The Batman, the latest reinvention of the Dark Knight, gives us a new take on the comic character known as ‘the world’s greatest detective’. But how good are your own detecting skills? The film is packed with nods to other movies, music and art, and holds some sneaky hints about the characters and the future of the franchise. How many of these did you spot?
Warning: contains spoilers for The Batman throughout
1. Kurt Cobain was a major inspiration for the movie
Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne is a lot more grungy than previous iterations, with his emo eye make-up, floppy fringe and sulky demeanour. Matt Reeves said the touchstone for Wayne was the late Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain. He told Esquire, ‘Early on, when I was writing, I started listening to Nirvana, and there was something about ‘‘Something in the Way”… What if some tragedy happened and this guy becomes so reclusive, we don’t know what he’s doing? Is this guy some kind of wayward, reckless, drug addict?’ And the truth is that he is a kind of drug addict. His drug is his addiction to this drive for revenge. He’s like a Batman Kurt Cobain.’ Cobain also inspired Paul Dano, who plays the Riddler. He told NME he listened to ‘‘Something in the Way” a lot, absorbing the lyrics about a lonely man living on the street: ‘That song, those words, that refrain, became hugely important to me. Nirvana became a part of that [character].’
2. The opening is influenced by Alfred Hitchcock
The Batman opens with a very creepy point-of-view shot of someone spying on Gotham’s mayor and his family in their house. It turns out the voyeur is the Riddler/Edward Nashton. The shot, says Reeves, was a nod to Alfred Hitchcock. The scene strongly echoes shots from Hitchcock’s Rear Window, in which a housebound James Stewart watches his neighbours through binoculars and accidentally stumbles on a murder. ‘I loved this Hitchcockian point-of-view storytelling where you use the camera to implicate the viewer,’ Reeves told Time. ‘The viewer is now the voyeur.’ Reeves uses a similar shot later in the movie, this time with Batman spying on Selina Kyle.
3. Stephen King helped make the Batmobile
Okay, one of King’s works inspired the new Batmobile. In an interview with Empire, Reeves said that when considering how to depict the new iteration of Batman’s car, he thought of Stephen King’s Christine, a novel, and 1983 film, about a possessed car. ‘[The Batmobile] has to make an appearance out of the shadows to intimidate,’ he said, ‘so I thought of it almost like 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. There is absolutely a horror-genre aspect to this movie.’
4. Gotham is actually mostly British
Although Gotham City is inspired by New York City, a lot of The Batman was shot in the UK. The Batman’s production designer James Chinlund told The Radio Times the UK, especially the North, had the imposing architecture – and rain – Gotham needed. ‘All this beautiful ornament and incredible pieces of architecture with this heavy dark patina,’ he says, ‘and then obviously, the weather of the North all combined to create this amazing atmosphere for us. I realised what a mind-blowing resource the UK was.’ The Glasgow Necropolis became Gotham Cemetery. Liverpool’s Liver Building is the Gotham City Police Department. The large funeral of a character we won’t name was also shot in Liverpool, outside St George’s Hall. Clubbers may recognise that Carmine Falcone’s sleazy nightclub is actually Printworks in London.
5. The Batcave is based on secret New York railways
While the new Batcave was created at Leavesden Studios, its inspiration came from beneath the streets of New York. Reeves told Esquire that in trying to create a unique new Batcave he looked at the history of secret Manhattan railways. Historically, Manhattan had a number of secret stations, including one beneath the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, only for the use of super-wealthy customers. With the new Wayne Manor in the centre of Gotham, Reeves decided the Waynes might have their very own personal station. He said, ‘The idea being that some of these wealthy industrialist families had private train cars at the turn of the century. So the Batcave is actually in the foundation of this tower. It was [another] way of saying, ‘How can we root all these things in things that feel real, but also extraordinary?’
6. Catwoman is bisexual
Comic book movies have a pretty poor record when it comes to including LGBTQ+ characters. Remember Marvel wanting credit for its ‘first openly gay character’ in Avengers: Endgame, who turned out to be nobody important in a support group scene? A gay character was eventually included in a leading role with Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) in Eternals. The DC Cinematic Universe has yet to include a LGBTQ+ main character, but it came a step closer with Selina/Catwoman. You may have noticed Selina repeatedly call Anika ‘baby’. Zoë Kravitz, who plays Selina, told Australia’s Pedestrian this was an indicator they were more than just friends. ‘That’s definitely the way I interpreted that, that they had some kind of romantic relationship,’ she said. The vague allusion is hardly brave – Selina has long been depicted as bisexual in the comics – but it’s a start.
7. The Riddler’s unmasking mimics a classic painting
Nighthawks by Edward Hopper is one of the most recognisable paintings ever produced and a frequent inspiration for movie directors. It depicts a 1940s diner seen from outside, late at night, with three customers sitting at the bar. It looks lonely and slightly sinister. Ridley Scott used is as a reference for Blade Runner. When the Riddler is arrested while sitting alone in a diner, a sequence seen in the first teaser, the shot from outside is a clear nod to Nighthawks.
8. There’s a famous actor behind that mystery character
Absolutely stop here if you haven’t yet seen the movie. In the final minutes of the film, the Riddler is seen talking to a shadowy character. He’s credited as ‘Unseen Arkham Prisoner’, there’s no questioning the fact it’s the Joker. What’s less obvious is that beneath the prosthetics is the brilliant actor Barry Keoghan. Keoghan has been fantastic in films ranging from Dunkirk to The Killing Of A Sacred Deer to American Animals, but his biggest role was probably in 2021’s Eternals. He was not announced as being part of The Batman cast, but it’s a pretty safe bet he’ll be seen in any sequel. It also tells us for definite that neither Jared Leto’s joker nor Joaquin Phoenix’s will be part of this Batman universe. At 29, Keoghan would be the youngest Joker since Heath Ledger, and the tiny amount we saw of his characterisation hinted at a seductive Joker trying to recruit the Riddler to his cause. Might we see him gathering together multiple members of the so-called Rogue’s Gallery of Batman villains?
While a Batman sequel has yet to be announced, we do know there will be an HBO spin-off series detailing the origin of The Penguin, played by Colin Farrell. Reeves told Deadline the show will be ‘an American Dream-Scarface story of a guy who is underestimated; how nobody thinks he’s capable of doing anything, who believes in himself with a visceral violence.’ That should sate those batcravings until the next inevitable movie.