Breaking Down The Batman’s First Trailer: Haunting Secrets and Enigmatic Clues

A new Dark Knight rises. (Gif: Warner Bros.)
A new Dark Knight rises. (Gif: Warner Bros.)

At DC Fandome this past weekend, Matt Reeves stunned us all with a first look at Robert Pattinson in action as the latest Dark Knight in The Batman. It didn’t just give us a good look at RBatz though: it was our first, proper look into the latest cinematic incarnation of Gotham City, and its many mysterious rogues. Here’s what you may have missed.

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The trailer opens, as most nights in Gotham City do, with some murder. A masked man is busy bandaging up a corpse with duct tape. Also a very Gotham City thing to do.

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This appears to be our very first glimpse at The Batman’s main antagonist: Paul Dano as Edward Nigma (or sometimes Edward Nashton, depending on the take), better known to comics fans as the Riddler. Although the green coat is evocative of Eddie’s chosen colour palette in DC’s comics, this is quite unlike any other interpretation we’ve seen of the character in live-action Batman material before.

Image: Warner Bros.

But just because it’s a new tone for the Riddler doesn’t mean we’re not getting the same sort of mysterious clues being left behind. Case in point: his handiwork done, the Riddler’s victim has a new message on his face: “No More Lies.”

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The Gotham City Police Department is on the scene — as is another familiar Bat-face: Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), making his way into a room filled with officers. But no one’s actually looking at Gordon here, for reasons that will become very obvious momentarily.

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“From your secret friend,” Gordon recites, as we see him and other detectives investigate the scene — one picking up a letter, which is presumably what Gordon is reading from. “Who?” someone asks, only for Gordon to respond that he’s not sure.

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What Gordon is shining his flashlight on is another set of clues to tell us who this victim is: Don Mitchell Jr., Gotham’s mayor, who according to these newspaper covers that the Riddler has painted the word “Lies” over, was in his “historic” third term in office. One cover also has an interesting name that suggests Gotham politics (and perhaps corruption in said politics) will play an important role in The Batman: Bella Reál, being played by Jayme Lawson in the movie. When Gizmodo broke the news of her character, she was described as “a grassroots political candidate running for office in Gotham.”

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“Let’s play a game, just me and you,” Gordon continues, now having opened the calling card the Riddler left — an actual greeting card. Inside there’s a cryptographic code, the answer to a question asked on the other side of the card: What does a liar do when he’s dead? Because it’s 2020 and we exist on the internet, the answer has already been cracked by eager-eyed fans:

Though it’s a perfectly fine riddle on its own: He lies still. Good one, Eddie.

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Interestingly, the card about secret friends has an Owl on the front, asking, of course, “Whoo?” If The Batman really is investigating the corruption of Gotham City, is it too much of a stretch to consider that this might be a hint to the sinister Court of Owls, a secret criminal organisation (that Bruce once thought might have connections to his parents’ death) running underneath Gotham and pulling the strings from behind the scenes? It’s probably just a nice card. The Court is appearing in Gotham Knights though, the new Bat-family game also revealed this past weekend at Fandome.

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GCPD forensics tech snaps a blood-stained picture of another paper cover, this one with news of Mayor Mitchell Jr.’s bust of the Maroni crime family. The Maroni family played a suitably ridiculous part in the Gotham TV show, but in the comics, the Maronis, headed by Luigi “Big Lou” Maroni, were bitter rivals of another major crime family in Gotham, the Falcones — the boss of whom, Carmine Falcone, will be played by John Turturro in this movie.

Also, fun fact: Sal Maroni, Lou’s son and another major boss in the family, is the gangster responsible for turning Harvey Dent into Two-Face, throwing acid at the attorney during a trial. A fun little reference, but probably not a real tease for Dent’s appearance in The Batman.

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“Any of this mean anything to you?” Gordon asks, lifting the card’s envelope to reveal its addressee is none other than the Batman…

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And Gordon’s actually holding it up to the Batman (Robert Pattinson), who we now get to see in all his costumed glory. That’s why everyone was staring earlier.

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Just as quickly as we met him though, we’re whisked away to a shot of the GCPD Commissioner: Pete Savage, played by Alex Ferns. The Batman is set in “Year Two” of Bruce’s career as a crimefighter, so Jim Gordon is not quite yet the Commissioner Gordon we know him to be. That also means Bruce Wayne himself is not quite in his origin story, but still inexperienced and at a pivotal moment in his journey.

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Presumably watching Commissioner Fern’s conference from afar (also, presumably, about Mayor Mitchell Jr.’s death) is Bruce, clad in eye makeup and a scarf covering his face — before he dons a bike helmet and rides away from the scene. Not full Bat-costume, because it’s daylight, but presumably also because noted Rich Guy Bruce Wayne doesn’t want to be seen hanging around police press conferences for no good reason.

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“You’re becoming quite the celebrity” a new voice says, as Bruce pulls up in what is clearly a very early iteration of the Batcave. Still pretty low-rent, not much tech: once again, this is very clearly a Batman still in the nascent period of his heroism. That voice appears to be, by the way, Andy Serkis’ Alfred Pennyworth, one of Bruce’s most trusted confidantes — presumably, he’s referring to the Batman rather than Bruce here.

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Speaking of Bruce rather than his alter ego, we now get to actually see him out of the suit for the first time, attending Mayor Mitchell Jr.’s funeral just as everything goes, in suitable Gotham fashion, completely batshit. A car plows into the church the Mayor’s funeral is taking place in, sending Bruce and the gathered mourners scattering.

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The perpetrator is an unwilling one, as a distressed man steps out of the crashed car to reveal explosives taped to his body, a phone taped to his hand, and another riddle for the Batman. “Why’s he writing to you?” Alfred asks.

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Before we get a chance to ponder, we get our first look at another iconic comics character sneaking into action: Zoë Kravitz’ Selina Kyle, better known as Catwoman! She’s breaking into the crime scene of Mayor Mitchell Jr.’s death — what could possibly be in the safe Selina’s drilling into? Cute cat ears, though.

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A brief shot of a mysterious dockside meeting gives us what appears to be another major member of Batman’s rogues, as a rain-soaked Bats watches over it. This isn’t beloved character actor Richard Kind here, but allegedly Colin Farrell as the Penguin in some serious prosthetic makeup. According to Reeves, speaking during The Batman’s Fandome panel, this version of Oswald Cobblepot has yet to endear himself to that particular nickname, going by Oz instead.

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“If you are justice, please do not lie,” a heavily modulated voice asks — presumably Dano’s Riddler, perhaps speaking over that phone taped to the funeral crasher’s hand earlier? Under that voice over, we get a rapid-fire sequence of shots: red-soaked snippets of the Batsuit, similar to our very first tease of the costume, a crowd of thugs (who we’ll meet later), and Batman having a very testy meeting in an interrogation room filled with Gordon and a bunch of GCPD officers.

Like we said, this is still early on in Batman’s career in Gotham, so his relationship with both Gordon and the GCPD is likely still an uneasy one. Maybe we’ll learn more as to why in that HBO Max Gotham PD show, which acts as a prequel to The Batman? That’s meant to be set a year before this movie takes place.

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That rainy meeting from earlier returns, this time with Catwoman zooming away on a bike as, seemingly, Cobblepot and some goons open fire at her. Was Selina meant to be working with them — recover something from the Mayor’s safe? — and something inevitably went wrong? Or are they firing on Batman, who we saw watching over the meeting earlier?

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Meanwhile, back in the mayor’s office/home, Selina finds herself confronted with Batman, getting in a fight after he’s returned to the scene to conduct an investigation without the watching eyes of Gotham PD.

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“What is the price for your blind eye?” the modulated voice continues, rhyming in a way that definitely makes this appear to be the Riddler, who loves himself a couplet or two. Under it, Batman is thrown back by a massive explosion during the aftermath of the crash at the Mayor’s funeral. It’s not yet been reported but the image of the mayor there appears to be The Strain/Black Sails actor Rupert Penry-Jones.

If you look closely, you’ll also see there’s someone else in that explosion. Maybe the driver? There’s no crowd so presumably the mourners were all evacuated and Bruce uses that opportunity to swap into his batsuit in order to return and negotiate with the Riddler.

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We cut back to the thugs we briefly saw earlier, and yes, much will be made of the fact they’re all seemingly wearing messy clown face paint. In basically any text about the Batman, this would indicate that these thugs have a connection to none other than the Clown Prince of Crime that is the Joker. But could The Batman really have this many icons of the Rogue’s Gallery in it? Maybe it’s just a little hint that, somewhere in this early world of Bruce’s caped crusade, the Joker is out there waiting in the wings. Maybe the Joker didn’t invent criminal clowns as the hot fall look in Gotham City. Who can say? Anyway, the thugs inquire as to the identity of someone off-screen, who’s very quickly revealed to be…Vengeance.

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Presumably also, the Night. Presumably also also, Batman. You know how it is.

But yes, Batman: The Animated Series quotes aside, this is a very, very messed up moment, as Batman just completely wrecks one of the thugs before delivering his little bon mot. It’s…ok, it’s cool, but also, it’s not cool? It’s scary and feels less like an intimidation tactic and more like a still incredibly raw Batman just giving in to a dark impulse.

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Things that are unequivocally cool though? The new Batmobile. Here, it’s not an armoured tank like we got with the Tumbler in the Nolan movies, or the slick, gadget-packed roadster we’d usually expect out of a Batmobile. It’s a converted sports car with one hell of a turbo-boost.

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A few more action sequences are cut together as the Batmobile bursts into action — one is more of that fight sequence with the clown-thugs, including a moment Batman takes a point-blank gunshot like it’s nothing. The other, more Batmobile related, is the car bursting through shipping pallets as it chases away Cobblepot’s gang from earlier. “Whoa, this guy’s crazy!” Cobblepot cries as he’s pursued.

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Interestingly between all this, we also get a very quick shot of Batman grappling his way up a huge staircase…and he’s being shot at by GCPD officers. Considering Batman was welcomed at the mayor’s crime scene, this elaborate flight of stairs is presumably not there. Is this GCPD HQ itself, and Bruce his making his hasty exit from that kerfuffle earlier?

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As the very cool title card for the film fades away, we cut back to the Batcave, as Bruce removes his cowl. The creepy voice of what is presumably the Riddler — this time much less modulated — returns to mock him. “You’re a part of this, too,” it jabs, as Bruce watches a news report in the Batcave, as, in voiceover, he asks how.

It seems like The Batman may be setting up the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne as part of a much grander conspiracy — if the tease here isn’t just that Batman’s part of it because, as has been a theme throughout his comics history, his mere presence in Gotham feeds the existence of his messed up Rogue’s Gallery. It wouldn’t be the first time the Waynes have been re-framed as a much larger part of the criminal underworld Bruce rails against after their death — Telltale’s excellent Batman adventure video game series did something similar to great effect.

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“…you’ll see,” the mysterious voice teases, as Bruce glares off into the camera lens. Yes, yes, we’ve all been quoting “Welcome to the Black Parade” and making Emo Batman jokes, but after literally decades of Batman movies hiding the fact that their Batmen very clearly put on a hell of a smokey eye while wearing their cowls, it’s nice to actually see this fundamental part of bat-fashion as part of the text.

While it was shocking we got to see this much of The Batman already, Reeves estimated that only a quarter of the film had been shot before production went on hiatus due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. Nonetheless, our first look gave us a compelling vision of what Reeves has planned for Gotham and its inhabitants. Getting to actually spend an extended amount of time with an inexperienced, younger version of Batman in a way we really haven’t on the big screen yet is inherently fascinating, even aside from what appears to be a huge tease for what this particular slice of the DC cinematic multiverse will offer us.

We’ve got plenty of time to speculate, because when exactly The Batman will hit theatres — and how safe it’ll be to not have our own Riddler-esque facial protection to see it — is unknown, beyond a vague 2021 window.

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Or, well, ?0?1, more accurately.