Much of the modus operandi of Robert Pattinson’s Dark Knight in The Batman is about the theatricality of his fearsome image. “They think I’m hiding in the shadows, but I am the shadows,” Bruce monologues at one point. But it’s far from the Bat himself who provides the film’s most fearsome theatricality: it’s his ride.
The Batman‘s Batmobile was actually one of the first things we saw of Matt Reeves’ movie, but its actual presence in the final film is largely confined to one scene about midway through. After Bruce and Jim Gordon follow the trail of the Penguin to a deal that sees Catwoman interrupt proceedings on her own quest for vengeance, a full on shootout between Gordon and Penguin’s goons breaks out, as sound and fury as yells and gunfire from both sides deafen the film’s soundscape.
But suddenly, there’s another rumble—one that rapidly transforms to an earsplitting, unnatural shreek. The gunfire stops, the yelling stops, even the roar of the heavy Gotham rainfall gives way to this ever-deafening shriek. The rumble returns as a backing chorus to this horrifying, alien sound—revealing itself to be the banshee-like cry of the Batmobile’s souped up engine screaming to life, equally alien blue flames licking from its exhausts to complete the demonic image.
It’s an absolutely incredible moment—made all the more incredible by the intense chase sequence that follows, as Bruce ardently hunts down a defiant Penguin. But beyond the high-octane thrill, it’s a moment that stands in stunning parallel to Bruce’s approach to fear and intimidation throughout The Batman. There has always been a theatricality to Batman, regardless of iteration, the fearsome visage that makes the man into something else, a symbolic fear against the equally theatrical criminal grime of Gotham City. But The Batman plays with this in some fascinating ways, from Bruce’s embrace of becoming the shadow, to the raw viscerality with which he fights his foes. But, for the most part, it’s defined by silence. Multiple times, Batman heroically enters a scene in that stark quiet—slinking out of the shadows to beat up the clown-makeup goons we see assault a train passenger early on in the film, stalking his way through the Iceberg Lounge masked by dull lighting and the beats of the club’s music. Even his descent in the final act to take on Riddler’s followers is a theatrical bang followed by a short, sharp pause as he falls in like rain on their parade. That’s what we so often associate Batman’s fearsome reputation with, that skulking silent shadow.
The Batmobile’s arrival in that shootout is the same thing, but with sheer, deafening noise. It’s the intent to put the fear of the Batman into his foes, but instead of that unnatural slinking in the shadows, it’s the bursting forth of this wild, inhuman creature, screaming an impossible, horrifying noise. The Batmobile itself in that moment becomes the Batman’s visage, and we see Bruce almost become one with the vehicle in the ensuing chase, roaring to himself with a rage to match the roar of its engine as he jams the gas, the car slinking and sliding through traffic like Bruce gliding through a fistfight. Doggedly sticking to the Penguin’s vehicle, the Batman and the Batmobile itself become an unstoppable object, barrelling through anything thrown at them, driven by a sole desire to hunt down their target. It speaks to the rawness that defines Pattinson’s youthful Batman throughout the film, an animalistic burst of rage from man and machine alike that expresses his anger, his desire, as he theatrically calls himself at one point, to be Vengeance itself.
Like all good Batman moments, it’s something immediately, awe-inspiringly cool. But beneath that theatrical flourish, there’s something there almost a little horrifying to match.
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