Matt Reeves’ earlier novel The Batman takes a similar approach to Bruce’s training in Christopher Nolan’s films, but adds a twist.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Before the Batman: An Original Movie Novel, on sale now.
At Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begin, the bat has traveled the globe to become the ultimate fighter. Bruce, after all, wanted to transcend the common man, naturally transforming into a super-soldier to fight crime in Gotham as a Dark Knight. This eventually led him to the League of Shadows in Tibet to perfect his craft. Interestingly, Matt Reeves’ previous novel the Batman makes training for Robert Pattinson’s Caped Crusader similar to Nolan’s vision but different at the same time.
Christian Bale’s Batman initially left Gotham to trick the city into thinking Bruce was dead, becoming a criminal across the globe. As a ghost, he ran with gangs, evaded the law, and embraced various brawling styles. He learned from the heroic and villainous sides of the coin, working to find a balance.
When Ra’s al Ghul found him, Bruce embraced the ninja way of the League, incorporating everything to become a disciplined, versatile, and focused soldier. This resulted in fallout, however, as he didn’t want to kill. So, he burned down the camp and returned home, ready for the war on crime with his armor, gadgets and vehicles.
Now in Before Batman: An Original Motion Picture Novel, Bruce goes from country to country during his adolescence after the death of his parents. He studies various sciences to become a better detective and engineer, but only because he wants to be entertained – not for justice. Bruce also learns the fighting styles of all these countries, incorporating everything from aikido to judo to muy thai, as he is fascinated by MMA. He loves adrenaline rushes, so he puts his body to the test. In that sense, he’s a wanderer like Nolan’s Batman but for a more selfish reason.
Another difference is in the role of Alfred, which is closer to DC Earth One comics by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. There, Alfred was a former British military officer who trained Bruce to become an enforcer of the night. It wasn’t just about building tools, but a tough love to make Bruce an apex predator. This Alfred follows a similar path, teaching Bruce his own fighting styles and fusing it all together to create a new alpha style called “Brucejitsu” – something the Wayne heir admittedly finds cheesy.
It was different from Michael Caine’s Alfred, who provided moral support while Bruce did most of the heavy lifting. As for training Bale-Bat in the cave, Alfred more or less refrained, as he was too old for the physical stuff. Alfred de Reeves (played by Andy Serkis), however, is the right age to train with Bruce. Last but not least, Nolan’s Alfred always knew of Bruce’s training and vigilante ambitions, endorsing him once he had his say. But in Before Batman, Alfred de Reeves is kept in obscurity. Bruce keeps the secret, only for Alfred to find out he snuck out at night, causing him to reluctantly give his blessing.
To see how Bruce’s training paid off, The Batman hits theaters March 4 before making its way to HBO Max April 19.
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