Matt Reave and Peter Craig’s Batman was a personification of vengeance. The masked crusader, supposed to be a symbol of hope, had lost his core in the shadows and forgotten how it was supposed to be out in the light. He didn’t realize it, but he had become a vengeful spirit, trying to fill the void that his parents’ deaths had left inside him. Throughout the film, we see a transformation happening, where there are a series of realizations that Batman goes through. We see that, from vengeance, he transforms into a flag bearer of hope, a vigilante of Gotham City. There were definitive moments that showed us this change, this realization taking place inside Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman. So let’s revisit these moments, try to analyze them, and look through the character of a child who, no matter how much he tried, couldn’t let go of the fear that was harbored inside him.
Though Bruce Wayne had put on a mask and decided to clean up Gotham City, he had himself become a nocturnal animal that lurked in the shadows and preyed on criminals. He was bitter from the inside and quite vindictive in his approach. Fate had severed all his ties with those he valued, and what was left was a hollow man who was devoid of any feeling.
At the start of the film, a few individuals who were part of a gang spot an innocent man and start beating him. Batman arrives at the scene. He mercilessly beats the gang members, who at first try to fight him off, but after realizing his brute strength, start running for their lives. Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman does his job as a vigilante perfectly well, but an amusing thing happens that corroborates the sentence he had spoken as soon as he entered the scene, he tells them that he is vengeance. The victim, who was lying in a corner all this while, sees Batman coming toward him after he had dealt with the criminals and says, “Please don’t hurt me.”
These words spoken by the victim himself said a lot about the perception that the people had and the image that Batman portrayed. Now it is clear that it was no accident or misunderstanding that a vigilante was taken as a vengeful spirit. Bruce Wayne had resided in the shadows for a long time, and that darkness had become an intrinsic part of him. Grief had given way to fear and anger. There was rage and indignation in those eyes. He was running away from childhood trauma that he still didn’t know how to deal with.
The city of Gotham has become like a snake that eats its own tail. There was chaos and lawlessness. Crimes were committed just for the fun of it. There was bloodshed and violence. Batman believed that fear was the only tool that could suppress this sentiment of anarchy, and that violence should be aptly responded with violence.
He tells Selina Kyle a.k.a Catwoman that choices have consequences. This was the basic law that governed all his actions. That is how he used to find validation for his feelings and actions too. There was a very thin line difference that differentiated vengeance from a vigilante. Batman wanted to burn down the criminals, even if it came at the cost of heavy collateral damage. He was looking for extreme retributive justice rather than restorative justice. He didn’t care what the outlook of society would be that had suffered so much at the hands of the criminals and also the people who were saving it.
Bruce Wayne assumed the worst in people. Be it Falcon, Penguin, or Riddler, he could see through the villainy and corruption. When Falcon fabricates a story about his father, Thomas Wayne, being involved in killing a journalist, he instantly believes that his father would have done that, not even once questioning the credibility of Carmine Falcon. It is Alfred who forces him to look beyond his initial impulses. It is a conversation with Alfred that tells us why Bruce was full of vengeance and what was the motivation that drove his actions.
Alfred tells him that though his father did approach Carmine Falcon, he never wanted him to kill the journalist. Also, Bruce comes to know that his father didn’t do all this to protect his empire, but to only save his mother from the negative impact of the information that was going to be revealed to the public. Even after all this, when Carmine Falcon murdered the journalist, Thomas wanted to go to the police and inform them about the crime. That night, Thomas and Martha Wayne were killed under suspicious circumstances. Alfred knew that it was Falcon behind the murder, but he could never prove it successfully. Alfred saw fear in the eyes of a child who had lost everything. Years later, when Bruce sat next to Alfred in the hospital, he realized that the fear hadn’t dissipated. He thought he had mastered it, but it was hiding somewhere in the corner, camouflaging and aiding other vices inside his core and nurturing them. Bruce was not scared of dying. He had reached a place that was beyond all these attachments. But he was still scared of losing the people he loved. He had taken Alfred for granted for a very long period of time and often undermined his existence. But when he was in the hospital, battling for every breath, he realized how much he meant to him. Bruce is almost astonished to feel the same way that he once felt on a fateful night when he lost his parents.
He realizes that Falcon was the rat who orchestrated the whole game to take down Salvatore Maroni. Falcon didn’t want anyone else to take the mileage by using the renewal fund that was started by Thomas Wayne. In the end, when Carmine Falcon’s veil is lifted, and his lies become public, Selina Kyle can’t help but take revenge for her friend, Annika, who was killed by Falcone. She points a gun at him when Bruce comes and intervenes. Had he still been vengeance, he wouldn’t have stopped her from shooting. But he tells her that she shouldn’t pay for the acts of others. She was suffering, and Bruce had been privy to how suffering could make anybody hollow from the inside.
In Greek mythology, the color red has always signified heroism. It is also associated with the color of fire, which is often used as a metaphor for hope and life. The Batman lit a red flame, gave a hand to the Mayor, and took her out of the deep waters. He had decided to be a vigilante, not because he was burning from the inside, but because he wanted to be that beacon of hope that could show others the way and could be looked up to in times of need. He wanted to rebuild the broken faith of the people; he wanted to break the shackles of chaos and bring back law and order in his beloved city. The people followed the masked crusader into light and better times. He had ushered in a belief in the people of Gotham City and had an effect on them. He had finally realized that vengeance couldn’t change the past. He had vowed to become more than that: an unwavering flame of hope that always showed the way to those who were lost.