Updated: Mar 9, 2022
Director: Matt Reeves
A sadistic villain with an insane giggle who looks like John Denver with his face strapped in masking tape (totally creepy) and a Gotham City reminiscent of the street scenes in ‘Blade Runner’ is the way director Reeves locates us in his Gotham City tale. Next, we are introduced to the ‘drops’ (dropouts addicted to a particularly nasty drug) who walk the streets in grotesque masks and mingle with good citizens, gangsters and homeless alike, making us realise that poverty, decay and affliction are an accepted reality of this metropolis. Reeves then ramps our insight by introducing us to a political and police system as infiltrated by greed as any bad guy’s gang… Well, actually, they are the bad guy’s gang. What more could you ask for in a Batman film?
‘The Batman’ delivers much more. There is a poignant romance between our troubled, hooded hero (a fabulously Goth Robert Pattinson) and the perfectly feline Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz) that hits the mark. The obvious chemistry that ignites when these two come together on screen works perfectly to unfold into a hopeless relationship where his outlook on good and evil keeps his behaviour on the right side of the law, and where her cynicism about a society that has shown those she loves no justice, means she has no belief in societal self-regulation, just in her own actions.
Use of social media as a device for mayhem is also perfectly played. You’ll think of 6 January when you see how Riddler (Paul Dano) incites a killing game amongst his followers; those disenfranchised city dwellers who are completely disenchanted by the politicians, lawmakers and law keepers of Gotham City, and who are easy targets for recruitment.
I much preferred this superhero portrayal then I did Todd Phillips ‘Joker’, though both films contain a certain undeniable similarity. In ‘Joker’, Joaquin Phoenix plays the Joker almost straight; as a young man turned psychopath almost entirely due to the unjust brutality shown him by a cruel and corrupt society. For those who have not seen ‘Joker’, the Joker gathers those equally damaged by life to create nihilistic carnage on the streets of Gotham City.
While I found ‘Joker’ just too gratuitous and smug, ‘The Batman’ with its focus on the love and care between two characters so at odds in their life views, plus the heroism shown by its heroes (including those members of the police force who were not ‘owned’ by darker forces), strangely moved me.
Maybe, my reaction to ‘The Batman’ was all about timing. The cord it pulled was perhaps because of the daily news we are hearing about the heroism of the the citizens of the Ukraine and that of the equally brave Russian protestors who are standing up to a despot politician and his political and military cronies in a our far from perfect world, the latter caught up in its own complex and compromised economic and political relationships.