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‘The Batman’ ending explained: Who was that mystery villain and what’s next?

Seen in silhouette, Batman and the distinctive ears on his hood are seen against a sunset cityscape.
Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman in a scene from “The Batman”
(Warner Bros. Pictures)
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Warning: Major plot spoilers for “The Batman” ahead. If you haven’t yet seen the movie, we suggest reading this review or this interview with director Matt Reeves and star Robert Pattinson instead. And come back when you’ve seen it.

Robert Pattinson is the sixth actor to star as the Dark Knight on the big screen (eighth if you count animated features) since Michael Keaton put on the cowl in Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman” and launched the Caped Crusader’s modern film franchise.

But, as that “The” in the title suggests, with “The Batman” director Matt Reeves wanted to wipe the slate clean of all that history — not to mention the character’s endless iterations on TV and in comics and video games — and start fresh. Or at least as fresh as one can start with a superhero who made his debut in 1939.

“This character is over 80 years old, and people have a version in their head of what it must be,” Reeves told The Times in a recent interview. “There are going to be people who are going to see this movie who will see Batman for the first time — and Rob will forever be their Batman.”

Robert Pattinson leads the cast of director Matt Reeves’ take on DC Comics superhero Batman, also starring Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano and Colin Farrell.

Indeed, when he first pitched Warner Bros. executives his vision of a rebooted Batman five years ago, Reeves made clear he wanted to cut the character loose from the sprawling and ever-forking DC Extended Universe. No Superman or Wonder Woman cameos. No winking references to Aquaman or Harley Quinn. Just pure, unadulterated Batman existing in his own timeline and free to go in any direction in potential sequels.

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“I didn’t think doing a Batman solo film and also having to service the connection to the other characters within the Extended Universe was something that was for me,” Reeves said. “I just felt like it’s hard enough to do a good Batman film after there’s been so many good films.”

Now, having introduced this angsty, Kurt Cobain-inspired new take on the character — one that returns him to his roots as “the world’s greatest detective” — the question becomes: Where does Batman go from here?

Batman, in his black attire, half disappears into darkness.
Robert Pattinson in “The Batman”
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

(Seriously, this is your last warning.)

The future of the Bat-tinson franchise will become clear only in the fullness of time. But we already have some clues of where things might be heading both in spinoff projects that are already in the works and, most important, in the final moments of “The Batman,” which hint at the reintroduction (or re-reintroduction, as the case may be) of one of Batman’s most notorious rivals.

At the end of Reeves’ film, Paul Dano’s Riddler, his vengeful plot to lay waste to Gotham foiled, or at least mitigated, by Batman, is incarcerated in Arkham Asylum. There, he finds a sympathetic ear — and a potential new partner-in-crime — in an unseen cellmate, played by Barry Keoghan and referenced in the credits simply as “unnamed Arkham prisoner.”

This mysterious figure commiserates with the Riddler about the plight of would-be criminal masterminds like them: “One day you’re on top, the next you’re a clown.” Still, he suggests that Gotham loves a “comeback story,” then, after cementing his relationship with the Riddler with a riddle about friendship, lets out a sinister, unhinged laugh.

Couple that cackle with the earlier “clown” reference and, well, it’s more than reasonable to assume that “unseen Arkham prisoner” is the infamous Clown Prince of Crime, the Joker.

AMC on Tuesday introduced the idea of variable ticket pricing for movies, an established practice in Europe.

Pattinson has expressed interest in making a new Batman trilogy, à la Christopher Nolan’s earlier Dark Knight trilogy. But asked about where Batman’s story could go in a potential sequel or sequels, Reeves chose his words carefully, even as he acknowledged that plans are already in development.

“From my perspective, the whole goal was to create a complete experience with this film,” he said. “You can’t really make ‘Chapter 1’ because that presumes you’re doing the others. But the idea is that if this works, then it creates the viability of this world.

”I would love to do more movies with Rob, and I have a lot of ideas,” he continued. “And, of course, we’ve talked about stuff — but not in the way of going, ‘Here’s what happens in the next movie.’ You just make this movie and see if it can connect to an audience and if the studio is excited about making more. Then we’ll go back in there and figure out what the next step is. Talk to us in, like, eight weeks.”

But while we wait to see what direction any future Batman movie might take — whether, for example, we’ll see more of Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman or whether the Joker will break free of Arkham to unleash mayhem on Gotham — other projects spinning off from “The Batman” are already in the works for HBO Max.

The first, as announced by HBO Max in July 2020, is set to center on the Gotham Police Department and further explore the deep corruption that “The Batman” suggests is rotting at the heart of the troubled city. “Sopranos” executive producer Terence Winter was initially set to serve as the series’ showrunner but exited due to creative differences.

The other spinoff, also set for HBO Max, will center on Oswald Cobblepot, a.k.a. the Penguin, with Colin Farrell — who is utterly unrecognizable as the rising criminal kingpin in “The Batman” — reprising the role. In recent interviews, Farrell and the film’s producer Dylan Clark have dropped hints that this series will pick up the character’s story after the events of “The Batman” and will be a kind of gritty crime series with shades of “Scarface.”

With ‘The Batman,’ director Matt Reeves and star Robert Pattinson set out to reinvent an iconic 80-year-old character — and throw a much-needed lifeline to the ailing movie business

In an interview with the Toronto Sun, Reeves hinted at another potential spinoff, saying, “We’re doing another series that connects to Arkham [Asylum].” But it is unclear whether that is a separate project or the previously announced Gotham series.

Will Batman or any other DC superheroes (or supervillains) show up in either or both of these series? Only time will tell, though given the deep well of Batman-related material at Warner Media’s disposal and its need to service both theatrical and streaming platforms, it’s safe to guess we’ll see some more familiar characters.

Speaking to The Times, Reeves said one of the benefits of starting fresh with the venerable franchise, and of placing Bruce Wayne in his younger years, was that not only Batman but all of the various characters connected to him could get a new coat of paint.

“In this film, we have a Batman who’s not yet fully in control of what it means to be Batman,” he said. “What was exciting to me was to give the character an awakening, to force him to evolve by the struggle of engaging in this story. And even though it’s not an origin story, by setting it in his early days, it meant that it was the origin for the other characters in the comics.”

In other words, fear not, Bat-fans. Even at 80-plus years old, the Caped Crusader and his dark world still have plenty of room to run.

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