Warner Bros.' The Batman is just weeks away from its theatrical release and DC Comics fans everywhere are waiting with bated breath. The upcoming Matt Reeves-directed superhero epic has been years in the making and marks the first time since The Dark Knight Rises in 2012 that Gotham’s caped crusader has gotten a solo film all to himself.
Starring Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne, Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman), and Paul Dano as The Riddler, the film looks like something oddly familiar, but wholly different at the same time. While notes of the Nolan Dark Knight trilogy can be seen in the brief glimpses of footage shown thus far, The Batman seems to be taking on a tone and tact unique to this new version of Gotham City.
Reeves is setting up a universe that, while grounded, still has some exaggerated elements in its set design, costumes, and even the physics of the world. It is a take on the Batman world where a serial killer committing brutally heinous crimes makes as much sense as a man flying through the streets on the end of a grappling hook does. It marries that signature Nolan groundedness with the heightened tone found in the recent Zack Snyder-directed DCEU films.
To sum it up, The Batman, while something completely new and unique, makes it very clear whom it owes its look to. So, here are some of the inspirations that make The Batman the movie it is.
Director Matt Reeves has made it very clear that The Batman, at its core, is going to be a detective story. The Dark Knight has always held the title of "the world’s greatest detective," but that aspect of the hero has rarely been explored on the big screen. That will seemingly be alleviated in the upcoming film.
While Batman stories throughout time have owed a lot to the noir novels of yore, The Batman feels like it is taking a little more inspiration from the literary noir world. These classic novels emanate from an eternally grey and rainy world, one in which crime has all but taken over the city streets.
Hints of this subgenre can be seen throughout what fans have seen of the film so far, whether it is the actual look of Robert Pattison’s Caped Crusader or just the color grading on the released footage. This movie exudes those shades of grey and black that noir novels are known for. Sure, there are brighter moments like the sunrise shared between Selina and Bruce, but that brief moment of respite will surely come just before the dirt and grime of this world hit the camera once again.
This inspiration has only just been mentioned by minds behind The Batman, but the evidence has been seen on screen since the first footage for the DC film debuted.
It seems clear that slasher movies such as Halloween, Friday The 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street all played a part in helping to craft this Batman world. And while these masked killers have provided inspiration in the crafting of Batman’s villains for years, where The Batman differs is that their inspiration can actually be seen in the movie’s hero.
Pattison’s Bruce Wayne has a couple of moments in the released trailers that feel straight out of a Wes Craven horror classic. Just picture the sequence from the DC FanDome 2021 trailer where, after toppling The Penguin’s vehicle, the Bat marches towards the wreckage as flames emerge behind him. Or the hallway shot seen a couple of times now in featurettes and trailers where all the viewer gets are glimpses of Batman amid muzzle flashes as he menacingly walks into danger.
If it weren’t for Batman’s golden “no killing” rule, this version of the hero would feel straight out of those slasher movie classics.
Batman: The Animated Series
Sure, Batman: The Animated Series has served as a sacred text for Batman stories going forward, The Batman is looking to be the closest to The Animated Series coming to live-action that DC fans have gotten yet.
The influence of the 90’s cartoons is most evident in the design of Gotham this time around. Instead of the realistic city streets seen in the Dark Knight trilogy, things here feel a little more like a modern comic book. The buildings are larger, there is neon everywhere. The city feels like reality just turned up to eleven.
The look of The Animated Series Gotham City was one with towering skyscrapers bigger than ever could be possible, with lights constantly breaking through the fo and shadows. These are pieces that Matt Reeves and The Batman crew have taken and brought to life without going overboard and having something akin to Batman Forever’s over-the-top Gotham. It feels like reality just elevated a touch.
Batman: Year One
Of former Batman stories Batman: Year One played a big part in the making of The Batman. Director Matt Reeves has made it clear that this is not a Year One story but one that does honor the legacy of one of the Dark Knight’s greatest comic stories of all time.
While not being an origin per se, The Batman does center on its titular hero very early on in his crime-fighting career. This is very similar to where comic book readers find Bruce Wayne and the characters of Gotham City in Batman: Year One.
Audiences will be introduced to a young Bruce Wayne and a young Commissioner Gordon, all before some of the biggest Batman foes make themselves known.
Sure, this is more a Year Two story, but the influence of Year One can be felt in every aspect of The Batman.
While never having worked on The Batman David Fincher’s fingerprints can be seen all over this take on the Dark Knight. Like Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho) before him, Fincher has mastered the art of the thriller. With modern classics like Zodiac, Seven, and Gone Girl this filmmaker has become beloved by cinephiles everywhere. But where can his influence be felt in The Batman?
Well, other than this take on a Batman story very much feeling more like a thriller than ever before, the Fincher effect can be felt most when looking at the film’s main antagonist. Edward Nigma (aka The Riddler), portrayed by Paul Dano, looks to be a new take on the character. The film seemingly leans way more into the grizzly psychology of a riddle-based serial killer, rather than the bright green suits and dance numbers of Jim Carrey’s version of the character.
This villain while taking the name and signature riddling of the character feels more Zodiac Killer than comic book villain. Nigma in the film is playing a bloody game with Robert Pattison’s hero as much as he is the audience. It’s these Fincherian touches that have hooked so many people onto the idea of The Batman, and surely the full scale of that influence will come to bear when the film finally hits theatres.
90’s Grunge Music
90’s grunge music has probably been the most publicized influence on The Batman. Yes, this one does get a little literal with Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” serving as the soundtrack for two of the film’s released trailers, but it goes way beyond that.
Director Matt Reeves has said he based this version of Bruce Wayne on a “fictionalized version of Kurt Cobain.” This Bruce Wayne is someone in his mid-twenties who has been through a lot, and to cope he spends his nights sporting his best punk rock eyeliner and punching the living hell out of Gotham’s criminals.
Sure, Cobain never put on a cape and cowl, but he was a tragic figure troubled genius just like Bruce Wayne. His late-night Gotham were the stages and studios across the world, and his punching criminals were making music and indulging in the lifestyle that he did.
It is this balancing act of coping without going over the edge that has been core to Batman stories since the character’s inception and one that seems to be on particular display in The Batman.
In conclusion, The Batman, while looking totally brand-new, also is nothing without what came before it. It’s a film that doesn’t shy away from its influences. Its actors and crew have made that known from day one.
Matt Reeves’ The Batman will introduce the world to this take on the Gotham mythos when it hits theaters on March 4, 2022.