The Nirvana Song In The Batman, Explained

Whenever a new "Batman" movie rolls around, there is a checklist of cinematic items you usually expect to run through. Gothic atmosphere. A colorful rogues' gallery. High-tech gadgets. Brooding, moody moments. Darkness, no parents, etc. One thing you don't normally expect to find in a Bat-movie, though, is a Nirvana song. And yet, the very first teaser for Matt Reeves' "The Batman" featured a re-arrangement of Nirvana's "Something in the Way," which appeared on the iconic grunge band's 1991 album "Nevermind." 

But this wasn't just a case of a song being used solely for a trailer. No, Michael Giacchino's massive "The Batman" score actually layers notes from "Something in the Way" directly into Batman's theme music — and the song itself plays over multiple scenes, including a montage near the beginning of the film. So what's the deal here? Did Matt Reeves just want to throw some sick Nirvana jams into his superhero movie? Or is there more to it?

Something in the Way

"Something in the Way" is not your typical Nirvana song. It's a softer, quieter, more stripped-down number compared to the louder, angrier music the Seattle band churned out in the 1990s. Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain likely wrote an early version of the song sometime in 1990, and in 1991, he turned to producer Butch Vig to record it. According to Vig, Cobain wanted "Something in the Way" to feature the full Nirvana band from the jump, but when the producer heard Cobain playing the song solo on acoustic guitar, it was a lightbulb-above-the-head moment. Vig recorded Cobain's solo version, later bringing in band members Dave Grohl (drums) and Krist Novoselic (bass) to add to the recording. Finally, Kirk Canning was asked to add the haunting sounds of a cello to the song. 

Slow and ominous, the song opens with Cobain droning, "Underneath the bridge, the tarp has sprung a leak, and the animals I've trapped, have all become my pets ..." It's an evocative opening; you can almost feel the muddy, dank, under-the-bridge dampness in Cobain's thick, sleepy voice. Like most Nirvana songs, the lyrics are cryptic, which meant plenty of people had plenty of interpretations. 

For a while, the most common reading of the song was that Cobain was singing about a brief period in which he was homeless and slept under the Young Street Bridge in Aberdeen, Washington. However, while Cobain was homeless for a period of time in his youth, those who knew him at the time later claimed he likely never slept under the Young Street Bridge, or any bridge for that matter. 

Cobain himself claimed in the interview that the song was about a made-up character, or perhaps a fictionalized version of himself, saying that the song "[Was] like if I was living under the bridge and I was dying of A.I.D.S. ... if I was sick and I couldn't move and I was a total street person. That was kind of the fantasy of it." In any case, the melancholy, bleak number remains one of Nirvana's most interesting songs, and now it's front and center in "The Batman." In fact, "The Batman" has had such an impact on "Something in the Way" that the song reached the top 20 on both Amazon Music's and iTunes' digital music charts after it was used in that initial teaser. Remember the '90s? They're back, in "The Batman" form.

Last Days

But why, exactly, is a Nirvana song so prominent in "The Batman"? There's a rather simple answer to this, other than, "Because it sounds cool!" According to director Matt Reeves, when he was working on "The Batman" screenplay, he was listening to some music — and "Something in the Way" came on: 

"When I write, I listen to music, and as I was writing the first act, I put on Nirvana's 'Something In The Way' ... That's when it came to me that, rather than make Bruce Wayne the playboy version we've seen before, there's another version who had gone through a great tragedy and become a recluse."

Reeves then took the Nirvana comparisons a step further, revealing that he tried to design the Bruce Wayne we see in "The Batman" on Kurt Cobain. Or, more specifically, a version of Kurt Cobain: 

"So I started making this connection to Gus Van Sant's 'Last Days,' and the idea of this fictionalised version of Kurt Cobain being in this kind of decaying manor."

In "Last Days," Michael Pitt plays Blake, a rock star clearly modeled on Cobain, right down to the way the character looks. The Cobain avatar in "Last Days" spends almost the entire movie wandering around his mansion, alone and mumbling to himself. He's a broken man nearing the end of his life, and it's clear that Reeves drew on that for his Bruce Wayne, who is portrayed by Robert Pattinson as a scruff guy wandering around his mansion, alone and mumbling to himself. It's a close connection, and it's definitely unlike any Bruce Wayne we've seen on the screen before. The Nirvana accompaniment only aids in the portrayal, giving this Batman a kind of grunge punk rock vibe that signifies audiences are in for something different here. And don't be surprised if you walk out of the movie humming "Something in the Way" to yourself. 

"The Batman" opens in theaters on March 4, 2022.