in the flick.


In recent years, a number of uninformed social media users have wrongly accused the Dark Detective of being a fascist instrument, ‘cop in a costume’ or enforcer of the capitalist status quo, completely ignoring the emphasis on the humanistic side of the character or his anti-authoritative roots, which have been highlighted in comics for decades. It’s not only insulting to the character’s legacy but also to legendary writers like Dennis O’Neil, Steve Englehart, Bill Finger, and Marshall Rogers, whose humanitarian approach made Batman a revered icon. Matt Reeves answered the allegations subtly by taking Batman back to his basics, stripping away the ‘super’ part of the journey of the hero, and presenting an unprecedented character study of the Dark Knight. Batman flicks will continue to captivate generations of viewers in the future, in varying tones and motifs, but the relevancy of the character as captured in “The Batman” will always be highlighted in the way the character chooses to persist, the element that makes him relatable through the ages.

See more: How Matt Reeves Created The Perfect Antagonist Through Riddler?

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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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