There’s a new Batman movie on the big screen—it is somehow more terrifying than the rest. More comic book than the Christian Bale/Christopher Nolan gritty realness that was the Batman Begins trilogy. But not so cartoonish as the 90s Batman Forever/Joel Schumacher, disaster (I enjoy that movie. It’s also disastrous).
10/10 would recommend watching it.
There is a weirdly delightful symmetry to the universe. Something about Robert Pattinson playing a vampire in Twilight—to a large bat man in Batman feels correct. That vampire to vampire bat to Batman logic.
Pattinson played a brooding misunderstood loner and was taken very not seriously as an actor for it in Twilight and now years later is playing a brooding misunderstood loner and being taken quite seriously for it as the most emo-Bruce Wayne to ever grace the silver screen. We all come full circle sometimes, don’t we.
There are so many Batman movies. It’s almost as excessive as the number of Spiderman movies—almost. I would complain if I didn’t like them so much.
Superhero movies check all the boxes: explosions, romance, a flawed character overcoming obstacles, a personal story of redemption or triumph over evil, with large scale consequences.
The newest Batman had an interesting take on the idea of communal versus individual action. Batman is a character who mythologizes the idea of individualism—that a lone man can cure a city of it’s evils, can save the day, a man who is unsanctioned by the government, acting on his own with his fancy toys to beat up bad guys. When the police can’t handle it, they turn on the big flashlight in the sky and Batman comes calling. Of course, despite being a loner Batman has been known to team up with sidekicks and super friends. This movie seemed to encourage more communal action. By the end of the movie, it seemed to show Batman more in the role of a fireman or EMT, leading people to safety, carrying people to ambulances and helping them get airlifted, than that of a vigilante who occasionally collaborates with law enforcement (when he’s not brooding in alleys).
It upsets a little the myth of Batman himself, that he is necessary and that the work he is doing as a vigilante is inherently good and useful.
There’s this idea, not a brand new idea, but an idea I’ve seen brandished on the internet going back at least a decade, that Batman’s vigilante actions, rather than helping Gotham, escalate the crime and poverty in the city, because he is an individual answer to collective and structural problems. Batman destroys city infrastructure, always driving over police cars and busting through bridges with his (at least in the Christian Bale version) tank-like Batmobile.
Part of what makes Batman an interesting character (and I suppose most superheroes) is this combination of working within and outside of a system. He is both a rebel and a reinforcement of norms. He wants to capture criminals and bring order back to Gotham, but he is content to be an agent of chaos—beating people up, breaking and entering, destroying public property, etc., to do so. He’ll beat people up but leaves them for law enforcement to arrest and prosecute. Half a vigilante solution.
The last set of Batman movies (that I watched and cared about. I mostly skipped the Ben Affleck Batman. It just didn’t look especially compelling.), that oh so dark and gritty Batman Begins trilogy, seemed to conclude that Batman’s extra-legal actions to enforce order were troubling but necessary. He was the dark knight. Not the hero Gotham deserved, but the one it needed right then.
This newest movie questions that assumption. Batman himself wonders if his actions as a vigilante are escalating the caliber of criminal in Gotham. The man with bat ears and latex pecs running around the city in a cape is perhaps encouraging the guy with cryptic riddles to take violent and theatrical actions of his own. The plot reinforces this idea, that Batman’s own actions rather than solving the issues Gotham faces, are escalating those problems. So where do we go from here? What’s next for a Batman who realizes his vigilante actions are a problem instead of a solution?
Who knows. But I’m intrigued to see the mythos of Batman shift and curious what alleys he’ll brood in next.