4 Min Read

A Different Take: The Batman

This is the latest screen offering of the famous DC superhero who relies on all sorts of gadgets and high tech weaponry to subdue the criminal element of the fictitious Gotham City.

Following the 1960s TV series, a host of actors have donned the bat suit for feature film versions starting with Adam West in 1966. Since then a host of actors have followed; Michael Keaton, George Clooney, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck are among the most memorable. And each has provided their own particular interpretation of this caped crusader. In addition, each successive film over the past few decades needed to bring something different, some variation to the familiar story to be memorable. Despite, there being several Batman movies over the past thirty years, perhaps this latest version succeeds, at least partially, in doing just that. Robert Pattinson brings his own distinct interpretation of this famous character. This and the overall mood of the film tend to diverge from the standard superhero fare.

On the one hand, all the predictable elements are present: evil villains, high tech gadgets, elaborate fight scenes and plenty of violence. Of course, technological progress continues to advance; Batman’s suit is now fully bulletproof, he uses contact lenses that record everything and feed it into his supercomputer, his true identity remains a secret except to his loyal servant Alfred, etc. Interestingly, while Batman is in his familiar outfit, none of the villains don any distinctive costumes. In addition, the makeup is also very realistic (I for one did not recognise Colin Farrell!).

‘The Batman’ directed by Matt Reeves 2022

On the other hand, the film in form and content diverges slightly from the predictable superhero format towards something resembling film noir. For example, the plot has two strands: Bruce Wayne’s quest to unravel his parent’s murder and the corruption he fights as a caped crusader. As the film progresses, these two themes entwine then disentwine as doubts are raised about earlier revelations. in this sense, the plot does ‘thicken’.

These dark themes and the visuals contribute to the negative mood of the film. As the plot unwinds, we learn that criminal corruption goes further towards the top of legitimate authority. One can’t help but feel this is an indictment of our own contemporary society with media scandals, corrupt politicians, powerful media moguls and oligarchs of dubious morality – powerful people whose influence extends beyond all sorts of borders. As in our contemporary world, we soon get the impression that what is exposed is merely the tip of an iceberg that runs very deep. Criminality is everywhere and often well disguised.

‘The Batman’ directed by Matt Reeves 2022

This sense of negativity is enhanced by the look of the film: most of the scenes occur at night, dawn or dusk. And when they do occur during the day, the sky is overcast or it is raining, You don’t see the sun shine. The literal absence of clear light reflects the symbolic darkness of the world depicted. This mood is enhanced by Pattinson’s own performance who is generally sullen and morose: he never once displays even a hint of a smile during the entire film. We never forget that he is basically alone in the world; an orphan seeking the truth about his parent’s death, a crime fighter whose effectiveness depends on being anonymous and unknown. Because of his role he cannot risk forming intimate relationships.

Even his interaction with the only other superhero type is relatively tentative. He and the Cat-woman work together because their aims overlap, but they have slightly different agendas. Rather than a crime-fighting team, they are two individuals whose interests converge. This loose association enhances the socially constrained, secluded and even vulnerable aspects of this particular Batman incarnation.

Superhero fans will appreciate this slightly different take on the genre. Even if you are not a fan, you are unlikely to be bored: the action sequences and the plot developments are so tightly paced that you don’t feel you’ve been watching for nearly three hours. As with most superhero films, it ends with the hint of a sequel and it would be surprising if there wasn’t one in a year or so. 

This particular Batman is more than a crime-fighting macho man. His public role makes him something of a misfit in a dark, deceitful world. As such he is a superhero with more than a hint of the tragic figure. Pattinson emerges as more than just another bat-masked ‘pretty face’.