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The Batman Movie Theory That Could Change Everything

During the DC FanDome digital event in late August 2020, Warner Bros. released the first trailer for The Batman, the upcoming 2021 feature that stars Robert Pattinson as a younger, even broodier Dark Knight. While the trailer doesn't give away much, seeing how only 25 percent of the film was shot before the pandemic halted production, it's peppered with numerous clues and at least one big, secret tease that possibly hints toward a grander conspiracy.

The Batman writer-director Matt Reeves hinted at such when he spoke at DC FanDome (via Gizmodo), teasing that the film will peel back the layers of Batman's origins and take a closer look at Bruce Wayne's family — particularly what role they played in Gotham City declining into corruption.

"The idea is that we're in Year Two, it's the Gotham Experiment. It's a criminological experiment. [Bruce Wayne] is trying to figure out what he can do that can finally change this place. And in our story, as he's in that mode, that's where you meet him," said Reeves. "Then the murders begin to describe the history of Gotham in a way that only reinforces what he knows about Gotham, but it opens up a whole new world of corruption that went much farther. But as that story starts to come out, without being an origin tale for him, it ends up being something that touches on his origins. [...] As it starts to describe this epic history of corruption in Gotham, you start to understand [Bruce is questioning], 'Well, where did my family sit in that?'"

That statement right there — backed up by a sneaky reference tucked into the Batman trailer – has set the internet ablaze with a mind-blowing theory.

Fans believe the Riddler knows the Wayne family's secrets

If you take The Batman trailer at face value (though, to be clear, there's almost certainly misdirection going on), there are several facts presented. One, the Riddler is the central antagonist. Two, this is a younger, angrier Bruce Wayne, still learning the ropes of this whole "being a vigilante" thing. And three, the Riddler — for whatever reason — is not only leaving clues for the Batman, but also creepy personal messages such as, "You're a part of this, too." 

From here, many fans, such as Caleb Williams on Twitter, have theorized that a deeper conspiracy is afoot — one that revolves around the Riddler, aka Edward Nashton, knowing far more than he lets on. There's some basis for this in the comics: The Riddler is often presented as a brilliant but socially awkward manipulator who plays people like chess pieces, albeit in weird ways. In the storyline "Hush," he deduces Batman's secret identity. So, what if he's done the same thing in The Batman? What if the Riddler knows Bruce Wayne is Batman, using that information as a motivator in his twisted games? 

Well, if this ends up being true in The Batman, the classic narrative of the Riddler leaving clues out of an abstract, intellectual desire to match wits with an equal might be completely upended. Furthermore, if this theory is correct, then the Riddler isn't just leaving riddles to tease Bruce about knowing his weird little nighttime habit — he has bigger ambitions.

What ambitions, though? As a number of eagle-eyed fans have noted, the trailer for The Batman depicts the Riddler leaving Batman a card with an owl on the front, and that points them to another area of the Waynes' lives that the Riddler might know about.

Which side is the Riddler on?

This being a mystery film — meaning every clue matters — the choice to use owl imagery is probably not an Easter egg, but rather, a clue toward the involvement ofthe Court of Owls, a secret society comprised of Gotham's wealthiest leaders, businessmen, and politicians. In the comics, the Court of Owls have spent centuries controlling Gotham's underbelly — enforcing the wealth inequality, crime, and corruption that make the city so infamous. 

Now, remember what Reeves said before regarding Batman being forced to question where his family sat in Gotham's history of corruption: The odds are, given all this, that the Waynes have a bloodier history than Bruce's parents might've ever told him. And while the comics have generally depicted Thomas and Martha Wayne as being charitable and decent figures, whom the Court of Owl directly opposed, the same might not be true on film. It's entirely possible that they may have even been members of the Court of Owls, or perhaps unknowingly served the organization's goals. Alternatively, their opposition to the Court's corruption might've directly led to their murders. 

Either way, the Riddler's statement that "You're a part of this, too," implies that the entire goal of his puzzles might be to force Bruce Wayne to confront his family's dark past. And if this hypothesis proves accurate in The Batman, it remains to be seen where the Riddler stands on all this. Is he serving the Court of Owls, for instance, or trying to take them down? Who knows. All of this might be wrong, anyway. In the meantime, it's fun to speculate. 

The Batman hits theaters on October 1, 2021.