7 Hitchcock Tropes In The Batman

7 Hitchcock Tropes In The Batman

From Year One to The Long Halloween, Matt Reeves drew plenty of inspiration from classic Batman comics in rounding out his cinematic portrait of Bruce Wayne. But The Batman’s biggest influences were previous movies. The Bat and the Cat’s crimefighters-turned-lovers dynamic is an homage to Klute, the vigilante voiceovers are a nod to Taxi Driver, and the whole movie plays like a comic book version of Se7en (a movie already theorized to take place in Gotham City).

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Most of Reeves’ reference points came from the edgy, experimental New Hollywood movement of the 1970s. But the Hitchcockian tone and style of the movie take the inspiration even further back into the annals of cinema history. Reeves set out to make a Hitchcockian Batman movie and included plenty of the Master of Suspense’s signature tropes to hammer it home.

7 MacGuffins

The Batman Card Riddle

The term “MacGuffin” is often misused in today’s blockbuster landscape. From the One Ring to the Infinity Stones, it’s frequently applied to key plot elements with thematic importance. The original Hitchcockian definition of a MacGuffin describes an arbitrary plot element that facilitates the external action while the internal conflicts take over the substance of the movie and the MacGuffin eventually seems insignificant. The Batman’s three-hour crime plot has a few Hitchcockian MacGuffins.

The Riddler leaves behind a trail of riddles, ciphers, and puzzles that all act as little MacGuffins, and for most of the movie, Batman and Gordon are looking for “the rat.” Ultimately, like classical Hitchcockian MacGuffins, these plot points turn out to be less important than the relationships forged along the way, like the Bat’s doomed romance with Catwoman.

6 Detective Story

The Batman Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne in Morgue

In the comics, Batman is such a talented sleuth that he’s often given the title of “World’s Greatest Detective.” But the movies tend to eschew hard-boiled detective work in favor of the action-packed spectacle of beating up street thugs. In The Batman, Reeves has his cake and eats it, too. The movie’s gargantuan runtime has plenty of thug-beating, but it also tells a straightforward detective story for the first time in a Batman movie.

The Bat develops a kind of “buddy cop” dynamic with Jim Gordon as they partner up to follow the Riddler’s trail of clues and uncover his identity. From Vertigo to The Lady Vanishes to the second half of Psycho, some of Hitchcock’s most acclaimed films revolve around detective stories.

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5 Psychological Thrills

With its disturbed serial killer villain and equally disturbed crimefighting antihero, The Batman is as much of a psychological thriller as it is a superhero movie. This aspect of the Bat-reboot has been compared to Se7en and Taxi Driver, but it’s just as evocative of Hitchcock.

RELATED: 8 Best Nods To 1970s Movies In The Batman

From Vertigo to Psycho to Strangers on a Train to Shadow of a Doubt, many Hitchcock movies thrilled and unnerved their audience by digging into the troubled psyches of their lead characters.

4 Sympathetic Femme Fatale

Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman

In the comics, Catwoman is the ultimate “femme fatale,” ripped straight from a classic film noir (in keeping with the Bat’s Bogart-in-a-cowl antihero characterization), but the Catwoman played by Zoë Kravitz in The Batman is a much more nuanced and emotional take on Selina Kyle. She’s not a straightforward traitor who double-crosses the hero. She’s a vulnerable human being determined to avenge the murders of her mother and her roommate at the hands of her sadistic estranged father.

This Catwoman is more in line with the sympathetic deconstructions of the femme fatale trope seen in Hitchcock’s thrillers, like Grace Kelly’s Lisa Carol Fremont from Rear Window and Kim Novak’s Madeleine Elster/Judy Barton from Vertigo. Like Kravitz’s Catwoman, these roles aren’t one-note archetypes; they’re well-rounded, three-dimensional characters.

3 Bomb Under The Table

Gil Colson with a bomb around his neck holding up a phone in The Batman

One of Hitchcock’s favorite tension-building techniques was the “bomb under the table” trope. The idea is that the audience will be gripped by a long scene of mundane dialogue if they’ve been told that there’s a bomb under the table and it’s about to go off. Quentin Tarantino used this trope to stellar effect with the Jewish refugees hiding under the floorboards in the opening scene of Inglourious Basterds.

Reeves includes a couple of ticking timebombs in The Batman, but they’re not hidden away under a table. In The Batman, the “bomb under the table” is more like a “bomb around the neck” – but it’s still used to create tension. Gil Colson has to answer three riddles to save his life, all while the timer on his collar bomb ticks away.

2 Shocking Plot Twists

Carmine Falcone playing billiards while talking to Bruce Wayne in The Batman

From the revelation about Norman Bates’ identity to the revelation about Madeleine Elster’s identity, Hitch loved a good plot twist. In that spirit, Reeves included a couple of unexpected plot twists in The Batman.

RELATED: 10 Biggest Surprises In The Batman

Bruce learns that his father was in cahoots with Carmine Falcone (although Alfred instantly backpedals most of this one), Selina reveals that Falcone is her illegitimate father in a softer-edged reimagination of Chinatown’s paternal twist, and Batman finds a dark web chatroom in which the Riddler has amassed an army of masked political assassins ready to do his bidding.

1 Voyeuristic Cinematography

The defining trope of Hitchcock’s filmmaking style is turning the audience into voyeurs. When Norman Bates watches Marion Crane undress in her room, Hitchcock puts the audience in his perverse perspective.

Reeves emulates this “audience as voyeur” style when Batman spies on Catwoman in her apartment. Similarly, the Riddler spies on his murder targets from afar before creeping up on them.

NEXT: 7 Similarities Between The Batman & Se7en

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About The Author

Ben Sherlock
(3434 Articles Published)

Ben Sherlock is a writer, comedian, independent filmmaker, and Burt Reynolds enthusiast. He writes lists for Screen Rant and features and reviews for Game Rant. He’s currently in pre-production on his first feature (and has been for a while, because filmmaking is expensive). You can catch him performing standup at odd pubs around the UK that will give him stage time. Previously, he wrote for Taste of Cinema, Comic Book Resources, and BabbleTop.

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