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Image courtesy of TheBatman.com.
Batman is a character with many faces. There was the deserved dark hero of The black Knight, depressed (and depressing) post-divorce Ben Affleck and the deadpan comic hero of the animated series. But perhaps no other adaptation portrays him in a less flattering light than Matt Reeves’. The Batman.
In Reeves’ 2022 adaptation, Batman (Robert Pattinson) is self-centered, childish, and clumsy. He is a man so preoccupied with his own trauma that he neglects the moral goals he ascribes to himself. He rejects the value of leveraging his enormous economic and social power to help his city. More damningly, he doesn’t seem to care about the people he saves as much as the people he hurts. This is probably why Gotham continues to be a cesspool of crime: Bruce Wayne, the person with arguably the most power to change things, is less concerned with having a safe city than a city full of people. hitting.
Of course, that’s the whole point.
Reeves’ iteration of The Batman is a superhero movie by way of a psychological thriller – think Caped Crusader by way of Se7fr. It was a welcome change for me: while I love watching superheroes punch spaceships in the face, it gets a bit boring after the tenth movie in a row. In it, Batman is confronted with the fact that he, you know, kinda sucks. The film does this through narrative sheets. After all, Batman isn’t Gotham’s only traumatized orphan.
Enter the Riddler (Paul Dano). I heard that Paul Dano had to go to therapy after this role. I haven’t found any evidence of this, but I wouldn’t be surprised; he is a bit also real here. The Riddler has more in common with a domestic terrorist than a fun guy who wears a green suit. Like Batman, he was an orphan with a traumatic childhood – and like Batman, he wants revenge. But while Batman takes his anger out on random criminals, the Riddler, who grew up poor and uncushioned by Bruce’s privilege, understands that the real problem is the corruption that seemingly plagues every part of Gotham’s criminal justice system. He kills cops, mayors, district attorneys, and openly claims Batman as an inspiration every step of the way.
But he’s not the only person who shakes Wayne’s conviction. Selina Kyle or Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), her romantic interest, also highlights serious flaws in her worldview. His mother was also killed as a result of the violent crime in this town. Unlike her counterparts, however, she doesn’t really want revenge; she just wants security for herself and her people.
Batman’s progression through the film is aided by his recognition of himself in the other and his distaste for what is effectively his own twisted reflection. Through the macabre actions of the Riddler, Wayne realizes the superficiality and inefficiency of what he has done, as well as the corruption of the systems in which he had previously placed his trust. Through his relationship with Kyle, he begins to understand the suffering of the people he is supposed to protect. And thanks to an exceptionally brutal intercession with mayoral candidate Bella Reál (yes, I know, the name is really subtle) (Jayme Lawson), he is made to realize that he has more powerful resources than mere violence. Because of this, the story’s climax isn’t him cathartically beating the Riddler for his many crimes – the Riddler is actually already imprisoned by the time the climax begins. Rather, it reflects the growth of Wayne’s character. The film ends with him helping the victims of the Riddler’s attack on Gotham, pledging to act as a force for hope instead of revenge.
In addition to having an exceptionally well-constructed story, The Batman is just a really well-made movie, made by creators who seemed to care deeply about what they were doing. I’ve touched on Dano’s performance before, but Pattinson is excellent here as well. The only reason the character is truly digestible before his change of heart is because Pattinson plays him with a tortured core of desperation. The film’s aesthetic is also impressive (although from a practical standpoint, it’s kind of fun that Gotham is still in the middle of a torrential downpour).
But perhaps more importantly, it reached both an audience of people who already love and understand the character’s mythos and also people like me, who started off rather indifferent. I was greatly assisted in writing this article by a comic book fan who wishes to remain anonymous; they are probably the only reason this article is somewhat coherent. While some of the elements they enjoyed were ones I never could have seen – for example, allusions to more obscure comic book characters like Hush and the Court of Owls – many of them were the same decisions as I enjoyed about the movie. It’s so well done!
That doesn’t mean the movie is perfect. The BatmanThe bigger issue is that he has to weigh his famous (and sometimes ridiculous) origins against his more grounded ambitions. It must straddle an awkward line. On the one hand, he is openly inspired by Taxi driver and the Zodiac Slayer; on the other, the studio wouldn’t let any of the characters smoke and the main character is called Batman.
But that juxtaposition is only really a problem if the audience’s point of view isn’t willing to open up to a very new – and in my opinion, very necessary – view of the character. There will inevitably be comparisons between this film and Christopher Nolan’s much-loved Black Knight trilogy; both have a similar dark and gritty aesthetic, and both are prestige takes on the same character. However, where Nolan uses this aesthetic in the service of post-9/11 libertarian cynicism, Reeves’ take is surprisingly hopeful. The film acknowledges that the world is ugly, that the authorities are meant to protect rather than destroy, and that even the most idealistic among us are deeply, deeply flawed. It ends with Gotham in ruins. And yet, there is hope – when given the right direction, Batman changes for the better. He listens – he begins to care. He begins to help. Even if the story ended there, it would be triumph enough.