Matt Reeves’ The Batman manages to echo the mood of that legendary animation, its Gotham perpetually soaked in shadow, illuminated by sickly, yellow streetlights, where the sidewalk is always slippery with rain. It’s a vision of Gotham with emphasis on the goth, a timeless, otherworldly realm, modern enough to incorporate the internet and smartphones, whose eroding brick skyscrapers are riddled with old-timey Italian gangsters. This incarnation is Batman gothic and finds himself inside the nightmarish caricature of an inner city that corporate news imagines, drowning in greed, corruption, and violence. The opening plays like a horror film where Batman is the monster, stalking the grimy streets, striking fear into the heart of costumed street gangs who are never quite sure if he’s lurking in the shadows.
In portraying Bruce Wayne, Reeves wanted to depart from the traditional playboy and socialite; because he listened to the Nirvana song “Something in the Way” (1991) as he wrote the first act, he decided to base Bruce on reclusive Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. He took inspiration from the film Last Days (2005), which features a fictionalized version of Cobain living in a “decaying manor”. The Godfather (1972) character Michael Corleone also influenced Reeves’ take on Bruce. Reeves sought to make Batman relatable while honoring what people love about him, and described his Batman as “still trying to figure out how to do this, how to be effective, and he’s not necessarily succeeding. He’s broken and driven.” Although it does not depict Batman’s origin—in which he witnesses the murder of his parents—The Batman still explores the emotional cost that it has on the character, with Reeves stating Batman is “emotionally stunted at being 10 years old, because that’s a trauma you don’t get past”.
There is a scene at the end of the film in which Paul Dano’s The Riddler is revealed to be sharing a cell at Arkham Asylum with someone credited as “Unseen Arkham Prisoner” who has a very distinctive laugh. Reeves has since confirmed that this character – played by actor Barry Keoghan – will eventually become the iconic Batman gothic villain The Joker.
The Batman grossed $369.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $401.6 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $770.9 million. It is the seventh-highest-grossing film of 2022, as well as the highest-grossing serial killer film. The film’s IMAX performance helped raise its overall first quarter revenues ($60 million) by 55% and its global box office ($173.2 million) by 57% from the same period in 2021.