“The Batman” is a bad, try-hard artiste grunge film.

If Batman was a member of My Chemical Romance.

We all knew this wasn’t Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. If I recall correctly, director Matt Reeves went out of his way to deliberately avoid comparisons — and Nolan altogether. The same can be said for the Batman of Zack Snyder’s films. All of these Batmen are vastly different. Bruce Wayne, on the other hand, are all very similar.

My dad is a massive Batman film fan. He grew up watching the older Tim Burton titles and absolutely adores the Christian Bale Batman. His idea of Bruce Wayne is the clean-cut and suave billionaire with a lot of charm and ego to get him through the day until he needs to put on the cape and cowl.

When he watched the trailers of The Batman, he decided he didn’t intend to watch it. “They’ve made Bruce Wayne real grungy. Long hair and untidy,” dad said. “That’s not who Bruce Wayne’s meant to be.”

Hitting the nail on the head with this take.

In reality, comic book fans know there are many different interpretations of who or what Bruce Wayne is supposed to be. As I am not a Batman comic fan, I cannot speak to the accuracy of Robert Pattinson’s performance.

But I know it was fucking awful. What’s worse is you can’t blame him for that. That’s how The Batman‘s Bruce Wayne is. That’s what this story was designed around.

Perhaps this is what modern Batman is meant to be like, but the man seems rather contradictory. “I am vengeance,” he utters in his corny, half-baked opening dialogue that feels more like the Riddler wrote him a script he’s reading to someone. I was waiting for Selina Kyle to show up at the end of his monologues and break the ice with some kind of wise-crack. Alas, ’twas not to be, for this is not your typical superhero blockbuster. This is an artiste film. Something to break the genre.

Breath of “fresh” air.

Don’t get me wrong. Despite my intense hatred for the overall product that is this film, I have to admit, it is perfectly shot. Gotham is a positively awful place to live. You can taste every icky pixel of the city.

I have just one complaint about the cinematography for the whole film. Toward the latter half of the film is a car chase sequence that had absolutely no depth to it whatsoever. Why? The audience is unable to determine where anyone is in relation to anyone else. All I was seeing was close-ups of two pivotal characters. I can hear the car motors running — obviously one is chasing the other. I don’t know how far one person is away from their target, though. The sequence went on for at least ten minutes and I was bored out of my brain, because I felt no stakes whatsoever.

Photo: Warner Bros.

“Why am I supposed to care about this?” I asked Joe, my friend I came to watch the film with. “I have no idea what’s going on.” Either Joe didn’t hear me — too engrossed in what I think was clumsy editing — or he thought I was being weird.

Other positive highlights include Jim Gordon. Not a commissioner yet, but no doubt there’s probably a sequel being planned where he becomes commissioner. Selina Kyle, too, is easily a highlight of this film — but we’ll dive into her part a little later.

In breaking the superhero genre, the movie incidentally takes itself too seriously. It is three hours of dark, gritty, noir-style filmography with very little breathing room and moments of levity. I can count on one hand the moments I actually enjoyed myself (the antithesis of the intended experience?): the thumb drive is a headliner. Anyone who’s seen the film should theoretically know what I’m talking about. When the thumb and USB stick are held up, I burst out in laughter. The morbidity of the situation aside, one has to take these moments when you’re given them with this film!

The intense (lack of) respect for Selina Kyle.

We have, at least, moved away from butt-shots and skimpy superhero outfits as a male-gaze priority in these films. We have not, however, moved away from men dictating the choices of women.

Feminism emerged within a patriarchal culture that oppresses women; [Tania] Modleski insists that we, as feminist critics, remember this contradiction. She is interested in understanding the ways we are complicit in the construction of a culture which is damaging us and in the ways we can maintain a strong political commitment to a feminist transformation of that culture. By understanding the shifting series of relations we experience to our culture, we can begin to see(k) changes.

Paula Rabinowitz — Seeing through the gendered I: Feminist film theory

Men, if your sensibilities are whimpering, look away now, because despite The Batman attempting to “break the norm”, Selina Kyle is still very much a damsel in distress. Catwoman, she is not. And I frankly don’t care whether you lot think women are “pushing too hard” for “better” female characters.

Our femme fatale Catwoman’s primary motive in this film is the search for her “friend” Annika (subtext for a lesbian relationship if you squint and tilt your head? The Batman is surely too chicken to toe that line, just in case it gets accused of “bury your gays”…). However, as time goes on, Kyle’s narrative devolves into little more than unresolved daddy issues. Contrary to what may be popular belief, but it’s not clever — “sins of the father” is a running theme throughout The Batman, and yet, despite the almost three-hour runtime, Kyle’s “sins of the father” conflict doesn’t show up until we’re minutes away from the climax. A tad suspicious, given so much of her time up until this point had been dedicated to her missing friend.

And yet, justice is entirely withheld from Kyle, by Bats, who is insistent she doesn’t “become like them” — a murderer. By now it’s been well established Kyle isn’t exactly the textbook definition of “a good person”, and it’s entirely probable this desire of her purity is a selfish demand of Bruce.

Not that it matters, though.

Photo: Warner Bros.

The mystery of where a gunshot comes from, killing a backing antagonist (and the person responsible for Kyle’s woes), is a short-lived “who dun it!?” and pits the audience against three potential perpetrators in the short 30 seconds we have to consider the problem:

  • Was it the Penguin, who threatened to kill him straight up but now swears he didn’t shoot?
  • Was it a police officer seeking some ill-thought-out retribution, in a crowd of dozens?
  • Or was it Kyle, taking a shot that was (rightfully, in my opinion) hers after Bats stopped her earlier?

“Finally!” I thought as a crowd of police officers horde over the Penguin. “Selina did a Catwoman thing! She made her own decision! She earned that shot!”

A minute later, Bats has a lightbulb moment and miraculously discovers that’s not what happened at all, and we turn to an entirely undeserved section of the narrative. Kyle’s story arc was completed, unsatisfactorily, in favour of the ethics only Batman instilled upon her. Sound familiar? Only every other female side-kick in a DC movie has had to go through the same thing. Selina Kyle is little more than a nice leg lamp standing in the corner of a dark and dingy room.

Safe from impurity Bats fears for her, she stands over the corpse of her personal villain, and we all for a moment fantasise about what could have been if we didn’t live in an age where anti-hero women in cinema must be taint-free burglars and nothing more. The 355 did a better job here than Reeves. The 355 is a Simon Kinberg B-movie.

What the hell happened here?

In closing…

This is not a film for me. I should’ve trusted my gut and not gone to see it, because it’s three hours of my life I probably won’t get back.

OH! Before I forget:

The music is boring. Entirely uninspired and mind-numbingly boring to the point you may beg it to stop.

Actually, I take that back. The music is inspired. Literally. It’s inspired by the first seven seconds of The Imperial March. Get used to those notes, because that’s all you’re going to hear for three hours.

Thanks, Michael Giacchino. I hate it.

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