The Batman Spoiler Discussion – The Greatest Superhero Horror Ever Made?

Right off the bat (pun intended), The Batman establishes itself as a very different superhero story– a superhero horror.

(Image: Warner Bros.)

This article contains super spoilers for The Batman. The ‘?’ in the title of this article is a reference to the Riddler.

The Batman (2022) is the newest on-screen depiction of the iconic superhero, one of the most anticipated films, and arguably the first actual blockbuster of the year. Now, weeks after its release, with all the hype dying down and having seen the film twice, I hereby release this spoiler discussion of The Batman.

The Opening and the Horror Tone

The film opens with the Riddler’s murder of Gotham’s mayor and, when I watched it in the cinema, I did not expect this opening at all. When the mayor’s TV flickers and shows the Riddler standing behind him in the darkness like a horror character in an eerie wide shot, I knew this film was going to be unusually amazing. The scene then proceeds with the Riddler attacking the mayor, violently bashing him in the head with a carpet tucker (Ouch! That’s gonna hurt!). While the kill is not explicitly shown, possibly to avoid the R-rating in the US (the film is rated 15 in the UK nevertheless), the sound effect, the soundtrack, and the atmosphere truly make it a horrifying and unsettling scene. Then, even more disturbingly, the Riddler takes out his duct tape and suffocates the mayor (who was still alive at the time, as later confirmed by police) in a weird gesture reminiscent of a dark ritual, leaving the Batman a very dark and twisted riddle.

The Batman

We then see the Batman/Bruce Wayne’s narration played over the streets of Gotham on Halloween night. In this film, Gotham city feels like a living, breathing character itself, captured by Greig Fraser’s gorgeous cinematography. This is probably the best depiction of Gotham City, a dark mix of Blade Runner-ish cyberpunk and classic Gothic architecture, but dystopian, downright disgusting and depressing. The streets are full of trash, it rains pretty much every day, the residents are more like scary and violent demons than people, and an even scarier and more violent Batman lurks in the shadows.

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I’m vengeance.” Robert Pattinson’s Batman makes his first entrance in a terrifying manner (Image: Entertainment Weekly)

We see the Batman for the first time as he walks out of the shadows of a filthy train station with heavy footsteps and proceeds to beat up one of the horrific-looking thugs, saying his first line: “I’m vengeance”. Then, he unleashes all of the hatred and vengeance inside him on these criminals. The fight choreography of this film uses wider shots to show every detail of one action scene, and very few cuts– we can see his moves are slightly clumsy, given this is his second year as Batman, but especially brutal.

And with that, the film establishes this new Batman as a horror character (while still a crime-fighting vigilante as all previous incarnations) and arguably the darkest Batman we’ve ever seen in live-action- not just physically, but psychologically as well.

As Batman finishes his ‘night out’ (or should I make another pun, Knight-out), he rides home on a bike. With Nirvana’s song Something In The Way playing, the film proceeds to show the utterly depressing but fascinating Gotham city at dawn. He reaches Batcave, which is an old, washed-down train station called ‘Wayne Terminus’ and, unlike Wayne manor in previous films, this Batman lives under a skyscraper, ‘Wayne Tower’- a neo-Gothic building that you could actually imagine a bat or a vampire creature living in.
As the Batman takes off his mask, we finally see Bruce Wayne, played by Robert Pattinson with a look inspired by Nirvana’s late frontman Kurt Cobain. His face is pale (likely due to lack of sunlight and working a night job as Batman), his hair is messy and unkempt, and he wears dark eyeshadow which, finally shown in a live-action Batman film, is melting down from his eyes as if he is crying black tears. Overall, he looks tired, mentally unstable, and somewhat disturbing, as if he is a step away from becoming a violent criminal himself.

I don’t care what happens to me.” Robert Pattinson as the most damaged and unhinged Bruce Wayne yet (Image:

In the next scene, Bruce talks back to Alfred, another familiar character in Batman lore, played by Andy Serkis- this isn’t his first collaboration with director Matt Reeves, but this time he isn’t in a motion capture suit and we get to see his excellent acting- like an angry, fragile child: “What I’m doing is my family’s legacy… You are not my father … I don’t care what happens to me!”. This is clearly a broken young man still haunted by his parents’ death and unable to walk out of that trauma yet (no flashback of Batman’s parents dying though, thankfully, as it is too much of a cliché at this point), and we continue to see him in the first two acts of this film as this depressed, sleep-deprived, socially reclused loner of few words.

The film also shows small character details such as him obsessively writing in his diary called ‘Gotham Project, Year 2’ and him using high-tech contact lenses as cameras (likely a Wayne Enterprise product), rewatching footage of his ‘Knight-out’ like a detective taking a deep dive into puzzling crimes, or a mastermind carefully executing his plan and relishing in his achievement in a twisted way.

In an even darker way, this Batman’s behaviour may suggest he has a secret death wish, that one day he might simply burn out on a mission, and that he has some level of suicidal tendency, or even insanity. Interestingly, the film later reveals that Bruce’s mother, Martha Wayne, is from the rich Arkham family and had a long struggle with mental illness, and it is open to discussion whether Bruce has inherited some mental instability from his mother.

This is a unique depiction of the character, and Robert Pattinson did a phenomenal job. As Batman, he is inexperienced and easily provoked into intense aggression. The violence he inflicts on the criminals of Gotham varies from breaking people’s noses and bashing their heads in to beating one of the Riddler’s goons near to death at the end of the film, with the only seen exception at Gotham City Police Department, where he staged his escape with Commissioner Gordon and reluctantly admits to holding back, although he still left quite a bruise on poor Gordon’s face.

In his downtime, he lives as Bruce Wayne and doesn’t really do anything, as Batman is his main identity and he sometimes gives off the vibe of a bat or vampire. As a result, we see during the film, the Batman’s reputation in Gotham is not that of a hero, but of a monster, equally if not more feared than the criminals in the eyes of Gotham’s residents, from GCPD to citizens; even as Bruce Wayne, people view him as an unreachable, irresponsible mystery that never does anything for Gotham.

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Detective mode Batman puts the word ‘Detective‘ back in DC Comic’s title (Image: IMDb)

As the film further unfolds its mysteries, it puts the word ‘Detective’ back into DC (‘Detective Comic’ is DC’s full title). In this Riddler-focused film, Batman is quite the analytical detective. And, as Riddler’s puzzle unfolds with more disturbing kills, including one featuring a rat cage on a man’s face, and one of a district attorney using a collar bomb reminiscent of traps made by Jigsaw in the Saw films, it leads to the bigger picture– the corrupted criminals of Gotham city.

The Villains of Gotham, and the Love Interest?

This film smartly connects everything together with one location, the Iceberg Lounge, which we get to revisit three times with the Batman during different stages of his investigation– the first time as the Batman when he beats his way in, the second time as Bruce Wayne when he is welcomed in due to his rich boy identity and discovers a dark secret that makes him more vulnerable, and for the last time sneaking in as Bruce Wayne, then putting on the Batman suit to desperately and ruthlessly infiltrate the whole criminal complex- and introduces its refreshing new takes on the classic Batman characters: Catwoman played by Zoë Kravitz, Penguin played by an entirely unrecognizable Colin Farrell disguised by excellent makeup, and Carmine Falcone played by John Turturro in a very unusually serious role, which he is fantastically menacing in.

Colin Farrell’s Penguin, while not in the film for long, is a more realistic take on the character, an intimidating gangster that people could expect to see in real life and would call ‘the Penguin’. And, he is in one of the most intense and unique sequences in the film– the Batmobile chase. The film deliberately reveals the Batmobile for this scene- one of Batman’s trademarks, with layers of suspense. When I saw the car’s engine starting and the sound effect hitting in its full glory in IMAX and Dolby surround sound, I was in awe. The whole chase is an experience as the cameras are placed at the sides and backs of the vehicles, letting the audience feel as if they are traveling along with the cars. And of course, at the end, the Batman disables Penguin’s car and walks out of the fire in that upside-down shot, pure superhero badassery (or suicidal madness, depending on the perspective).

“The Bat and the Cat, it’s got a nice ring.” Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman (Image: Glamour)

Zoë Kravitz plays a very interesting Selina Kyle/Catwoman. For the first time on screen, Catwoman is shown to be Carmine Falcone’s illegitimate daughter, which is her comic book origin. Like Batman, she has a tragic backstory, and is also at the beginning of her career, as shown in her costume– not a full leather cat-suit like other versions, but a leather jacket and a beanie with cut-out ears to form a cat’s face. In the Batman, Catwoman sees a partner in crime, and they understand and connect with each other on a personal level. Together, they are a dark power couple made for each other. The scene where they part ways at the end of the film gives old western vibes where the couple in love ride into the sunset. While they separate, for now, it’s only a matter of time before Catwoman returns.

The Riddler – An Unhinged Redditor?

My one problem with the film is that as the plot about Catwoman and Falcone unfolds, the excellent detective thriller storyline of the Riddler gets side-lined until it comes up again in the final act. Nevertheless, as soon as the film picks back up on the Riddler, it gets creepily intense again. The Riddler is finally arrested in a café (willingly), revealed to be a very common, almost too common John Doe. This entire sequence, reminiscent of the killer reveal scene in Se7en, is masterfully crafted, with the Riddler’s creepy smile appearing as he sees Batman through the rain-stained window, the pan shot to reveal ‘?’ on the coffee, along with the creepy soundtrack.

This leads us to the next part of the discussion– the main antagonist of the film, The Riddler.

I’m just here to unmask the truth about this cesspool we call a city.” Paul Dano as the Riddler (Image: USA Today)

Played by Paul Dano, the Riddler is nightmare fuel as a Zodiac-inspired serial killer with horrific murder methods, somewhat like Jigsaw in the Saw films, and a habit to play with his victims, like Ghostface in the Scream films. This is, in my opinion, one of the greatest Batman villain portrayals in film, but unlike the late Heath Ledger’s anarchist Joker in The Dark Knight, who has a certain dark charm that hooks you to the villain, the Riddler’s psychopathic and bizarre behaviour downright gets under your skin and is a clear portrayal of a very disturbed loner with a hatred for the elite of Gotham that he feels has abandoned him and, as a result, he wants to destroy the whole city. At the end of Batman’s investigation, it is revealed that he has an online fanbase of like-minded antisocial followers, who will aid him in his plan to flood Gotham city after his arrest, not unlike the support for real-life school shooters and serial killers on social media. This moment of modern realism makes it one of the most disturbing superhero films I have ever seen.

The Last Act, the Ending, and Sequels?

As the Riddler has exploded the seawalls of Gotham, flooding the city or the ‘cesspool’, in his own words (similar to the Joker in The Dark Knight, using something of simple taste such as gunpowder, dynamite, and gasoline) and his online squad of followers wreaks havoc in the chaos, the film enters the grand finale, the big action-packed final battle, typical of a superhero film, and it brings my other minor problem with the film– a sudden shift in tone. As the first two acts are so horror-esque, the last act is almost like an afterthought of ‘this is still a superhero film, and we have to make the Batman heroic’.

Yet, this finale is character-focused and intense. It deliberately shows the struggles of the inexperienced Batman, as he is barely able to lift himself up to a ledge and is disabled by one shotgun blow point-blank to the chest- while the Batman suit is clearly established to be bulletproof- and has to drink a green-ish liquid to get himself back up,. Whether that is venom used by Bane, or very brightly coloured adrenaline is up for fans to discuss.

As Batman takes down one last Riddler goon by almost beating him to death at the height of his fury and hatred fuelled throughout the film by the Riddler, the goon disturbingly repeats the same words Batman has been saying to the criminals of Gotham: “I’m vengeance”. The screen lingers on Batman, with an excellent display of facial acting from Robert Pattinson, who realises his mistake- using violence to fight violence can only produce more violence. It is in that moment that he decides to change, and this is one of the clearest emotional developments in a superhero film, where you can clearly see a character’s attitude shift throughout one sequence.

In the very next scene he falls into the water, symbolising baptism, and helps people during the aftermath of Gotham’s flooding. Something in the Way plays again at the end, the song closing the film and signifying the arc of the Batman/Bruce Wayne as a person, now out of his dark state of mind and ready to become a true hero that inspires hope in the people of Gotham. In this way, the entire film is a coming-of-age story and a true origin story of ‘the Batman’.

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The Batman’s ending leaves Bruce Wayne as the hero and guardian of Gotham (Image: IMDb)

And of course, there is a sequel tease. In Arkham Asylum, the Riddler is locked up next to the cell of a certain laughing character, credited as ‘Unseen prisoner’, played by Barry Keoghan. It is all but confirmed this is supposed to be the Joker. Personally, I don’t want to see the Joker as the main villain in the second film, as there are so many characters in Batman’s Rogues Gallery that haven’t been explored yet that should be Batman’s new and deadly foe in the next sequel, such as the Court of Owls- interestingly, one of Riddler’s cards has an owl on it, and Hush- a journalist was namedropped as Edward Elliott in the film with the word ‘HUSH!’ written on top of it, and this may be Hush’s a.k.a. Thomas Elliott’s great-great-grandfather.

Final Thoughts?

As for the film as a whole, it has gorgeous cinematography and a colour palette of red, orange, gold, brown, and black. Michael Giacchino’s soundtrack is explosive to listen to in IMAX, and it is lowkey one of the creepiest soundtracks of a blockbuster. It is epic and revolutionary that this kind of music belongs to a superhero film. In fact, this is a very disturbing film that I find scarier than many modern horror films. While not explicitly showing the more graphic side of scenes, the content of this film is really pushing the boundary for a PG-13, including the very creepy lingering shot of the bat in the cage inside Riddler’s apartment.

Final thoughts- is The Batman brilliant? Is it as good as The Dark Knight? In my humble opinion, it is definitely one of the best Batman films since it embodies the dark, detective side of Batman, and is the greatest superhero horror film ever made.