TV Party Tonight! #112

TV Party Tonight! #112

Tuesday, 09 August 2022

The Batman
[4K/Blu-ray combo]

Batman is treading some dangerous waters. I’m saying this because the franchise is coming close to being a punch line. How many times has it been “rebooted”? The better question is probably, “why does it keep getting rebooted?” It’s hard to say, but it probably has something to do with audiences only getting excited about superhero movies, and only wanting to see things they’re familiar with. I’m old enough where the original quartet of Tim Burton/Joel Schumaker movies are what I consider “my” Batman movies. The Christopher Nolan movies, although more success, were, in a way, less for nerds, and more for meatheads. We had to “rediscover” who Batman was all over again. Those were the times: the nerds had won and now the jocks were playing catch-up. That’s when Batman went from fun to miserable. From camp to military camp. The Nolan Batman movies had a whole “warfare” thing going on. Having made a name for himself with Batman, Nolan then moved onto to things that could better feed his ego.

Then came the Zach Snyder Batman movies and that’s when things got weirder than Batman and Robin. The idea was that Snyder would bring the entire DC universe together, starting with standalone DC superhero movies which would then converge into the Justice League. Well, things didn’t work out, because Snyder, although talented, lacked vision. He inherently misunderstands the whole oeuvre of superheroes, and what motivates them. He’s like an overgrown child put in charge of a juggernaut, and this produced movies essentially for children. Too late, Warner Brothers noticed this and Snyder was ceremoniously discarded.

Enter Matt Reeves into this whole mess. He has big shoes to fill and a hell of a lot of work ahead of him to course correct the flagship DC superhero. Surprisingly, he does a pretty good job. He borrows, safely, from Nolan, to the point where it’s hard to know what in The Batman is Reeves’ own. The Batman has a dark, moody, joyless, somber feel to it, like the Nolan movies. Bruce Wayne is tortured, desperate, and with a one-track mind. His antagonists are also less cartoonish and more grounded. The Penguin looks human, and is “just” a mobster. The Riddler is a vigilante, and his motivations are the true mystery and reveal of this movie. We’re also not sure as an audience how Wayne’s choice to be Batman is supposed to bring him fulfillment, because, like the movie itself points out, Wayne can have a bigger impact fighting crime by funding social and employment programs. Does this mean he’s acting for selfish reasons? That’s maybe the biggest swing that Reeves takes and a message that will probably go over most people’s heads. The casting and acting also, thank god, are well executed and even Zoe Kravitz can pull of a believable Catwoman with Reeves’ directing. At almost 3 hours, the payoff of The Batman is a bit of a letdown, probably because Reeves’ point is too on the nose, having an obvious  QAnon/Conspiracy Theorist/January 6th Insurection vibe. With all the sensationalism in this franchise, it’s a bit of a copout to put Batman in something so…uncreative.

So, it’s a mixed bag with this movie. Reeves had to tread carefully and does remarkable job considering what he was up against. The Batman isn’t a home run, but more of a course correction. We’re off to a good start. Let’s see where he takes us next.

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