This article contains The Batman spoilers. You can our spoiler-free review here.
The Batman introduces DC Comics fans to a whole new take on the Dark Knight and Gotham City, courtesy of director Matt Reeves and star Robert Pattinson. It also brings new version of rogues like Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), Penguin (Colin Farrell), the Riddler (Paul Dano), and Carmine Falcone (John Turturro). The Batman has also arguably delivered the definitive version of Detective Jim Gordon, who is played brilliantly by Jeffrey Wright.
With all of these characters comes decades of DC history. As you might expect, that means Reeves’ film is filled to the brim with Easter eggs, references, and homages to huge Batman moments from the comics. But it also has a surprising amount of callbacks to some of Hollywood’s greatest films — as well as grisly real-world events, especially when it comes to this take on the Riddler.
And now that the movie is finally out, we’re keeping track of all The Batman‘s biggest Easter eggs and references! Spot anything we missed below? Let us know in the comments.
Here we go…
- Okay, let’s get the super basic biographical stuff out of the way: the Dark Knight made his debut in Detective Comics #27 (1939) and was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger. He was heavily inspired by the pulp heroes of the day, such as the Shadow, the Phantom, Doc Savage, and Dick Tracy. There’s also a bit of Zorro, the Scarlet Pimpernel, and Sherlock Holmes in there.
- Although we first hear Batman speaking in a voiceover (more on that below), the first thing he says in the flesh is “I’m vengeance” after beating up that Joker-faced gang leader. “I’m vengeance” is perhaps THE Batman catchphrase, usually shouted into a bad guy’s battered face. The line seems to have been first delivered by the legendary Kevin Conroy in the “Nothing to Fear” episode of Batman: The Animated Series and has become a staple of the character ever since. The original line was “I am vengeance… I am the night… I am BATMAN!”
- Reeves has said that the three comics that inspired The Batman are Year One, The Long Halloween, and Ego. The first two stories, which we’ll go into more detail about below, are certainly formative tales for the more modern version of the character we enjoy today. But Ego by Darwyn Cooke is also very good, taking a deep dive into the Dark Knight’s psyche as he struggles to balance his true self and the mask he wears as Bruce Wayne — something very present in Pattinson’s portrayal of the billionaire-turned-vigilante.
- This movie takes place in Year Two of the Batman’s career, but don’t expect him to wield a gun and partner up with Joe Chill here as he did in Batman: Year Two (which is no longer canon in DC Comics). Setting the movie during the second year of the vigilante’s mission is not only a good way to move past the origin story several movies have already covered but to show a Batman who is still trying to figure things out. Pattinson isn’t exactly the most put-together version of this character on the big screen.
“I didn’t want the arc to be ‘he becomes Batman and faces off with this particular rogues gallery character,’” Reeves told Den of Geek. “I wanted you to see an imperfect Batman who would be driven to do what he’s doing in a way that was almost like a drug. He’s addicted to being Batman because it’s really an attempt to cope with those things in the past that we don’t see. I thought that was really fun to see a version of him that definitely hadn’t mastered himself, that was definitely in the process of becoming.”
- For the new Batsuit, the film’s costume designers “looked at stuff from the Vietnam war, military tactical stuff that one guy could put together and allow him to fight better,” according to producer Dylan Clark. But the biggest inspiration is undoubtedly the suit from the Batman: Arkham Knight video game, which features the same kind of heavy upper body armor, shoulder pads, and trunks.
- We get a new version of Batman’s Grapple Gun in the film that feels like it’s straight out of a pulp magazine, down to it having an actual gun shape. Batman has employed some kind of climbing tool since his earliest adventures when he used the more primitive Batrope. On the screen, it was Tim Burton who popularized the use of a grapple gun versus the rope preferred by Adam West in the ’60s series.
- Bruce’s recording contact lenses are just the kind of creative pieces of Bat-tech we’ve seen in the comics for years, especially since Grant Morrison took a more gadget-y, secret agent approach to the character in the late 2000s. While there isn’t an exact comic book parallel to those contact lenses, the Batcowl usually features some kind of device that allows the Caped Crusader to spot clues or enemies in the dark, and offers a direct link to the Batcomputer.
- At one point, Oswald Cobblepot calls Batman “the world’s greatest detective,” which has become one of the character’s many monikers over the years.
- Selina Kyle, better known as the anti-hero master thief Catwoman, has been a big part of the Bat mythos since she made her debut in the very first issue of Batman in 1940. She was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger.
- It makes sense that Bruce and Selina would get romantically involved in The Batman. While she was originally a more straightforward villain out to steal the most expensive things she could, Catwoman has over the decades evolved into a slightly more rogue-ish member of the Batman family, and has even become the Dark Knight’s love interest at several points in DC history, including in the current era of Batman comics. In DC’s ongoing Batman/Catwoman series, they’re now married and even have a daughter named Helena Wayne!
- Like in the movie, Catwoman’s modern backstory in the comics is that she was orphaned as a little girl. In order to survive in the streets of Gotham City, she learned to steal, quickly rising through the ranks of the criminal element. Later in her life, Selina would learn that she was actually the heir of Gotham’s criminal empire as the daughter of Carmine Falcone. More on that in a few minutes!
- While Selina hasn’t yet become the larger-than-life cat-themed rogue from the comics, she wears a cat-like costume for a portion of The Batman. But she also wears several other outfits throughout the film, including one heavily inspired by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Year One: the black bustier she dons while working as a dominatrix in the first issue of the storyline.
- At the end of the film, Selina says she’s going to Bludhaven, a fictional city from the comics. It’s best known as the setting of many Nightwing comics when he’s not helping Batman in Gotham.
- The Riddler has been giving Batman headaches since his first appearance in Detective Comics #140 back in 1948, where he was created by Bill Finger and Dick Sprang. He didn’t really become a popular character until he was masterfully played by Frank Gorshin on the 1966 Batman TV series. While Paul Dano’s Riddler bears very little in common with the less ruthless criminal mastermind of that era, when he gets agitated during his interrogation scene, a little bit of Gorshin’s manic-ness seems to creep into his voice and line delivery.
- Most fans know the Riddler by the name “Edward Nygma.” Get it? But in The Batman, his real name is Edward Nashton, which is another name he’s gone by throughout DC comics history. There are several Riddlers from alternate Earths who have used that name. Other times, it’s been established that THE Riddler was originally named Edward Nashton but changed his name to Edward Nygma for the obvious reason. Comics gonna comics.
- This version of the character is inspired by the real life Zodiac Killer (more on that in a minute), but from a comic book standpoint, feels much closer to the bloodier version of the character portrayed in the Batman: Earth One series of graphic novels by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank.
- There are also some horror movie elements to the Riddler’s modus operandi here, with the elaborate traps/ironic punishments for his victims recalling the Saw franchise at times, or the similarly Zodiac-like Se7en (directed by David Fincher…who also directed the masterful Zodiac movie).
- The scene where Batman is confronting Riddler in an interrogation room, trying to get necessary info out of him while lives hang in the balance, recalls a similar scene between Batman and the Joker in The Dark Knight.
- Riddler’s army raises the specter of domestic terrorism, and how lonely extremists in the real world can be radicalized online. Their paramilitary/survivalist cosplay aesthetic sure does recall a lot of the clowns who have done things like stormed the United States Capitol, for example.
- Riddler’s line about how his mask allowed him to be himself echoes a famous Oscar Wilde quote: “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he’ll tell you the truth.”
But there’s another villain who this version of the Riddler has a lot in common with…
In the process of dragging Thomas Wayne’s good name through the mud, the movie talks about a journalist named Edward Elliot, who was set to expose the darker history of the Wayne family, and who ended up on the wrong end of Carmine Falcone, and thus dead as can be. We can’t help but notice that this character shares a surname with Tommy Elliot, better known to DC Comics fans as the villainous Hush, a character who shares several similarities with the version of the Riddler we get on screen here:
- For one thing, Riddler’s full face mask look sure seems reminiscent of Hush’s bandaged visage. Tommy Elliot was a childhood friend of Bruce Wayne, who actually loathed/resented him, which does seem to parallel Riddler’s fixation on Bruce here.
- While Tommy Elliot’s father’s name in the comics was Roger, not Edward, the movie Elliot’s first name is “Edward,” and in theory that’s our movie Riddler’s first name, too. Unless, of course it isn’t. It’s never definitively revealed if Riddler is “Edward Nashton” or if that’s just one of several aliases (one of which is “Patrick Parker”). Could Riddler actually be the orphaned son of the murdered Edward Elliot, a Tommy who has adopted his murdered father’s name of Edward for his revenge campaign, and therefore, with a little squinting, the movie version of Hush as well?
The Zodiac Killer
The version of the Riddler that we meet in this movie bears almost as much resemblance to the real life Zodiac Killer as he does to a comic book supervillain. Just SOME of these similarities include:
- Zodiac used to taunt police with cryptic messages, occasionally in the form of greeting cards, took trophies from his victims, couched messages in elaborate cyphers, and for one killing even donned a supervillain-esque hood with his logo on it.
- Even the Riddler’s “question mark” in this film is stylized with a gunsight-esque design, itself reminiscent of how the Zodiac often signed his missives. Dano’s bespectacled Edward Nashton even bears a passing resemblance to one of the famous police sketches of the Zodiac Killer.
- The first shot of the film, which shows the killer observing his next victim from a rooftop, is VERY similar to the first shot of Dirty Harry, in which that film’s villain does the same thing. Why is this in the Zodiac section of this article? Because the villain of that film, Scorpio, was also based heavily on the Zodiac!
We wrote MUCH more about all of the Riddler’s similarities to the Zodiac Killer here.
Barry Keoghan as the Joker
- Yes, after months of rumors and speculation, it’s revealed at the very end of the film that Barry Keoghan is the Joker of The Batman universe. He doesn’t actually refer to himself as the Clown Prince of Crime during his brief scene in Arkham with the Riddler, but it’s pretty clear this is at the very least a man on the verge of becoming said villain. At one point during their conversation, this Arkham inmate even delivers the line “One day you’re on top, the next you’re a clown.”
- Director Matt Reeves told us that this isn’t quite the Joker yet, but a character who will eventually take that step. He won’t commit to the idea that Joker is the villain of the next movie, though. More on that here.
- In this universe, Joker also seems to coin the catchphrase “Riddle me this,” which is the Riddler’s most famous line, courtesy of Frank Gorshin’s brilliant portrayal in the 1966 Batman TV series. Dano’s puzzle-loving maniac will likely being using that in the future, if we ever see him on the big screen again.
- Interestingly enough, Keoghan is credited on IMDB as “Officer Stanley Merkel,” which is a fun little Easter egg in its own right. Merkel was an often-mentioned but never fully-seen officer who worked with Jim Gordon during the events of Year One, but who was first introduced in a story that takes place later in Batman’s career: The Dark Knight Returns. Is that meant to be The Batman‘s Joker origin story or is this just a bit of trickery to hide Keoghan’s true role in the movie? We’re going to assume the latter…
We have lots more details on the Joker’s appearance in The Batman here!
Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin
- Colin Farrell’s very mafia style Oswald “Oz” Cobblepot is a departure from the broader pop cultural interpretation of the Penguin, who has usually been portrayed as an odd little guy with a fascination for trick umbrellas. Burgess Meredith famously gave Penguin that old Hollywood gangster sneer on Batman ’66, but the character as a more traditional organized crime figure is something that has really become the norm in more recent versions, especially in comics. We’ll probably learn more about his scars and why he seems to have a limp when he gets his HBO Max spinoff series.
- Speaking of his walk, while Oz definitely seems to have a limp, there’s a moment where he does a full-blown Penguin waddle. After that awesome car chase, when Gordon and Batman are interrogating him, he does the old Burgess Meredith Penguin walk as they leave him partially bound.
- Penguin as the proprietor of the Iceberg Lounge has been a thing in the comics for over 25 years now. It’s pretty much generally accepted now that when you’re telling a Penguin story, this is his business.
- Is it our imagination or is there not an umbrella in sight for the usually umbrella-obsessed character, despite how rainy Gotham is throughout this film?
- Believe it or not, the character of James Gordon is as old as Batman himself! He also made his debut in Detective Comics #27 in 1939.
- The future police commissioner of Gotham City is still a lieutenant when we meet him in this film, just as he was in Miller and Mazzucchelli’s Batman: Year One.
- Batman does his patented “sneak away from Gordon” maneuver on Jim when they’re in the orphanage.
- “Matt [Reeves] very cleverly just decided, one that we’re in year two of Batman’s story, but also that Gordon is still a lieutenant which gives him the opportunity to be more active and to be in the middle of the grime of the city and also in the core of the plot because we’re focused on this set of mysteries [and] celebrating Batman as the world’s greatest detective,” Jeffrey Wright tells us. “Gordon is alongside him, and they bring their detective skills together in a way that I don’t think we’ve necessarily delved into too deeply in the past, but is very much in line with the history of the franchise. I was excited to see that Gordon was so central to Matt’s vision for this thing and excited to play him.”
Alfred Pennyworth, Earth One, and Wayne History
Although it’s not one of the Batman comics Reeves lists as a major source of inspiration for The Batman, Geoff Johns and Gary Franks’ Batman: Earth One series proves to be highly influential when it comes to the backstory of the Waynes and Alfred Pennyworth:
- For example, in Earth One, which is set on the alternate earth of the same name, Thomas Wayne was also running for mayor when he and Martha were murdered. In this case, it was Oswald Cobblepot, Thomas’ corrupt political opponent, who had the Waynes killed. But in the movie, it’s mob boss Sal Maroni who orders the assassination.
- Like in The Batman, the Earth One version of Martha is a member of the Arkham family as opposed to the equally wealthy Kane family. In the comic, madness is said to run through the Arkham bloodline, and in The Batman, we learn Martha did have a brief stay in Arkham Asylum.
- The Earth One take on the Bruce and Alfred dynamic is not quite the loving father-son relationship you’ve come to know from most other Batman comics. In this alternate universe, their relationship is a contentious one, and the two have even come to blows several times. It’s a pretty toxic partnership, to say the least.
- This version of Alfred is also a former British marine who trained Bruce and taught him many of the skills he utilizes as the Dark Knight. He also lost one of his legs while saving Thomas Wayne during his time as a soldier, which is why he needs a cane to walk. Andy Serkis’ Alfred and Bruce often argue in The Batman, but ultimately reconcile after the butler is almost killed. At one point in the movie, Alfred mentions the fact that he taught Bruce how to fight. He is also the first movie Alfred to use a walking stick.
- In the DC comics and in The Batman, Carmine “The Roman” Falcone (played by John Turturro here) is introduced as the most powerful man in Gotham. Not only does he command the city’s criminal underworld but he also has most members of Gotham’s elite — including the mayor, police commissioner, and district attorney — in his pocket.
- Falcone first appeared in Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Batman: Year One in 1987. It’s this storyline that first establishes the rivalry between Falcone and Selina Kyle. In fact, it’s during her very first outing as Catwoman in this comic that she scratches Falcone’s face, leaving scars the mobster will wear the rest of his life. Kravitz’s Selina leaves claw marks on Falcone’s face too, although he doesn’t live long enough for them to turn into scars.
- Like in the movie, the mobster is also Selina’s father in the comics, a storyline that was first introduced in 1999’s Dark Victory, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s follow-up to The Long Halloween, which chronicles the events leading up to District Attorney Harvey Dent becoming Two-Face as well as Falcone’s own murder. While Two-Face kills the Roman in the comics, it’s the Riddler who finishes the job in The Batman.
- Aside from giving us arguably the coolest Batmobile of all time this movie brings the famous car back to its roots to some degree. For much of Batman history, the Batmobile has been a sleek roadster. But after Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, and Lynn Varley’s The Dark Knight Returns comic (which featured a full-blown tank) and Tim Burton’s Batman movie in 1989 (which also had a super cool Batmobile), the car has seen a little bloat in recent screen incarnations. Batmobiles have gotten bigger and more tactical, rather than a relatively inconspicuous hot rod that’s ideal for speeding around the city at night.
- One of the most famous Batmobiles of all, of course, is the 1966 TV series version, which popularized the notion of a flame-spouting, jet-like exhaust on the car. Whenever that Batmobile would power up, we’d get that shot of the flames…and we get a similar one here. Just one more of the seemingly incongruous Batman ’66 influences on this very dark movie!
The Waynes’ Big Secret
Carmine Falcone reveals to Bruce that his father, Thomas Wayne, once hired the mob boss to take care of a journalist who was investigating the dark side of the Wayne family, including Martha’s secret past as a patient in Arkham Asylum. While Alfred later sets the record straight, revealing that Thomas only wanted Falcone to intimidate the reporter into abandoning the story, not kill him, this revelation initially sends Bruce spiraling.
Dark revelations about the Waynes’ sordid past have factored into many DC comics of the last 80 years as weapons used by supervillains to “break the Bat.” Two specific examples come to mind:
- In “Batman RIP,” the vile Dr. Simon Hurt leaks a made up story about Thomas and Martha Wayne, depicting Bruce’s father as an abusive and manipulative husband who only married Martha for her money, while regularly participating in orgies and affairs.
- Lincoln March, the main villain of “The Court of Owls” by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, claims to be the brother Bruce didn’t know he had. He believes himself to actually be Thomas Wayne Jr, the secret child hidden away in Willowood orphanage after a car accident caused a pregnant Martha to miscarry, a birth complication that left him paralyzed. Like Hurt’s story, this is just a delusion Lincoln has created for himself.
- Arkham Asylum appears on the big screen for the first time since Batman Begins, and The Batman establishes a bit more of the history of the institution as well as draws a direct connection to the Wayne family (scroll up to the Wayne History section to see what I mean). Gotham’s psychiatric hospital happens to hold some of the deadliest Batman villains inside its walls, so it’s only natural that it’s the Riddler’s final destination in the movie.
- While it’s only making its third appearance on the big screen, Arkham Asylum has been a staple of Batman comics since the early ’70s. It was first introduced in Batman #258 (1974) by Dennis O’Neil and Irv Novick, but it’s probably most famous for being the setting of Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s highly influential 1989 graphic novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. The institution would go on to become the focal point of the Arkham series of award-winning video games.
Batman’s Journal and The Black Casebook
- The Batman is the first adaptation to give us access into the Dark Knight’s internal monologue, a major aspect of Batman comics that usually doesn’t make it onto the big screen. But the voiceovers provided by Pattinson aren’t just observations he’s making while trying to solve his latest twisted case. They’re actually excerpts from a journal he keeps! Yes, this Bruce keeps a record of his cases and the progress he’s made to clean up Gotham. It also seems the only other way this much more broken version of Bruce knows how to vent — besides, you know, going out at night and beating up criminals.
- In the comics, the existence of an actual, physical Bat-journal goes all the way back to at least the 2000s, when Grant Morrison introduced Batman’s Black Casebook, a record of the Caped Crusader’s weirdest unsolved crimes. In reality, it was a way for Morrison to bring back some of the zaniest concepts from the character’s Silver Age adventures, such as Bat-Mite and Zur-En-Arrh, to modern continuity. While the casebook primarily formed the backbone of Morrison and Tony S. Daniel’s “Batman RIP” storyline, DC has revisited this concept several times over the years, most recently in the pages of Peter J. Tomasi’s Detective Comics run.
- If you’ve read Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s legendary Batman run from the early 2010s, you likely recognized the Riddler’s plan to flood the city immediately. After all, it’s ripped straight out of 2013’s “Zero Year,” one of Snyder and Capullo’s most celebrated Batman stories. In those comics, new villain the Riddler cuts all power in Gotham and blows up the reservoir, all while a super storm is pummeling the city. This cripples Gotham, leaving it a flooded, post-apocalyptic wasteland virtually overnight, with the Riddler now in full control.
- On top of being the current canon Batman origin story, “Zero Year” turns the Riddler into Gotham’s first major supervillain and one of the most formative characters in the Dark Knight’s journey. It’s by defeating the Riddler in “Zero Year” that Bruce is able to complete his transformation into the symbol of hope and justice that Gotham needs — which is basically how The Batman ends, too.
While he doesn’t appear in the movie, memories of infamous Gotham mobster Sal Maroni weigh heavily on Gotham. After all, he was the main rival of Carmine Falcone, who turned police informant in order to put the gangster behind bars and take over his “drops” drug empire.
Maroni was first introduced in Detective Comics #66 (1942) by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, which is also the first appearance of Two-Face. “Boss” Maroni was the criminal who throws acid on Harvey Dent‘s face, transforming Batman’s former ally into one of his greatest villains.
If you’re not a comic book reader, chances are you still recognize this character from another little Batman movie called The Dark Knight, where he is played by Eric Roberts.
Commissioner Pete Savage
- While there’s never been a police commissioner named Pete Savage in the comics, the crooked chief played by Alex Ferns is clearly a stand-in for the extremely corrupt Commissioner Loeb from Year One. It’s possible that since the name “Loeb” was used for the police commissioner played by Colin McFarlane in the first two Nolan films, Reeves decided to change things up for his own version of Gordon’s predecessor.
- Interestingly enough, there is another Batman character named Pete Savage featured in the Adam West Batman series from the ’60s. Played by Albert Carrier, that Pete Savage is a millionaire who is kidnapped by Vincent Price’s Egghead.
Annika Koslov and Holly Robinson
The disappearance and death of roommate Annika Koslov is what fuels Selina Kyle’s mission to finally take down her father. Although Annika is technically an original character for the movie, she was very likely modeled after Holly Robinson, the “stray” Selina has watched over since Year One. Introduced as a child prostitute in Miller and Mazzucchelli’s gritty, Taxi Driver-inspired reimagining of Gotham City, Holly has gone on to appear in many other comics over the decades, most famously in Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke’s noir-tinged Catwoman series. She even wore the Catsuit for a time after Infinite Crisis!
Tweedledee and Tweedledum?
Max and Charlie Carver play two of the Penguin’s henchmen, twin doormen who have the thankless job of guarding the door to the Iceberg Lounge. While we don’t seem to learn their names in the movie, it’s possible their supposed to be The Batman‘s version of Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Those Alice in Wonderland-obsessed gangsters were first introduced in Detective Comics #74 (1943) by Don Cameron, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson. Although they look exactly alike, Tweedledee and Tweedledum are actually cousins who just happen to have a taste for crime and Lewis Carroll.
Orrr…they could just be a nod to how the villains on the ’66 Batman TV series always had a bunch of virtually identical henchmen working for them. Either way, it’s good fun!
While some fans expressed worry about the grim, violent tone of the trailers — including the scene where Pattinson beats a criminal half to death — Batman doesn’t actually kill anyone in this movie. You’ll also be happy to know his “no guns” policy is still very much in place. At one point in the movie, that rule is even directly addressed when Batman and Gordon investigate the ruins of Wayne Manor. As the dynamic duo enter the building, Gordon pulls his pistol out, prompting the Caped Crusader to quickly snap at him.
“No guns,” Batman says, to which Gordon replies, “Yeah, man, that’s your thing.”
Bane and Venom?
The final battle for Gotham’s soul takes place on the rafters above Gotham Square Garden, and for a second there, it looks like Pattinson’s Batman has finally run out of steam. But just as the Riddler gang are preparing to finish the job, the Dark Knight reveals he has one last trick up his sleeve: a little vial filled with a neon green chemical that seems to instantly pump him full of the adrenaline he needs to get back up and keep throwing punches.
Is Batman actually injecting himself with Venom?!? It sure seems like it. Before Venom became the chemical that powered supervillain Bane (and way before it became a joke in Batman & Robin), there was Dennis O’Neil and Trevor von Eeden’s “Venom” storyline in DC’s Legends of the Dark Knight series, which largely chronicles the Dark Knight’s earliest adventures after Year One. In the 1991 comic, when Batman fails to save a little girl, he begins using an experimental drug called “Venom” that allows him to move faster and fight harder. The only problem is that he becomes seriously addicted to the steroid. Basically, it’s a fable meant to teach kids the dangers of using drugs. Even Batman is no match for substance abuse, folks.
In terms of The Batman, the big question is whether this scene is meant to foreshadow Bruce eventually becoming dependent on the stuff in a future movie. Batman as a drug addict would certainly be…a creative direction we haven’t seen on the big screen yet — probably for good reason.
The Bat, The Cat, and Klute
Before the release of the film, Reeves pointed to three major noir influences for The Batman: The French Connection, Taxi Driver, and Chinatown. There’s definitely a bit of each in this movie, especially in the way Chinatown inspires beats of Batman and Selina’s doomed love affair.
But in a recent interview, Reeves told Den of Geek that Alan J. Pakula’s neo-noir Klute was the biggest influence on the Bat and Cat dynamic in the movie. That 1971 picture follows a straight-laced private detective played by Donald Sutherland who becomes infatuated with a call girl (Jane Fonda) tied up in the murder he’s investigating. The film earned Fonda her first Academy Award for Best Actress.
“Klute’s such a straight arrow and he seems so naïve,” Reeves explained. “I think he judges her and he assumes because of the world she’s in that she is a certain kind of person. And yet he can’t help but be drawn to her and he can’t help but be affected by her. He’s putting himself above her only to discover that he’s deeply connected to her.”
Taxi Driver Parallels
One of the clearest movie influences is Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976), starring Robert De Niro as a cabbie living in a crime-ridden New York City in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. The movie nods to Travis Bickle in several ways:
- Like Pattinson’s Bruce, De Niro’s Travis records his darkest thoughts in a journal, and we hear excerpts of his writing throughout Scorsese’s film. In fact, Bruce’s first voiceover sort of echoes Travis’ own thoughts about how far his city has fallen to decay.
- In Taxi Driver, Travis’ violent acts are driven by a desire for “a real rain to come and wash all this scum off the streets.” That sounds a lot like the Riddler’s own mission to root out the corruption in Gotham City, which culminates with the villain literally flooding the streets. Like Travis, Riddler believes he’s a hero in the end.
- Riddler inspiring a whole group of like-minded individuals to assassinate the newly-elected mayor of Gotham City (along with the rest of the citizens taking refuge in Gotham Square Garden) sounds a lot like Travis’ original plan to kill Charles Palantine, a presidential candidate whom Travis blames for some of his grievances.
The Joker Gang
- The movie begins on Halloween, which helps explain the vaguely Joker-esque/Day of the Dead type gang menacing the streets of Gotham City. Is it possible that when the Joker we meet at the end of this film makes his escape, he’ll adopt their look…or try and recruit them?
- Let’s not forget the Jokerz of Batman Beyond while we’re at it!
- If the kid who refuses to do violent crimes with his buddies looks familiar, you might have watched Titans season 3. That’s Jay Lycurgo, who happens to play a more famous Gotham resident, Tim Drake, on that HBO Max series.
- The gang’s thing seems to be trying to knock people out with one punch to post on social media. This is a reference to “the knockout game,” which was allegedly a trend sweeping cities a few years back…except it wasn’t really a thing and was just reactionary news outlets trying to drum up some fear for those sweet, sweet ratings.
- The Batman is arguably two parts noir film, one part horror movie, and one part gangster flick. You can’t make the latter without acknowledging the greatest gangster movie of all time in some way. The Batman does just that during the scene when Bruce visits Carmine Falcone in his penthouse. As he walks into the Roman’s crime palace, you can hear Al Martino singing the classic love song “I Have But One Heart,” which just so happens to be the song heartthrob Johnny Fontane sings for Connie at her wedding in the first act of The Godfather.
- When we revisit Falcone’s penthouse a little later, he’s still listening to Al Martino, this time, however, it’s “Volare.” The word “volare” is Italian for “to fly.” A “rat with wings” would fly, and Falcone is indeed the “rat with wings” that the Riddler was referring to all through the film.
Legendary rock n’ roll band Nirvana looms large over this film, from Robert Pattinson’s reclusive, Kurt Cobain-esque performance as Bruce Wayne to an actual Nirvana song that not only plays during the film, but that seemingly inspires many of the themes in Michael Giacchino’s score!
The lyrics of “Something in the Way” are a meditation on depression and desperation, and they could very well reflect either Bruce Wayne or the Riddler’s state of mind…a perfect foreshadowing of the other parallels between the characters the movie reveals later on.
Reeves has also said that Gus Van Sant film Last Days, a fictional account of the final hours of Kurt Cobain’s life, was a major inspiration for his take on Bruce Wayne.
It seems that many of the Gotham PD officers we meet in the film are from the 39th Precinct. Batman first appeared in 1939. Gil Colson’s license plate number is also S397WD.
Spot any The Batman easter eggs we missed? Let us know in the comments!