If nothing else, the new film about the US of A’s favorite man in a flying rodent suit is a film… that’s … well… paradoxically lukewarm with genuine courage but confidently deliberate regarding how it wanted to be defined and, subsequently, how it wanted DC films to be defined.
As a bit of a comic book nerd and a lifelong fan of Batman, I was mostly happy.
And as a bit of a film nerd and a lifelong fan of cinema, I was mostly happy.
Undeniably, there was a vision they had with The Batman (2022).
A boardroom of artists and suits made a choice. Much like the film Joker (2019) , They wanted The Batman to have a clear distinction between what defines DC films against the mega franchise of MARVEL films. Something with a heart that beats closer to reality and yet also have the soul more rooted in its origins as a comic book. On paper, it’s the complete mirror of what seems to be the ethos of the MARVEL films. But in execution, The Batman, while it feels like a very natural evolution from what worked with Joker, the branch of evolution they chose to follow was the path of becoming more comic book like film than Joker was. And because of such evolution, the film ultimately feels like another superhero film with no real, substantial innovation to the genre like we’ve seen with the Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy in the past.
It doesn’t help that to bring that vision to life, they threw on the canvas a wide pallette of colors, an assortment of flavors, and a myriad of goals that was squeezed all into a cake injector and to disguise it to seem like a self-understanding and simple pastry of red, black, rain, and sometimes beautiful noir-grime. Everything feels like it should work together in a beautiful, technical, complex, and yet, streamlined experience but it jumbles and tumbles with awkward moments of identity crisis.
If you’ve seen Sin City (2005), this film has a much of the spirit of that film but just far toned down… which again makes the film a bit more generic than it pretends not to be.
The only reason why I’m pointing this out is because the film tries desperate to be something different but ends up running in circles. It has many moments of could-have-been-greats (like the opening and the diner scene) but those end up being just few sprinkles of the correct spices that sticks out in a dish with too many flavors.
In many ways, Joker was the bolder and more interesting film that was more confident and aware of what it wanted to do. The comparison between the films feel inevitable due to it being seemingly clear that The Batman’s overall direction and tone seems to be based on the success of the Joker.
So does this film do nothing better than Joker?
Despite everything I’ve said, I ultimately found The Batman to be a more enjoyable film than Joker even if on paper the latter was the better cinematic endeavor.
The Batman is a film where there’s more to enjoy than watching a single actor’s performance, a bit more true to its identity as a movie that’s ultimately about comic book characters/stories, and just plain more fun even if it’s far less memorable. That is to say, perhaps what made the film a bit more accessible and palatable than Joker did make the film a bit more derivative, superficial, and even at times frustrating. But it did indeed make the film a bit more accessible, a bit more palatable, and a bit more fun.
Joker had moments of real goofiness and clumsiness because it took itself too seriously while still building a comic booky world in the background. The Batman’s goofiness is, more often than not, forgivable because it’s trying to be a comic book film with sprinkles of reality… though when those sprinkles were bad… they were off putting and jarring with the execution.
On that note, a discussion of this film would be slightly incomplete without discussing the social commentary that’s ingrained as sort of the integral thematic aspect that keeps prodding at the audience—Hey! This comic book character is important and relevant to today’s world just in case you missed what we did there.
The Batman (2022) constantly waltzes around regarding how strong of a statement it wants to send with its political and social views but doesn’t hide that it does definitely have a message it wants to share.
While the film is mostly respectful and relays what I imagine are mostly resonable opinions whehter one necessarily agrees with them or not, the way The Batman shares its views end up coming off a bit awkward, out of place, unrealized, and even borderline tasteless. I think it’s a difficult task it took on itself to walk such a tightrope of hoping to simply portray its views rather than to convince people of its views. And to focus on being an entertaining superhero film while also trying to send out a social commentary.
Ultimately, it was like watching a headstrong college student trying to speak up at a political rally but ends up letting the nerves get to them once the mic was hot and an inch away from their lips. Their own voice booming from the sound system jarring their resolve and the ideas from their heads ending up clogged on its way to the vocal chords. Wrong words, can’t find the right words, and emotions just ends up taking over. There’s definitely a better way The Batman could have done what it wanted to do. Admittedly I can’t immediately think of an easy way to do it. But I can’t deny that the film left more of a bittersweet and sour note in those parts even though I mostly agreed with the social and political messages the story was sharing.
I think this is very close to the voice DC should take on for their films in the future. More mature, more stylized vibe to their films to really give the consumers something to compare MARVEL against. If they can figure how to take this kind of voice and tone and apply it to ligherhearted characters like Flash and Shazam, and some of the more venerable and upright characters like Superman, DC might really lead the next era in cinema with the modern American mythos.
Here’s what I’d give the Nolan’s Trilogy
Batman Begins: 6.5/10
The Dark Knight: 8.5/10
The Dark Knight Rises: 5.5/10
Copy & Paste of Notes I took literally as the credits started rolling:
- Probably the most stylistically developed and most complex Batman film yet.
- “White privilege” line was a bit much to the point of being a little tasteless if not at least tactless, tondeaf, and jarring to the given scene and film and the story.
- With that said, the social and political commentary in the film, I thought, were mostly fine. It wasn’t too overdone and most of it, I think, most reasonable people can agree with (vigilantism can have consequences, there’s a social and knowledge disconnect with the rich and the poor, minority representation, sometimes lack of social welfare can have consequences, if you have a lot of something it can help others if you share and that can have great consequences) , if not, at least a realistic portrayal of modern world and of certain circles of the world. If one wants to take these points the wrong, I certainly think the film does give them roads to take them the wrong way, but, I think the film was mostly respectful while being clear with what kind of message it wanted to share.
- Paul Dani’s performance is a bit muddle. Unfortunate since he’s such an amazing actor and he didn’t get to really shine in this film. His best scene is him in the diner and possibly one of the best acting performance in the film
- Too much Kurt Cobain vibe from Robert Pattison while playing Bruce Wayne. The Nirvana song usage near the end was a little strange and doesn’t fit the tone or the message. It kind of felt like a cheesy 2000s commercial.
- Script has too much air of syle and smartness for some really dumb and stupid moments. Why didn’t the police check the garage? Who sets up a billion dollar donation without ANY oversight? Mixed feelings about the whole Spanish thing. Didn’t like it at all at first but the idea of if grew on me.
- Most humanized and complex Batman as a character as of yet.
- Though hinted to change, very ood and strange choice regarding how Bruce Wayne is. The charming billionaire playboy lacks a lot of charm and very does seem like someone who might dress up as a bat and try to fight crime.
- Worst Joker teaser ever. I went from “I hope it’s not Jared Leto” to “Oh my god, just bring Jared Leto back”. I’ve never been as less excited for a sequel.
- My favorite theme so far. But it sounds like someone trying to play the Imperial March on the piano but can’t exactly figure out all the notes.
- Stylistic and writing choices feel a bit confused at times or trying to do too much without letting them breathe. For example, Batman narrating over a scene was very neat and fit with the tone the film set in the beginning but doesn’t really amount to much and due to how the film develops (and the length) by the time Batman narrates over a scene again… it’s a little awkward even if it does have a “beginning” and an “end” feel to it. Also, holy crap the events of this film happened only over 6 days? Wtf?
- The scene of Catwoman and Batman riding off on their motorcycles is awkward, oddly 80s film like, and Batman looks hilarious goofy.
- Zoe Kravitz really looks the part for Catwoman but her performance is something a little shy of being iconic. I only mention this because it really felt like she was teetering on the edge there to be as iconic in the role as Margot Robbie was for Harley Quinn (and I think, to be frank, Harley Quinn is a lot easier character to be memorable with). I think part of the fault was in the script. While Catwoam in the film may feel like she’s a well written strong female lead, when you really think about it she ends up becomming superficial, convoluted, confussed character that ends up being really colored by plot conviniences, forced ‘strong female character’ writing choices, and a bit of harbinger of macguffins and gentle deus ex machina moments.
- It’s really hard to find Robert Pattison physically intimidating and imposing as Batman. They do a lot to make him seem bigger than he is with close ups but the shirtless scene totally kills the illusion and when Gordon tells Batman, “you could have pulled your punch a bit” it almost sounds like the seasoned cop is almost being sarcastic. This also feels like trying to keep “Kurt Cobain” vibe with Bruce. And honestly, I can defend this a little bit with how someone with Batman’s training and his physical needs would probably look closer to Robert Pattison than a giant muscle machine. But Pattison just looked a little too skinny and thin to be belivable.
- Most realistic (?) portrayal of violence and violent crimes in a Batman film. I appreciate that there’s terror to the violence to not give the illusion that violence is all fun and games. But oddly the white collar crimes is about as dumb as Bane and the stock market in Dark Knight Rises.
- Story has a really impressive and awesome balance and transitioning of scale. Crimes at human level, organizational level, and comicbook citywide level. It felt mostly pretty organic how we transitioned through each of them and really observe how someone like Batman has to deal with them.
- I think Robert Pattison would have made a fantastic Terry McGinnis.