In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for The Batman, we look at important motifs that help us understand the film.
- Robert Pattinson – Bruce Wayne / Batman
- Zoë Kravitz – Selina Kyle / Catwoman
- Paul Dano – Edward Nashton / Riddler
- Jeffrey Wright – James Gordon
- John Turturro – Carmine Falcone
- Peter Sarsgaard – Gil Colson
- Andy Serkis – Alfred Pennyworth
- Colin Farrell – Oswald “Oz” Cobblepot / Penguin
- Jayme Lawson – Bella Reál
- Peter Craig – Writer
- Matt Reeves – Writer and director
Important motifs in The Batman
Perception and identity
Identity is obviously a relevant motif in any Batman movie, as Batman’s identity remains hidden to the public. But perhaps more than any other Batman movie, Bruce’s perception of his own identity in The Batman is of utmost importance.
During Batman’s introduction, Bruce reads this menacing diary entry:
Thursday, October 31st. The city streets are crowded for the holiday. Even with the rain. Hidden in the chaos is the element, waiting to strike like snakes. And I’m there too. Watching. Two years of nights have turned me into a nocturnal animal. I must choose my targets carefully. It’s a big city. I can’t be everywhere. But they don’t know where I am. We have a signal now, for when I’m needed. When that light hits the sky, it’s not just a call—it’s a warning. To them. Fear is a tool. They think I’m hiding in the shadows. But I am the shadows. I wish I could say I’m making a difference, but I don’t know. Murder, robberies, assault—two years later, they’re all up. And now this. This city’s eating itself. Maybe it can’t be saved, but I have to try—push myself. These nights all roll together in a rush behind the mask. Sometimes in the morning I have to force myself to remember everything that happened.
From this, the only perception we and others have of Batman is one of fear and unease. He is out to hurt the people that harmed him and his family. This plays into Riddler’s perception of Batman, as he sees Bruce as an ally—someone who scares others with an iron fist. Bruce is flabbergasted that Riddler owns this view of Batman. But really, Riddler’s perception of Batman isn’t so outrageous, given Bruce’s behavior and mentality.
This represents a turning point for Bruce, who must channel a different sort of energy to fix the city of Gotham. The only way to inspire hope in Batman is to overpower the vengeance and negativity, to bring some humanism to his superhero figure. Bruce can’t change others’ perception of his identity until he changes his own self-perception.
At three different points throughout the movie, Bruce shares a gaze with Gotham Mayor Don Mitchell Jr.’s son. The son is dealing with the trauma of his father’s gruesome murder as Batman tries to discover the Riddler’s identity. In effect, Bruce becomes a sort of father figure that ostensibly brings comfort to the young boy and allows Bruce to find catharsis.
This motif is born from Bruce’s own trauma, as he too lost his father as a young boy. Thomas Wayne was a prominent political figure in Gotham and aimed to rebuild the city with his Renewal Project. But after his death, Bruce became vengeful. Despite his father’s altruistic notions, Bruce adopted a cruel mindset and sought to punish the criminals of Gotham. He carried this negativity for most of his life.
But Bruce goes on a journey that soften his worldview, that allows him to observe the inherent goodness of his father’s mantra. Vengeance can turn a person ugly and spiteful, but hope can inspire meaningful change. By the end of the movie, Bruce realizes that he must become a force of good and positivity. He can still clean up the streets as Batman, but he can’t lose sight of himself, of what his father set out to do.
Thus, Bruce represents that beacon of hope to Mitchell’s son. The first two times Bruce sees this boy, they are both at a loss: Bruce cannot stop criminal mayhem from spreading, and the boy is forlorn over his father’s death. But the third time they interact—which is at the very end of the movie, when the streets have flooded and people are desperate for help—Bruce reaches out his hand and leads the boy out of the darkness.
This boy might have grown up just like Bruce—angry at the world and antagonistic towards others. But this ending carries optimism with it. Bruce isn’t this boy’s father, but he can serve a positive fatherly role in Mitchell’s absence. By being attentive of this boy’s needs, Bruce is able to find his own emotional catharsis and address his own father issues.
What are your thoughts?
Are there more motifs you think should be part of the Colossus Movie Guide for The Batman? Leave your thoughts below and we’ll consider them for the guide.
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