The Batman (2022): When Political Commentary Became a Joke (Or a Joker)

3 ½ stars out of five

Spoiler Warning!

Riddle me this Batman: who just watched the latest Batman movie and was lukewarm on the whole thing? It was me the whole time Batman, someone who doesn’t know how to stop overhung things, but this wasn’t The Batman movie for me. It’s not something about superheroes: I like some, it’s more just the execution of the whole thing. It’s not bad: it’s competently shot with some aesthetically pleasing shots, it has a good score done by Micheal Giachino, some well done action set pieces, and nothing was unnecessary. So again, riddle me this: why wasn’t I invested with such a well done and unsurprisingly big film?

And who's in charge here?

It bites off more than a film like this could chew. It’s a Batman movie, that doesn't make it any less art; it's not soulless like most of Marvel movies or any Disney out put that isn’t fully animated; it's an actual film with ideas. My major issue was that it tried to be a political story and an emotional story and neither of them worked for me. The whole emotional front was simple; I’m not terribly invested in a Batman who talks like he had just found the internet with the help of a twelve year old or The Riddler with Paul Dano doing a variation on his Eli Sunday character from There Will be Blood.

Politically though, it’s a mess. It tries to make a statement about America's past (whether it's racism or the entrenched wealth -- it goes for both and flops in both) and our relation to it, but it just dropped that ball into the depths of the ocean flooding into Gotham. This problem mainly lies with The Riddler, he’s supposed to be far-right in essence but takes notes on the ideology of the leftist movements of today. Using a right-wing coat of pain with a mostly leftist ideology, and add a sprinkle of of domestic terrorism you get an ideologically confused film. Towards the end it tries to draw a parallel between Batman and The Riddler, which in truth is inane. Batman beats up criminals in a mostly ineffectual way, while the riddler kills the rich in flashy ways and blows up the city’s walls and sets up snipers to kill everybody. Beyond the basics they just operate on very different ideological levels, and trying to make a parallel other than a desire for revenge not only baffles me, but makes for a limp protagonist antagonist dynamic. I agree with the film's stated message of not killing people because the rich are bad (I personally believe we should just eat the rich) but getting there was a cute effort, but not very tactile. Another point was the theme of mass shooting, in light of everything happening for the past few years and especially now seems in poor taste for a Batman movie. All of this makes for a film that wants to be a topical and intelligent drama, but reads more as someone who just started learning about everything happening and decided to write fanfic about it.

I’ve always been an avid Batman fan and I’d be a poor critic not to admit my biases. I’ve always  believed that superhero movies are very hard to pull off, even with all the problems I've had with the Marvel movies, they can pull off the superhero tone. Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Night’s ability to make a serious superhero movie is a once in a lifetime occurrence and will probably never happen again. Having Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, and most of the cast are very good actors but having them mope around and whisper most of their lines and hunch over, it seems that Colin Farrell was the only one having any fun with the performance. Draining all the life from the film and attempting to add a political layer instead is saddening. The original Batman: The Animated Series was sharp, funny, and action packed. Most importantly it had heart, the world had hope and people weren’t nasty to each other. I don't hate challenging films or something new and with franchises or reboots I try to take it at face value, but here it attempts to do something that is a near impossible feat. 

I don’t hate this film. I mostly enjoyed it as a fun detective story, the same way I enjoyed Joker (2019) as a fun Scorsese derivative that had nice cinematography and a good score. This shows a splintering of the Superhero film to either be pure fun focused on characters like the Marvel movies and The Suicide Squad (2021), or the attempt to be thoughtful, intelligent cinema like the formerly mentioned Joker. The one bump is how this film tries to have its cake and eat it by keeping its thematic content while still teasing the Joker at the end and acting as sequel bait. Neither of these styles of film work for me but the attempt is nice, if not a bit annoying. I just want to find a healthy middle ground between people who love it as a masterpiece and the few who despise it.

One more note. After rotting my brain with Our Flag Means Death content, it’s nice to see the actor who plays Izzy Hands (Con O'Neill) in it and it’s always good to see him getting good work. I might become more cold as time goes on but for now it was a fun three hours. Good lord, it was three hours.