The Batman (2022)
March 4, 2022 9:52 AM - Subscribe

When the Riddler, a sadistic serial killer, begins murdering key political figures in Gotham, Batman is forced to investigate the city's hidden corruption and question his family's involvement.
posted by guiseroom (42 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I didn't have high hopes for this, but it was better than I expected.

I liked detective/thriller story and I think a more inexperienced and fallible Batman makes for a better protagonist. It's sort of a pastiche of "Year One" and "Hush" and works overall. Both of those stories are pretty serious and somewhat dark. Year One has a bit of hopefulness to it, but the combined narratives squeezed out all the light and I felt like I was watching the film from underneath a dirty burlap sack. The Batman's sudden character journey at the end felt unearned to me. "oh hey maybe there's more to this than extremely focused violence. makes ya think."

As usual for me, the ancillary characters were more interesting–Cat Woman/ Selena, Ozzy / Penguin / Alfred / Gordon. I especially liked Jeffry Wright's Jim Gordon. But then, I could watch him read the phone book for three hours. I wish they hadn't felt it necessary to make Penguin grotesque. He's scarier as a well dressed portly gentleman criminal with a violent streak.

At the end of the film, when the city is flooded and everyone is a wreck, I chuckled to myself thinking "even after a horrible night in Gotham, my eye makeup is perfect."

I did really like the brief scene of Bruce smearing black around his eyes before gearing up as the Batman - that little bit of transformation helps sell the change in character. I would have liked to see the eye makeup smudged or fading at the end as he returns to the light and rediscovers hope.
posted by device55 at 8:42 PM on March 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

This was like watching a speedrun of LA Noire.
posted by adrianhon at 11:56 PM on March 4, 2022 [4 favorites]

Pattinson's trembling lips should be for an Oscar. Maybe also his permanent three o'clock shadow.

This was a big, grim, loud, forcibly epic movie that probably went too far with the backlit heroic ending. The Batman was a bit too kissy, Catwoman could have been a bit more badass, Turturro could have done more with Falcone than just phoning it in from central casting, and poor Alfred was no Michael Caine. But Comissioner Gordon was very good, so was the Penguin, and so was The Riddler. And the stunts were great, especially The Batman's chute-opening-crash-landing under the El and over the bus (ouch!), while the motorcycles seemed retro and realistic. I could have done without the incel army, but that's the world we live in.

As you can tell, I really liked it.

Avé Maria!
posted by chavenet at 4:36 PM on March 5, 2022 [5 favorites]

I quite liked it. Maybe my favorite movie Gotham; I loved how it seemed to follow the "lost to time" design ethos of the animated series. There are flat screens and USB drives, but it doesn't look like the taxis or police cars have been updated since 1985. I love that the Batmobile actually looks like a dang car and that RBats didn't do any goofy asthma growling like the last two guys.

I liked his final reel decision to start trying to be a superhero, and since this picture packed in callbacks to every grim and dour Batmovie ever made, I hope that means this will be a franchise willing to move past all the gloom. If this cast does another one of these, I want them to pick up from this point honestly. I want a BLUE cape, and the trunks too! Battinson said he's open to a Robin story, and I hope that happens, as long as it's not Death in the Family. I like the bummer rainy gargoyle stuff fine, but we're all set for that for awhile.

I'm ready for a bugged out technicolor Batman that doesn't retreat into self conscious camp. Screw "realism," let's get proper weird. There were radioactive mutating toxins in some of that floodwater and now a Batman who is truly trying to heal in a Gotham trying to do the same has to deal with Killer Croc and Clayface.

What I *don't* want is a single minute more of any dang Joker content. That cameo at the end was probably my least favorite part, and I hope that's the last this franchise sees of the Clown Prince of Overused Villains. I'd rather see Kite-Man, Egghead, and the Condiment King than the old and busted, tired and tedious damn Joker. For serious, no more Joker until after KGBeast, Killer Moth, and Maxie Zeus have had their turns; enough is enough.
posted by EatTheWeek at 11:39 PM on March 5, 2022 [10 favorites]

I'm ready for a bugged out technicolor Batman that doesn't retreat into self conscious camp.

Me too. It sounds a lot like the enjoyably bonkers approach Grant Morrison took in the comics. His run included the creation of Bat-Cow and the return of Bat-Mite, plus a great deal more Silver Age silliness besides. It made a nice change.
posted by Paul Slade at 12:19 AM on March 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

So mild spoilers for what doesn’t happen as I am an idiot:

I always try and avoid spoilers and trailers. The one thing I did know/glimpse was that Colin Farrell was in it as a villain. And I 100% never recognised him as the Penguin. Like, I was trying to work out who the actor actually was and failed. And I assumed he was the Riddler. So I spent most of the last part of the movie waiting for the twist where the person they thought was the Riddler actually wasn’t. And when Paul Dano was all “We did this, we did it” I was “yeah yeah, this is the bit where he is revealed to be a hoodwinked stooge”. So I was probably the only person in the cinema who didn’t think the movie was overlong as I was actually expecting there to be another 30 minutes of reveal. Even at the end when he drove off I was like, err, leaving this a bit late guys.
posted by Hartster at 2:16 AM on March 6, 2022 [8 favorites]

Also, for those who didn't stay to the very end or who blinked when it flashed on screen, the YOU ARE EL is
posted by chavenet at 10:11 AM on March 6, 2022 [3 favorites]

I enjoyed it a great deal. It was, as some reviews complained, "overstuffed". Most obviously though it was a real movie, whereas many comic book movies are formulaic with little sense of original style.

There are a lot of valid complaints we have too much cultural recycling, but I also enjoyed:
1) The comfort of something familiar, on top of the comfort of fantasy
2) Discussing and thinking about these multiple takes on Batman--i.e., what is "realism" anyway, how do they handle his being a billionaire, etc.

In many of these movies, the detective side of things is just an excuse for the punchy-punchy energy beam shooty main attraction. Here it wasn't, but it could have been more economical, again "overstuffed".

For example, some of the plot hinges on a gangster named Moroni, who in Gotham history had been considered a big bad taken down by the police. But in the course of Batman's investigations it's found his apprehension was a cover for even greater ongoing corruption.

And... it seems like something we're not really invested in, just declarative history, diagramming connections. We never see who Moroni was, he's a placeholder. And it means a lot to these Gothamites to have their history revised, but we only learned that history an hour earlier.

One of the weird and fun aspects of these "more realistic takes on Batman" movies is seeing how they rise to that challenge of making goofy comic caricatures real. Maybe b/c those of us who were kids who watched the Adam West Batman didn't realize how unserious it was when we were kids? While some random gangster doesn't interest us, one nicknamed The Penguin does, because he's linked with that archetypal short bow-tied, suited, monocled caricature we grew up with. We know that he and all the Batman rogues gallery--except maybe in the graphic novel literature--are goofy, that nobody imagines Bergess Meredith's Penguin or Caesar Romero's Joker having a home life, taking off their costume, a backstory, trauma, psychological depth, living in a world with layers of political alliance, etc. SNL had a great sketch making fun of The Joker by comparing it to a gritty origin story for Oscar the Grouch. But still it's fun, like working out a riddle, to see HOW someone could carry our expectations of those characters and give us the delight of seeing them made real.

I enjoyed the emo take on Batman. The Christopher Nolan Batman seemed too well adjusted for a traumatized orphan who dresses like a bat to fight crime. Battinson was more like a theater kid than a jock, caught up in the drama.

I'd be ok with a less dark Batman, with grey and blue costume, but I think muted color palates work better in superhero movies--the new Superman's colors not quite as red and blue, Marvel's Thor less colorful than comics, in Wandavision where Wanda and Vision dress up for Halloween in their comic book costumes it reminds us how hard it is to suspend disbelief when the costumes are too wacky.

And speaking of wacky, I think they're avoiding a too goofy '60s style Batman movie because the Joel Schumaker Batman and Robin (which I never actually saw) gets all the complaints.

It seems surprising to me to realize that THREE of the live action Catwomen have been African American--Eartha Kitt, Halle Berry, and now Zoe Kravitz. By default I think we're more conscious about representation nowadays, and not so surprised Disney-Marvel's Mary Jane is Zendaya, but is this something about how we think of Catwoman?

I'm not so down on The Joker. In that I don't think the value of The Joker is in him himself, but in the contrast with Batman. It's a way to bring in that color and fun to the dour Gotham. The Joker's sense of fun goes along with his being an outlaw, he's free of internal restraints, he's freed himself from any trauma or taking seriously consequences to his actions.
posted by Schmucko at 1:53 PM on March 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

I liked first two Nolan films, despite Bale basically becoming a caricature in the second. I thought Batfleck was great and had the best suit and I would have liked a standalone Batfleck movie.

I thought this was a good take on Batman, and I especially liked the opening montage about fear - I thought they could have really doubled-down on that, especially with that incredible score pounding away. And the Batmobile (the best Batmobile since the Keaton/Burton original) starting up was epic.

Everyone did a pretty good job except for the editors: this needed to be about 30 minutes shorter. For one, it could have done without the "cameo" at Arkham at the end, as Joker is extremely overdone and this didn't seem to be a particularly fresh take. I also agree that "I must be hero Batman, not just vigilante Batman" didn't feel earned. So it was an overlong movie that didn't properly describe the arc it needed to.

7 batarangs out of 10.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:22 PM on March 6, 2022

I wonder if there was ever filmed a scene between Bruce Wayne and the "accountants," one of whom might very well have been the Riddler. That was set up at the beginning, but then just completely elided.
posted by chavenet at 12:17 AM on March 7, 2022 [8 favorites]

Lots of random (spoiler-riddled) thoughts:
  • Pattinson is an incredible actor. As someone who tends to read lips instead of eyes, he's definitely someone who acts with his whole mouth (unlike Christian Bale, whose bottom lip kinda always flops there, saying nothing).
  • This is the most empathetic Batman yet. Some real tender spots and subtle moments of realisation.
  • Pretty annoying how The Batman gets ALL the riddles instantly…except of course the biggest one which isn't even a riddle but a rather obvious translation and lends itself to the title of the film.
  • The metal ring around Riddler's neck in the prison was so stupidly large that it broke the (overloooong) scene for me.
  • I was really worried that the Joker was going to be revealed as the homeless guy who had that commentary at the funeral and that would be a really gross message about poor people = criminals / mentally ill.
  • Speaking of class issues, they didn't really go anywhere with Batman's awareness of how others perceive Bruce Wayne (esp Catwoman), the meeting with the Accountants, and the £1B renewal money that got squandered…the poor people still need the money (now more than ever).
  • I can suspend my disbelief a lot but when a guy's head blows apart inches from your face, there will be goo and damage. Kind of wish it'd been a joke bomb all along and when it went off, it put spikes in him or somesuch. That would have been more Se7en-like too, in keeping with that general theme they were going with.
  • I've always wanted Something in the Way to be used in a film and here it is! Excellent and versatile motif throughout and they found a new way to convey emotion without endless BWWAAHHHHHs. Nice.
  • The color grading was a bit dark and weird but I get it.
  • I'm not sure why you have everyone in a flooding city get into a recessed arena, but I imagine it's so that you could have Batman-as-Statue-of-Liberty on the Ellis Island dias scene.
  • Also, I had to have someone explain to me the logic behind cutting the transformer into the water; that initially made no sense and I thought everyone was going to get electrocuted (and he was going sacrifice himself to die by falling, which would be pretty weak?)
  • There were a zillion character arcs and endings. Just tell one story!
  • Liked the contact lens gimmick, made for a neat 1-2-1 bat signal later.
  • Speaking of 1-2-1, the film started off with an interesting conceit about not being able to be everywhere at once, picking individual battles and then … ditched it for a take all comers free for all at the end?
  • Felt like there were some representation issues with Belle Réal and the messaging around elections; not sure I can articulate it well. It felt bland and not very considered/thought-through? Anybody have insights to share on this aspect?
  • Catwoman prompted some body dismorphia which I wasn't expecting. Wish she'd been a bit more badass.
  • Capes on motorcycles really freak me out!
Hmm, I had a lot to say about this one.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:43 AM on March 7, 2022 [7 favorites]

It seems surprising to me to realize that THREE of the live action Catwomen have been African American--Eartha Kitt, Halle Berry, and now Zoe Kravitz. By default I think we're more conscious about representation nowadays, and not so surprised Disney-Marvel's Mary Jane is Zendaya, but is this something about how we think of Catwoman?

The trend since at least Darwyn Cooke's groundbreaking Catwoman comic has been to conceive of her as an actual street-level criminal, with implication (at least) of former sex worker, a poor or formerly poor person whose crimes occur in a moral space cleared out by the corruption of Gotham's power structure. I actually think U.S. culture, being what it is, was more ready to accept that kind of person as a POC than nerd queen Mary Jane.
posted by praemunire at 8:21 AM on March 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

...I'm having a hard time working myself up to very nearly three hours of this kind of material, though many of the supporting players are appealing.
posted by praemunire at 8:22 AM on March 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

People, FanFare is a site specifically set aside for discussing media. You don't need to (and shouldn't!) mark spoilers here, all discussions are by default full of them. Anyone who enters a thread without having seen/read/listened to the work in question does so at their own peril, but that's on them.

As for the movie itself:
  • It was interesting that not only did it depict a Year One-ish inexperienced Batman, this Batman was almost totally ineffective. He failed to stop a single killing, even failing to save Alfred. Riddler's plan went off 99% perfectly, with Batman only stopping the final stroke.
  • I thought they were going to do something with the mayor-elect's name being Réal and all the "Time For A Real Change" graffiti in the Riddler's apartment, that that would be the clue that leads Batman to the final answer.
  • How did the Riddler know about all of these secrets? They said he was a forensic accountant for the Renewal Fund (I think) so he could have seen the corrupt money flowing there, but how did he know the big secret of Falcone betraying Maroni, that there was some reporter that Thomas Wayne tried to quash, or that Thomas Wayne went to Falcone to silence the reporter? In his videos he even showed a ceased and desist letter from Thomas Wayne's lawyers to that reporter. Where would he have gotten that?
  • Speaking of that reporter, that was a weird detail that stuck out to me. I thought the reveal was going to be that the Riddler was the reporter who had somehow survived the hit and is out for revenge. It would have strengthened the comparison the movie was drawing between the Riddler and Batman (both would have been orphans transformed by a violent incident into forces of vengeance) and enhanced the "does the Riddler know Bruce's secret" aspect of the story. Instead the reporter was just a plot device and the Riddler was some random crazy accountant. It's like the reference to "the accountants" that Bruce was supposed to meet in the beginning and then were never mentioned again that would have been cool as showing the Riddler's civilian guise right up front, the movie had a lot of weird little loose ends that could have matched up to make it stronger but didn't.
  • It also beggars belief that Thomas Wayne wouldn't understand that (1) going to a mobster to have him "take care" of the reporter would almost certainly mean the reporter being killed; and (2) that doing so means the gangster owns Thomas Wayne forever.
The trend since at least Darwyn Cooke's groundbreaking Catwoman comic has been to conceive of her as an actual street-level criminal, with implication (at least) of former sex worker,

Unsurprisingly, the idea of Selina being a sex worker comes from Frank Miller's Year One story.
posted by star gentle uterus at 9:00 AM on March 7, 2022 [6 favorites]

> Capes on motorcycles really freak me out!

iamkimiam, way back in 2008 there was a behind-the-scenes featurette on The Dark Knight about the Batpod (not exactly a traditional motorcycle but more like an embiggened version) where they discussed what to do about the cape. Originally they were going to have the cape retract into some kind of backpack (Batpack?) but during test runs of the working Batpod with a stunt double, they learned that even the slightest bit of wind made the cape fly behind and found that it didn't really pose a risk. I would assume the same applies to a motorcycle.
posted by guiseroom at 9:31 AM on March 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Speaking of motorcycles, in that last scene at the cemetery between Batman and Selina, she's holding a cat while talking to him that she at one point puts on her motorcycle. But when Selina drives off later, the cat's gone. What happened to that poor kitty? Or the cats in Selina's apartment after she left? These are the burning questions the movie needs to answer.
posted by star gentle uterus at 9:57 AM on March 7, 2022

I was also wondering what happened to the cat.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:04 AM on March 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

All six of them.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:04 AM on March 7, 2022

Unsurprisingly, the idea of Selina being a sex worker comes from Frank Miller's Year One story.

Yeah, but Frank Miller sucks, and Darwyn Cooke doesn't.
posted by praemunire at 10:09 AM on March 7, 2022

Oh yes, my partner and I also wondered about the cats. The cats and The Accountants. Some Bruce Wayne being Bruce Wayne - his cover story, remember - in a Batman movie would make a refreshing change. Instead we get Bruce Wayne mooching around thinking about Batman stuff.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:14 PM on March 7, 2022

From the little we get in this movie, in this version there seemingly is no Bruce Wayne cover. To the general public he's a total recluse not involved in the businesses or charities or even making any public appearances. He's apparently just draining the Wayne fortune for his Batman activities and doing nothing else. It's the least Bruce Wayne we've ever gotten in a movie version, even the Keaton ones where he's treated as a mysterious figure himself.
posted by star gentle uterus at 2:24 PM on March 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

I went in ready to dislike yet another grimdark Batman and came away very pleasantly surprised.

I like detective Batman.
I like that we didn't need another origin story, or a set-up of why The B and the commish are tight. We got to get right into the story.
I like that we didn't need Wayne mansion or a techno-lair Batcave.
I like that Bruce doesn't need to be a playboy billionaire.
We got to see helicopters and the Batsignal and think of the Batcopter without there being a Batcopter.
We got to see the Penguin waddle like a Penguin (when he was in cuffs) without being in a Penguin suit.
The Batmobile was already revealed, kinda, in the cave, but then, when it really was revealed it was soooooo badass that it didn't matter. I enjoyed all of the vehicle scenes; the wheel mounted camera angle on the bikes, the rain and grit and grime.

While I liked the pointed turn from Vengeful hero to Helper hero, and found the overhead shot of him leading the crowd with the flare to be quite stunning, I thought the final act was a bit anti-climatic. I guess it was a better ending than Bruce and the new Mayor shaking hands and re-affirming the Renewal fund that i was expecting.

I seldom say this, especially about a 3 hour movie, but..I can't wait to see it again.
posted by OHenryPacey at 4:06 PM on March 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

I've been toying with an interpretation that The Batman has a level of class satire that's critical of the Batman myth, almost like Starship Troopers is kind of the opposite of what it seems. It's not hard to read in that Alfred's exoneration of Thomas Wayne could be still trying to protect Bruce from the full truth. As some have pointed out, wouldn't Thomas have owed Falcone for his help? And why did Falcone come to him to be operated on? (Presumably Thomas Wayne before he became a politician was a doctor?) It seems Bruce has been acting out these vigilante fantasies while ignoring the serious grown up responsibilities that have fallen to him, which... could have prevented a lot of this crime and uncovered the corruption (which The Riddler, in his role as accountant, could have done legally and without insane murder.) But the movie wouldn't be a full deconstruction in that even on the surface level Bruce / The Batman are still learning and have some hypocrisy and sheltered attitudes to overcome.
posted by Schmucko at 4:28 PM on March 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

Alfred is NOT THAT STUPID. Sheesh.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 5:23 AM on March 11, 2022 [4 favorites]

I too thought that the Riddler was going to be the reporter - my theory being that he was never actually killed. Falcone could have pretended he had him killed and told Thomas Wayne because the result would have been the same - Falcone had something to hold over him.

I cheered in the theater when Martinez got to be the one to cuff Falcone.
posted by LostInUbe at 7:45 AM on March 13, 2022

Finally watched it! Really enjoyed this more empathetic take of the Bat, really throws into relief the toxic power fantasy gurning of the last few live-action ones which themselves were a backlash to the unmistakably camp (and queer) 80s/90s ones. And with that said, my absolute sympathies for Henry Cavill, that a Batman movie got to the point about heroes and hope in what felt a more organic and internally coherent way than the Superman he'd been working on/hoping for. That turn was what made this movie for me, and thus didn't make the whole 'Batman doesn't kill' a fanservicey affectation.

It also beggars belief that Thomas Wayne wouldn't understand that (1) going to a mobster to have him "take care" of the reporter would almost certainly mean the reporter being killed; and (2) that doing so means the gangster owns Thomas Wayne forever.

Honestly between that and Gordon and the rest going, "omg Bats whatever could this riddle mean??," perhaps corruption isn't the only thing afflicting the city.

Also also, i tried to do spot-the-city since it's shot in Liverpool, London, and Glasgow, but honestly they did pretty well prepping the set to look cohesively Gotham... Except for the necropolis (at the farewell scene), which i guess is too awesomely gothic to buff away most of its features.
posted by cendawanita at 8:12 AM on March 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

I ended up with something of a split opinion; it was better than I expected, and I’m glad they elided the origin story (no one needs that for Batman or Spider-Man at this point) but I thought it was a little unremittingly dark in both story and visuals. The car chase was dark and sodium-tinted enough that I gave up figuring out whose car was where, and I was left pretty mystified with why Selina would find a silent wall of muscle attractive at all.

The black eye makeup was a fun touch, though; this is a Batman who listens to My Chemical Romance.
posted by tautological at 8:36 AM on March 14, 2022 [2 favorites]

I really enjoyed this version, mostly for ethos rather than narrative.

I liked the moments when they went over-the-top visually like the flare scene, and for once the OTT score also did it for me. They leaned into the visual story telling, like the little motorcycle back-and-forth between Selina and Batman/Bruce at the end, and for me that was satisfying. It reminded me of going to see Tim Burton's Gotham for the first time, which now looks kind of horrifically of its 80s era, but at the time was dark and streaked with purples and greens in a way that really got to me. I want to see this again because I think this was a grittier version of that palate in a way but then with a use of red that was interesting. I agree that it was too dark even so. But I think for Batman to really work you do need to lean into the Gothic elements, not just the human ones, and this scratched that itch for me.

I actually took Alfred as a self-deluded narrator about Thomas Wayne. To me that whole narrative worked because the carelessness of it is what I've found in the few truly like super old money families I've known. It isn't that they wouldn't know things if they thought about them for ten minutes, it's that they don't care to know. And they don't have to know or care to know because they have, for generations, been sheltered by staff...staff like Alfred. So for me that heightened the admittedly hit-you-over-the-head-with-it redefinition of a hero scene, because by accepting that he's had a negative effect on Gotham, Bruce is willing to at least have a moment or two about it.

I'm a sucker for lofty ideals and so I liked the introduction of hope over vengeance on that kind of epic satisfactory level. I felt a bit like this was the optimistic answer to some of the questions raised by Joker, and I hadn't expected that.

But that could be a thread they either pick up or drop in a sequel, so.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:31 AM on March 19, 2022 [3 favorites]

This was better than I expected. I can definitely see why some people would not love the darkness of the city but I thought it was pretty perfect for a "Batman vs Gotham" story where the city stands in for the endemic corruption and cruelty of humankind, which is itself a good setting for a more detective-oriented Batman (my own preference over a "punch a lot of dudes"-oriented Batman). I liked that this rainy, dark Gotham could be the place Se7en takes place in, and there are a lot of other similarities between those movies, not least the antagonist on a moral crusade who leads our hero through a series of events that uncover past wrongs.

For maybe the first two-thirds of it I was thinking this might be my favorite Batman movie, but it got a little loose and baggy at the end. I'm not sure who decided this movie needed more endings and epilogues than Return of the King, but by the end I felt like they'd slowly dissipated out a great deal of the movie's tension. The whole bit at the Gotham Square Gardens at the end seemed like it was tacked on for some notion of "character development" that, as others have noted, felt pretty shoehorned in and artificial. I feel like they could have done a little more with Batman empathizing with the Mayor's son instead of that, that theme was working well and didn't need to be explicitly explained to the audience.
posted by whir at 1:58 PM on April 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

I was also wondering what happened to the cat.

The motorcycle had a cat carrier! [Vulture / Archive]

I really enjoyed this, I was worried it would be too dark and grim but it was good!
posted by ellieBOA at 12:27 PM on April 18, 2022

Hi, I'm meese, and I want to overthink a plate of beans.

I've loved Batman dearly ever since I saw Tim Burton's Batman at age 6. I remember tying a towel around my shoulders and running around as Batman. I dressed up as him for multiple Halloweens. The character of Batman matters to me. It matters to me, in particular, that Batman is human. He isn't superhuman, just a man with the means and a drive to make a difference. I know that, in a lot of Batman stories, he effectively is superpowered, but those aren't the versions of Batman that mean the most to me.

My feelings have grown complex and challenging, however, given the problematic nature of superhero mythologies in an increasingly fascist society like our own. Batman, in particular, is easily twisted into a fascist figure, especially in the current superhero-movie landscape in which "gritty" and "ultraviolent" are taken as indicators of seriousness and merit. Nolan's Dark Knight was a fantastic movie, and I love so many aspects of it... But the ending, where Batman keeps The Joker from falling to his death feels a little silly in context, doesn't it? Why wouldn't that Batman let the unrepentant murderer just die already? We've been given no evidence, up to that point, that this is a Batman who actually cares about the value of human life. He uses violence, intentionally and with gusto, as a tool. It's a Batman who is, deep down, painfully nihilistic, uninterested in humans and humanity, so wrapped up in his trauma that he can't even imagine what it would mean to hold onto ideals. He's a Batman who fights crime from a hatred of crime, not for any love of peace.

It's the same Batman we meet at the beginning of this film. And that's why, at the end, I nearly cried when we saw Batman help in the rescue efforts.

Think about that. When was the last time that a Batman movie put any emphasis on the need to help after the epic battle is over? Nolan's movies certainly don't dwell on it. Nolan's Batman's responsibility ends once there's no longer anyone for him to punch. The fact that buildings have crumbled and there must be people trapped in those buildings is completely ignored. There is no room in "gritty" Batman stories for Fred Rogers' advice, "Look for the helpers." We never see them, and we are given no indication that Batman, himself, is one of them.

What good is a superhero, if he can't even comfort a wounded child while she waits for medical assistance? Why should we care about him, if he doesn't care for others?

The big end battle in this movie brought two past events to mind. The flood, with everyone scrambling to a major events center, of course is reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina. The terrorist group, cultivated through the internet, and populated by angry white men, reminded me of QAnon and January 6th. Given how long movies take to produce, the latter most certainly can't be intentional, but that's what I thought about as I watched Batman punch baddies and then lend a hand to a BIPOC woman politician they had just tried to assassinate. Batman stories are inherently political, with this one wearing its political meaning a bit more thoroughly on its sleeve.

Batman stories require an ineffectual, corrupt government. In a lot of these stories, the ineffectiveness of the government to combat the crime and corruption is taken as given, and no additional explanation is needed. This is how fascism creeps in to the Batman mythos: democratically elected officials following due processes do not stand a chance of actually improving things. It takes The Individual (And Super Rich) White Man to step outside the law, in order to make things right. We are meant to root for the vigilante, because his vigilantism is necessary.

In this Batman's world, we are given a closer look at why the government is so ineffectual. Gotham's mobsters have infiltrated every layer of government. They've produced a system that works for them, and that means that Gotham's political system is working as intended. We're explicitly told that the progressive, young, Black woman candidate for mayor wasn't supposed to be allowed to win, because she threatens the interests of those who have real power. Democratically-sanctioned change is possible, or at least worth striving towards, in this Gotham. It's just being stymied by outside, powerful influences.

We further see that Batmanning, in this Gotham, isn't actually that valuable. Take the opening monologue, where Batman talks about having to pick his battles. He chose wisely, in that case--he saved an innocent man from murder! But the clown-faced gang all escaped, anyway, to go on and continue terrorizing others. And it's not like we saw any of Batman's other options as any better. What good would have come, from catching the guy who held up the liquor store, after the damage had already been done? This Batman is depressed, in part, because he knows his methods aren't working. It's explicit: Gotham is in fact worse off now, than it was two years ago.

The Batman shows us: Batman's mission is failing. His "I am the night" technique may frighten individual crooks at particular moments, but it doesn't solve anything.

Now, we can add in The Riddler. This is in no way the first time that we get the whole, "We're not so different, you and I" hero/villain dynamic, and I think that it's particularly interesting to compare this version of it to Nolan's Batman/Joker version. In The Dark Knight, we're asked to see how Batman is akin to the Joker, but we're also given everything we need to reject the comparison. We're told, of the Joker, "some men just want to watch the world burn," and this sets Batman apart of him. The Dark Knight, like a lot of Batman stories, sets up the "we're not so different" comparison just for the sake of tearing the comparison apart. Batman has to confront the risk that he's no better than the villains he fights, but only to ultimately be reassured that he is, indeed, different from them.

What I find so absolutely fascinating in this movie is: the comparison is never rejected. As The Riddler keeps on with his, "we're not so different" monologue, Batman has no response. It's made even more apparent when one of The Riddler's terrorists shouts out, "I am vengeance!" after Batman spent the whole movie being called Vengeance. This is a movie where it isn't just a risk that Batman's villain is indeed "not so different," but reality. The Riddler and his terrorist group really are the natural extension of Batman's mission.

In most Batman stories, Batman is a symptom of Gotham's corruption, but also at the same time its cure. In this Batman movie, however, he isn't a cure. He isn't just ineffectual. He is, in fact, detrimental.

(The Dark Knight also considers how Batman works to inspire other vigilantes. That's where we get "I'm not wearing hockey pants!" And that's it. The only thing wrong with their vigilantism is that they don't have the incredible wealth necessary to support it.)

If this movie ended just after Batman stopped The Riddler's shooters, it would be a tragedy (or, more likely: just incoherent and poorly told). Because we see a Batman who has failed. We see a man who made himself "Vengeance" and became the night in order to strike fear into Gotham's villains, and he has had to confront that doing this only made things worse. Being Batman is bad, so long as being Batman is about using terror and violence as your primary tools.

This is why it matters, that we see Batman help save people. This is Batman learning how to be a better version of himself, and how to help. Take note, in particular, that we get to see Batman working along with others, not just by himself. When he comforts that young girl, who is being prepared to be airlifted to safety, note that Batman is working as part of a team. It's not him in his private jet swooping down to pick her up, all by himself, to take her to his private medical facilities. It's Batman facilitating and helping the proper authorities (as sanctioned by law and governmental procedures) do their jobs. It's Batman finding a way to make the symbol of Batman be about something other than fear. It's Batman, learning how to be a symbol of hope.

Is it too much to read this movie as a rejection of Fascist Batman?

There are rough edges to my reading of the movie. I don't like that Papa Wayne was trying to be a politician and dabbled (poorly) with corruption. I don't like there being some scandalous history in Mama Wayne's side of the family. I don't feel like it was necessary, and I think that something is lost by making the Waynes morally suspect. I don't know.
posted by meese at 10:15 AM on April 19, 2022 [23 favorites]

I think this found the right line (for DC) between grimdark and batdark? Like, it certainly wasn't bright and colorful like Guardians of the Galaxy or Wonder Woman or Thor 2, but it wasn't a muddy slog like most of DC's movies have been. Like above - I'd go with surprisingly noire?

I appreciated that it felt like Gotham actually got to be a character again and not just the backdrop it has felt like in recent movies. The whole third season of Titans relit the Gotham fire for me, that it's an interesting place and not just a weird "it's not New York" cypher that it had turned into.

I felt like the mystery was good, but it did sort of feel like it lost its way somewhere in the middle of the second act, when it went from solving the Riddler's puzzles to Bats putting together the pieces on his own? It might have hung together better for people who recognized most of the names, but as a Gordon / Wayne / Cobblepot / Kyle / Pennyworth level of fan, a lot of the mobster links were a bit fuzzier than I'd have liked. Maybe I was just snoozing off in the 30th hour of the movie, though? But then the "hey I can be more than just Vengance" part of the story got moving, and it worked for me. I mean the whole "let's bring everybody out of the flooding streets into the lowest spot in gotham" was probably the dumbest idea, and flooding a metropolis seems bad, but there's a lot of verticality there, so get the fuck off the streets and wait for the national guard?

But it was very lovingly put together, which is more than I can say for a lot of recent DC movies - it felt like the studio didn't feel obliged to stick their fingers into it and make it into an incomprehensible mess. Could it have been tighter? Probably. But it would have probably lost a lot of the sense of scope, too?

I could see watching it again to see what I'd missed. Like, I just rewatched the first 2-3 minutes because I was a little confused what was happening the first time, but on rewatch.. ah, sure, OK.
posted by Kyol at 9:40 AM on April 21, 2022

Yeah, I also liked this much more than I expected to. I'm tired of the gritty/realism superhero genre, but this was a really good version of it. I liked Batman's ineffectiveness and the way that this Bruce Wayne was about as far as you can get from a dashing playboy. The carpeting tool thing was a great setup/payoff - I wondered about the weird implement Riddler used on the Mayor, but totally forgot about it by the end, so it was a surprise of a callback.

I actually didn't think it was too long at all, in fact I think they could have spent more time on some of the Thomas Wayne/Falcone backstory, on fleshing out Selina and her relationships to Annika/Falcone/Bruce, and mostly on Bruce himself. I think Pattinson had a really fascinating take on him and I would have liked to see more of that. Dare I say it could have been a miniseries or something?

I was expecting more from Tuturro, especially after Severance, but the worst thing in the film, the thing that broke my suspension of disbelief more than anything in a movie in a long time, was the Gothic interior of the Classical-exterior Gotham City Hall.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:11 AM on April 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

I really liked the decision to basically make this a detective thriller that happens to star Batman. Didn’t expect to like it as much as I did, even if it does start to sag as the movie enters day two of its run time.

Random thoughts:

• Really liked the decision to shoot it like a real movie. The cinematography was excellent overall. Lots of really striking shots.

• Based on the appearance of this Bruce Wayne I may have sung “when I was a young boy/my father took me to the theater/where he was shot to death”

• Also a lot of the time when the Penguin was onscreen and talking I did make OHHHHHhhhh! noises like he was on the Sopranos or something

• It felt very weird to discover that every single one of my jokes about “the 4chan Riddler” from months and months ago was exactly bullseye accurate

• I appreciated the way that Bruce Wayne has— well, maybe not quite a character arc per se, but he does at least have a sudden Make’s U Think at the end that causes the character to change internally and grow at all, in a way that is unfamiliar in non-Lego Batman movies
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:57 AM on April 24, 2022 [5 favorites]

hockey pads, not pants :D
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:15 PM on May 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

Surprised no one mentioned the (to me) very obvious allusion to the Imperial Theme, or Darth Vader's Theme, or whatever it's called -- you know which one I mean -- in the score to build tension and an atmosphere of bad-assitude.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:43 PM on May 19, 2022

Not to um, actually you but it's actually Chopin's Funeral March.
posted by signal at 5:57 PM on May 22, 2022

Me and my son agree that this is the second-best Batman movie overall, and the best one without lego in it.
posted by signal at 5:58 PM on May 22, 2022 [3 favorites]

I'll see your "um, actually" and raise you one "um, actually" with the track list from the soundtrack; the Wikipedia page also lists the other classical pieces used in the film (Ave Maria, etc) and makes no mention of Chopin.

I'll buy that Chopin was the original source for John Williams' Star Wars score, and that Giacchino (the composer on The Batman) was also referencing it, but given all the homages to other movies throughout this film, I'll bet dollars to donuts that Giacchino was thinking "Darth Vader," especially in the grand, swelling orchestral moments.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:03 PM on May 24, 2022

I'll re-raise you musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding's Switched on Pop talking about the soundtrack, mentioning Chopin via Nirvana.

… Cobain’s music influenced the film’s score: Michael Giacchino references the dirgelike chords of “Something in the Way,” borrowed from Chopin’s famous funeral march, throughout The Batman’s soundtrack…
posted by signal at 6:20 PM on May 24, 2022

Well fuck me.
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:12 PM on May 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

(i still think he's also referencing star wars)
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:06 PM on May 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

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