The Batman (2022) is not the first Bat movie to focus on the hero’s bruised psyche, but it is certainly the most unforgiving and the most brutal.
The Batman (2022) Synopsis
Despite an ostentatious renewal programme 20 years ago, Gotham City is in the dumps. Its streets are full of violence and crime. Its nights are policed by a vengeful Batman. When a serial killer nicknamed the Riddler starts murdering Gotham’s administrative elites, GCPD lieutenant James Gorden partners with the Bat to solve the Ridder’s many cryptic riddles. They soon uncover a city-wide conspiracy. One that is, ironically, the very secret that the Riddler is trying to bring to the light.
You might not agree with his title of “The World’s Greatest Detective,” but there is no doubt that Batman is the most beloved American superhero as far as cinema is concerned. Since the 80s, and excluding extended universe and animated features, there were seven movies. Eight as of 2022.
This places the Dark Knight’s movie count above even that of Superman’s. What’s more incredible is that most of these big-screen features enjoyed critical acclaim, unlike those for the Man of Steel. Even the lambasted Batman and Robin (1997) has its own circle of fans. (I’m one)
Why this is so is a discussion worthy of a thesis, but for the sake of this review, let me just say that I think it’s because Batman’s origin story tickles at the social indignity within most of us. In gist, we have a rich boy whose world was turned upside down overnight. He then spent the rest of his life ostentatiously fighting the evil that destroyed his world but is in truth repaying his social debt to his city. A debt he was previously oblivious to.
Unless you’re one of those the Bat goes after, this crusade/redemption is deeply gratifying to watch. It speaks justice in more ways than one. Openly milking this appeal is, in turn, one of the flourishes that makes The Batman (2022) so deeply enjoyable.
Put it this way. The unusual choice of Robert Pattison as Batman humanised the Bat more than any earlier movie. When out of costume, Pattison’s distraught, almost sickly demeanor immediately establishes what previous movies took hours to build. That the Batman persona is in truth, as debilitating as it is deadly. A penance that Bruce Wayne could eventually die from. An obsession that could ultimately consume the Wayne identity too.
The “return” to police procedural work then constructs the grim work the Bat is performing as said penance. Before he fought aliens and demons, and owned space stations, Batman battled the worst of humanity, of which he is arguably a part of. Director Matt Reeves’ creative nods to slasher movie classics like Se7en, down to even lighting style, further accentuates this bleakness.
As many other reviews have highlighted, it’s a superhero movie that’s not quite one. A serial killer flick that’s also an unforgiving tale about redemption and repercussions. I feel this ambiguity exemplifies the complexity of Gotham’s greatest champion. And makes everything so fascinating to watch.
Of course, with a run time of 176 minutes, the chapters sometimes stretch longer than they should, although at no point did anything get dreary. Incredible performances by the supporting cast, particularly Paul Dano, further fill the minutes with plenty of surprises. Here, I just wanna say that I’ve “loved” the Riddler’s absurd antics since young, but Dano’s deranged version truly unnerved me. Unbelievably, he was even more sinister after unmasking.
Jeffrey Wright’s Gordon deserves mention too. His character has few explosive moments. It’s also clear that his role is one of a voice of reason. But is the weary detective’s presence also a subtle, moderating force in the formation of the full Batman persona? Beginning with how he quietly channelled and controlled Bruce’s rage? Almost like a father?
Interesting question, yes? This movie is full of such delights, throughout.
Check out my other snappy movie reviews.