Right now, fans of superheroes and actors named Robert Pattinson are eagerly looking forward to the upcoming premiere of The Batman, marking Pattinson’s debut as our 11th live-action Bruce Wayne since Tim Burton’s seminal 1989 film. Featuring a younger take on the character along with new interpretations of classic Batman rogues like Catwoman, the Penguin, and the Riddler, there’s clearly a lot happening in this movie (why else would it be nearly three hours long?).
There are many questions surrounding the upcoming film — not just the Riddler’s dastardly riddles, but general questions about what sorts of new approaches to the lore we might anticipate director Matt Reeves including in those aforementioned three hours. But personally, there’s only one mystery I very much hope gets resolved, one lingering bit of unexplored lore that deserves some acknowledgment.
Finally, at long last, will we find out what happened to Batman’s parents?
We have to assume that the Waynes are no longer alive at this point — they’d certainly appear more often on screen if they weren’t, right? But what happened to them? Warner Bros really owes the fans an explanation here.
I mean, nothing so tedious as a flashback, ideally. Like, what if every new introduction of Batman required an extensive sequence detailing exactly how Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed? It’d get pretty silly at a certain point, while also leaving the character feeling a little stagnant, as if the only interesting thing about him as a person is whether or not his parents are alive or dead, and if they died under tragic circumstances like… I don’t know, a skiing accident? Cancer? Something like that.
While whatever happened to them is of course unknown, I would hope that if we did finally get the answer, we wouldn’t see it rehashed as many as 10 different times on screen in the last 30 years, in various live-action and animated projects. Imagine just an unending series of melancholy montages (probably using slow-motion and moody music, to make sure we really understand that something bad just happened).
Seriously, imagine if a movie that wasn’t even really about Batman, but instead was an origin story for one of his villains, still managed to cram in the senseless murder of two nice rich people whose only crime was leaving the house with their son for some unknown activity. (Mini-golf, maybe?) That’d just be wildly over the top and unnecessary.
The more you think about it, the more strange it seems that this subject has never come up. Superman’s family history, of course, gets covered extensively by the comics as well as the film and TV adaptations — in fact, Superman has twice the number of parents as most characters, thanks to his biological parents sending him to Kansas after the destruction of Krypton. Wonder Woman, also, has a complicated and interesting parentage: Queen Hippolyta is definitely her mom, but is her father Zeus or a lump of clay? Who’s to say?
Then again, it’s really not that essential to who she is as a character — whether her heritage be god or mud, Diana remains a virtuous representative of the power of good in this world. Same with Superman, come to think of it.
Really, our families aren’t the only things that define us as people — there’s no reason to believe that because your parents are dead and mine are alive, you’re more likely than me to dress up in bat-themed Kelvar and beat up bad guys at night. Whatever happened to Batman’s parents, it’s only one facet of him as a character… right?
I mean, it’d be pretty silly if the only real character motivation that most popular interpretations of Batman had to offer was a simplistic, “Well, something bad happened to his parents once and he vowed revenge.” Maybe that worked for the days of Adam West, but if we’re going to introduce a new Bruce Wayne yet again, hopefully there’s something new to say about why a guy like that would Bat-suit up every night.
Maybe this question will get answered by The Batman, coming to theaters this March. But the more that I think about it, maybe we’re better off not knowing the answer — instead putting the focus not on what happened to Batman’s parents, but who Batman is.