‘The Batman’ delivers nuanced, insightful commentary

Written By Jake Dabkowski, Editor Elect

5 Globes

For the past 10 years, Warner Brothers Pictures has attempted to replicate the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe by making their own universe-sized franchise. Many of those films were letdowns, and a lot of them were downright awful. “The Batman” not only delivers an incredible theatrical experience, but it exposes the hollowness of franchise filmmaking.

This film has something legitimately interesting to say, both explicitly and thematically. Rather than treat this like a springboard for a franchise, Reeves uses the characters as mythological archetypes. He knows that you know who Batman is, and rather than do Batman’s origin again, the very beginning of the movie drops you into a world that already has Batman in it. A big part of the world building of “The Batman” is that Batman is at a point in his career where people know he is real, but no one knows anything about him beyond “there’s a vigilante named Batman.” This plays into the audience’s expectations of the film — we know who Batman is, sure, but we don’t really know this Batman. This results in something that feels new and unique.

On top of that, he is Batman for almost the entire movie’s runtime. There are a few scenes where Robert Pattinson takes off the cowl, but they are used sparingly. This movie treats Bruce Wayne and Batman as one in the same — even when we see him as Bruce, he’s still Batman, focusing on completing his objective. The entire movie is told from the point of view of Batman; it does not have time for board meetings or Bruce Wayne’s social life, because in the movie neither does he. He is focused on solving a mystery.

That mystery is why the film works. Batman has long been heralded as the world’s greatest detective, and finally there is a film that reflects that. The entire movie is a cat and mouse detective story of him chasing after Paul Dano’s Riddler, a performance that Dano absolutely delivers on. That’s not to say all of the performances in this movie aren’t stellar (there is not a bad performance in sight), but Dano really shines here as the Riddler and does something very inspired and unique with his performance.

The film uses the Riddler as a sort of QAnon like figure — more accurately he’s a reflection of fringe, online ideologies. Beyond him, however, is something deeper — themes of corruption, politics and revenge handled in a nuanced, intelligent way. There’s been some backlash from conservatives online because of a line about white privilege, with many people arguing that “that line forced politics into this movie.” That take is idiotic, because the entire movie is political.

The film is, as a whole, a nuanced takedown of the current era. The system is broken, and Batman can’t fix it. There’s another moment later in the film that I’ve seen some people online complaining about, although this time from the other side of the aisle. Specifically, this scene reflects how even though the mob controls a majority of the police, there are still some good cops on the force, most notably Jeffrey Wright’s Jim Gordon. I saw people referring to this scene as “propaganda” which is, not unlike the white privilege line, idiotic. If anything, this scene more accurately reflects the issues with policing than if Batman just looked at the screen and said even if there are good cops, it’s the system that is inherently broken, not necessarily all of the individual people. This theme is touched upon throughout the film, not just involving the police but Gotham as a whole. Batman cannot fix the system, but what he can do is help individual people — not unlike the real world. We as individuals may not be able to stop political corruption, but what we can do is help each other.