Emo Batman: the detective. Matt Reeves’ highly anticipated adaptation of the caped crusader hits cinemas this week, and it is sure to elicit quite the polarized opinions amongst fans. Some will undoubtedly enjoy the gritty, realistic expression of Batman in an attempt at crafting a neo-noir detective story while others will find it to be poorly paced, overly emo, and joyless. While I am seldom completely in one camp or another on a polarized film, I am certainly closer to the latter moreso than the former. I certainly appreciate this take on the caped crusader as a detective and the aesthetically dark film; however, I agree that it is poorly paced, overtly emo, and completely joyless. Reeves’ adaptation shines best in its character development and interactions; furthermore, it’s equal parts plot and character-driven, which helps in the thoughtfulness, but the poor pacing and lack of anything joyful hold it back from the potential it clearly had. Clearly, this film is positioning itself as the anti MCU in that it places far greater value on the aesthetic of the film moreso than the entertainment value or dialogue. After watching it, I am left wondering what a neo-noir detective Batman movie directed by David Fincher would look like? In my opinion as a critic and film professor, the only director to accurately capture the essence of what we love about the BatVerse is Tim Burton is his brilliant Batman 89, and Batman Returns.
Batman ventures into Gotham City’s underworld when a sadistic killer leaves behind a trail of cryptic clues. As the evidence begins to lead closer to home and the scale of the perpetrator’s plans become clear, he must forge new relationships, unmask the culprit and bring justice to the abuse of power and corruption that has long plagued the metropolis.
For some, the characters won’t feel like Batman characters as much as explorations of various forms of trauma; that stated, the characters have undeniable chemistry on screen, which makes them believable. The only characterization with which I take particular negative issue is Alfred; he is reduced from an integral element in the Batman mythos too little more than an expositional plot device. Costume wise, the new Batsuit works very well, and the Riddler’s costume is incredibly creepy, but Catwoman’s ski mask doesn’t work and The Penguin lacks any truly defining features. The Batmobile works great! It’s fantastic combination of a stock car (which Bruce Wayne would realistically have access to) and a little comicbook flare. While the score isn’t memorable, it offers some gorgeous orchestral movements that attempt to give this film gravitas. Still to this day, the best Batman score is Danny Elfman’s for 89 and Returns. The score of The Batman never feels like an extension of the characters, despite it being (as a musical composition) beautiful.
Since I am not a comicbook reader nor am I generally a fan of superhero movies, I do not feel that it is inaccurate to posit that idea that comicbooks and superhero movies were originally written and designed to be escapism. There was something special about being invited into a world similar to our own, but with a certain degree of whimsy that kept them entertaining and fun. The hand of the artist, an extension of their imagination is what seems to so often be missing in contemporary CBMs (comicbook movies). You have the agenda-driven post-End Game MCU on one side, and the overly dark, joyless DCEU on the other. Of course, there are exceptions such as Shang Chi and Wonder Woman. CBMs have strayed from their roots, and appear to have a blatant disregard for that which made them fun for mass audiences. From CBMs including elevated levels of colorful adjectives to reinforcing unfair characterizations which have a counterintuitive effect upon the idea of representation, it would be refreshing to have superhero movies that are entertainment and clever again, where there are suitable for older kids and teens, yet there are jokes, references, and double entendres that only adults will appreciate.
Who is the audience for The Batman? A question for which I am still searching for the answer.
Ryan teaches Film Studies and Digital Citizenship at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter or email him at RLTerry1@gmail.com! If you’re ever in Tampa or Orlando, feel free to catch a movie with him.
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