“The Batman,” which premieres nationwide Friday, shows the darkest side of Gotham, with a city at a crossroads between good and evil.
But as the caped crusader (played by Robert Pattinson) and Catwoman (played by Zoë Kravitz) set out on lonely, destructive paths fueled by revenge and anger, the movie also shows how they could save each other.
“They both felt alone their entire lives,” Kravitz said about the relationship between Batman and Catwoman, at a press conference for the film in February. “And to meet somebody who has a similar way of thinking, and that grabs you the way that they kind of grab each other, I think it really is the heart of the story.”
While comics and previous movies have reimagined Catwoman as the caped crusader’s greatest love, “The Batman” shows a more complex reality where she may be more of an enemy to Batman, if circumstances drive them apart.
This flexibility allows characters to grow into the heroes or villains that fans admire. And in the movie specifically, it also forges unlikely partnerships.
“This is something strange, but it’s a chance, it’s a risk that Gordon is taking out of a sense of need,” actor Jeffrey Wright said at the press conference about Lt. James Gordon’s relationship with Batman. “But when he has so few tools of his own and so few partners of his own that he could trust, it really is out of a sense of desperation that he says, 'Well, bring him on board.'”
“The Batman” has the grit of a 1970s crime thriller in which a relentless detective hunts down a serial killer. This intense story, however, is set early on in Batman’s crusade against crime, when he’s just a young vigilante struggling to save the city. And his path as a hero is murky.
But this Gotham also seems to follow a particular trait that "Batwoman," the latest TV series set in the fictional city, also features: a diverse cast of characters from a range of sexual and racial identities.
How Gotham’s diversity pushes the lines that define us
Gil Perez-Abraham, who plays Officer Martinez in “The Batman,” says that much of the film focuses on finding out who is good and who is bad. And his character initially rejects the caped crusader as a vigilante.
“I come from a military family. And I base a lot of my work on my character around a certain member of my family. And something important to me was the righteousness, like if a cop can do it, why would a vigilante do it?,” Perez-Abraham told NBC News, describing why his character distrusts Batman. “If our job is to be the righteous people, the right people, why are we allowing someone who is not part of our workforce to be doing that work for us?”
While Bruce Wayne (Batman's real-life identity) typically gets the sympathy of Gotham for having been orphaned as a boy after his parents get murdered in front of him, there is a sense in this movie that widespread corruption and inequality make him appear out of touch as a billionaire who looks down on the city from his protected home.
By contrast, the character Selina Kyle (who is also Catwoman) had a mother who was strangled when she was just 7 years old. She grows up in the absence of her father without the safety net of a fortune. Selina waitresses at a nightclub and lives in a rundown apartment with her friend Anika in a humbler part of the city, compared to Wayne.
Nevertheless, the condition of being orphaned and the pressure of coming to terms with the past of their fathers is a theme that resonates with many young characters in Gotham as they are called on to become parents of the city in different ways.
In this sense, Perez-Abraham says that his character’s perspective on morality becomes more inclusive, as he sees Gordon —someone he looks up to — partner with Batman.
“I definitely felt in the crafting of the character that Gordon was meant to be an aspirational type figure,” he said.
When asked how diversity on screen can change what fans think about Gotham, Perez-Abraham says that seeing a diverse police force in a diverse city holds up a true mirror to society that can push the boundaries of how we see ourselves.
“We grow up with the Batman universe very alive in our culture,” the actor, who is Venezuelan and Lebanese, said. “I felt like it was one of the comics that was more common in Venezuela. And I think that’s a very, very representative Gotham when you think about what Gotham is generally modeled after, the big cities that Gotham is meant to represent.”