You’ve seen goofy Batman (Adam West), sophisticated Batman (Michael Keaton), campy Batman (George Clooney), gritty Batman (Christian Bale), and grumpy Batman (Ben Affleck).
Now in 2022, director Matt Reeves brings us emo Batman!
When I first heard that Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame was going to play the Batman, I struggled with the announcement.
Apparently I wasn’t alone. The 2019 announcement of Robert Pattinson’s casting was met with a wave of criticism by franchise fans. Over 6,800 people went so far as to sign a petition urging Warner Brothers to reconsider. Others, including Jimmy Kimmel, jumped to his defense.
For me, it was difficult imagining Robert Pattinson in a role that wasn’t a tortured emo goth. And after watching 2022’s iteration of Batman, I came away saying, “Yup! He’s still a tortured emo goth! But you know what? Oddly enough, it kinda works.”
In the three hour slog of dimly lit darkness that was the darkest darkness that ever darked, I got strong Twilight vibes from Pattinson’s portrayal of a reclusive, brooding Bruce Wayne who shunned the limelight to skulk in the shadows—a Bruce Wayne with a guyliner heavy aesthetic the likes of Brandon Lee’s The Crow meets My Chemical Romance. But hey, Batman didn’t sparkle! So that’s something.
As someone who grew up watching the 1990s animated series, with a gothic, dark, somber, serious, tough and joyless Batman, Robert Pattinson’s portrayal more or less worked for me. Sure, this Batman was ’emo,’ but he was also menacing. He didn’t hold back his punches as Gotham’s ‘Vengeance.’ And the people he rescued seemed just as scared of him as the criminals he thwarted.
SPOILERS BELOW THIS LINE!
Paul Dano’s Incel Riddler:
Paul Dano’s portrayal of an internet troll Riddler with his own horde of online followers ready to commit violence was something fresh, creepy and yet relatable for our time. Far different from Jim Carrey prancing around in a lime green onesie in Batman Forever, Paul Dano wears thick glasses, a home made mask, and terrorizes the citizens of Gotham with his Tik Tok esque videos. His boyish face and genuine mental illness (the likes of 2019’s the Joker) adds a creepy realism to him that made my skin crawl.
Zoe Kravitz Nails it as Catwoman
Zoe Kravitz was originally denied the role of Catwoman in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises for being “too urban” — in other words, for having dark skin. That was definitely their loss!
Zoe Kravitz did a great job of bringing the dangerous, simmering sexuality of Selina Kyle to the screen. While she gets saved by the Batman once or twice, she’s definitely still capable of holding her own in a fight. And yes, she has lots of cats.
Some critics say there wasn’t much sexual chemistry between Catwoman and Batman. I didn’t mind. Batman doesn’t have to be sexy. He just has to be a somber, frowning, vengeance machine in a cape and cowl. He’s lowkey attracted to Catwoman. But it’s clear that crime fighting is his first love, so he doesn’t have much room in his life for sex or romance.
Thinly Veiled Allusions to Today’s Political Reality
In the Batman universe, you have a billionaire saving the day while the people who want to overthrow the corrupt elites are the extremist bad guys. Seems like quite the plutocratic message, no?
This was why The Joker made in 2019 was revolutionary. The Waynes are actually the antagonists, while Joaquin Phoenix’s emaciated and poverty riddled Joker is shown in a sympathetic light, even if he does end up going off the deep end.
Matt Reeves’ The Batman doesn’t go nearly as far as The Joker in showing Gotham’s wealthy elite in a critical light. But it does it more so than other Batman movies in the past. Catwoman states that Batman “must be rich,” because he moralizes to her from up high on his pedestal.
One thing that was interesting about this movie is that it takes a look at the corrupt actions of Bruce Wayne’s father, while past movies have largely shown the Wayne family in a positive light.
In the end of The Batman, the protagonists are people who are trying earnestly to do their best in a corrupt system, despite the fact that reform seems like it will never come. You see this with the Batman himself, along with police commissioner James Gordon, and Bella Reál, who is running for mayor with the slogan, “Change for Gotham.” I definitely got Obama vibes from her slogan. And I suppose that allusion to the Obamas was no accident, because the actress who plays Bella Reál, Jayme Lawson, was a young Michelle Obama in The First Lady.
Bella Reál is running her campaign in a stadium that gets flooded by water (along with the rest of Gotham). The stadium becomes overtaken by the Riddlers’ army of masked internet dorks. They have given up on trying to attempt reform within the system. They just want to destroy Gotham and its elites overall, thinking it is too corrupt to be saved.
As Bella Reál’s campaign gets overtaken, you get the vibe that all hopes for reform are lost. But Batman of course triumphs. And then at the end of the movie, Batman stays in the city to help people recover from the damage. He says that he can no longer just be vengeance, but he must represent hope as well.
My Overall Rating of The Batman: B, 84%
(No, I’m not rating it ‘B’ for ‘Batman.’)
This movie did not have the stellar acting the likes of Heath Ledger or Joaquin Phoenix. So I can’t say that it was my favorite Batman. But not every movie has to be ground breaking. Overall, I did come away from it feeling entertained.
I enjoyed Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of Batman more than I expected.
I guess vampires can turn into bats after all.