The Batman Embraces Why People Don’t Like Baseball
Orignially posted on April 19, 2022 on my Medium blog.
TL;DR: The Batman is too long and can’t quite keep things interesting or emotional. It tries to create a message of hope through a character that literally calls himself “Vengance.” Without Bruce Wayne being much of a character, it’s tough to feel or see anything but the darkness of this movie — especially with the runtime. Hope seems like a footnote when it shows up literally minutes before the credits roll. BUT it didn’t suck so people who like Batman will probably like this movie.
What worked in The Batman (spoiler free)
The narrative structure goes in an interesting direction by reminding everyone that Batman is known as the “Worlds Greatest Detective” by actually letting him spend time detecting. This was a great surprise to me and the part of me I call “Nerdy Pete” was pretty dang pleased to see this. Other things I liked:
Catwoman of color. Zoe Kravitz is a pretty solid actor and a strong choice for a character that has always been a hot white lady. Kudos for casting a hot lady of color who is also a good actor! Maybe one day we’ll see a Catwoman that doesn’t have to be hot at all? Maybe there could be something else about her that Batman finds intriguing or intoxicating. #JustAThought!
The Batmobile! Years ago, I remember hearing about either David Fincher or Darren Aronofsky pitching a Batman movie to Warner Brothers that included Bruce Wayne putting a school bus engine into an old Dodge from the 1970s and making that the Batmobile. I LOVED that idea and this film comes pretty close to doing what I remember being envisioned — you’ve seen it in the trailers. It’s unlike any previous movie Batmobiles.
The acting was generally solid — everyone was solid but keep reading for how and why that didn’t matter to me in the end.
The costumes were pretty good — I was particularly pleased with how Batman’s cowl had subtle suggestions of a human skull. Very interesting choice.
Another interesting choice was how they handled Riddler as a character — interesting casting, too. There’s not much else to say about Paul Dano’s Riddler but I will get to it toward the end.
The way the story’s skeleton works —again, I can’t go into much detail without spoilers but I thought it was a strong choice that works well to tell a big Batman story. I go into more spoilery details in a bit.
What didn’t work in The Batman (spoiler free)
The way the story’s skeleton works — I know, I just mentioned that I thought it was a “strong choice” but it was too much. More on this in the What didn’t work (with spoilers) section.
The RUNTIME!! Maybe it’s just because I am a writer and value an efficient story, but there were so many scenes I’d have cut out or down. I like a movie that takes it’s time, but this was time taken that did not help the movie. The movie is so dark, it’s protagonist so brooding, you don’t need to take time with that. More darkness and despair is just that. Imagine the Batman song from the Lego Movie only 3 hours long and you get my point.
DAAAAAARKNESSSSSSSSSSS!! NO PAREEEEENTSSSS!
The acting/direction made it seem, to me, like every actor was in their own movie. Put simply, there just seemed to be little-to-no chemistry between any of the characters. Most were fine on their own, but it just didn’t seem like anyone was in the same room with the people they were interacting with. Read on for more about this is the What Didn’t Work spoilers section.
Michael Giacchino’s score isn’t bad but it doesn’t really knock it out of the park, either. I TOTALLY get the urge to play it more subtle than Hans Zimmer or Danny Elfman would! So, in that sense, it is different than previous scores but it ends up lacking a drive both other Giacchino scores and other Batman scores have that could have helped get the audience through a three hour movie a bit more easily, I think.
What worked in The Batman (with spoilers)
Having Batman be a detective to the point of showing him digging into every crime scene with or without police actually being there. It was great when one officer even asked Gordon “What about chain of evidence?” when Batman takes a look at one of Ridder’s journals.
It was also interesting that Riddler’s minions were incels, aka lonely loser white guys who feel like society (and women) have betrayed them. I think it was a brilliant choice and kind of terrifying. (Hope nobody copies this in the real world!)
What didn’t work in The Batman (with spoilers)
The voice over!!
Voice overs have to be ABSOLUTELY necessary because more often than not, they’re usually somewhat useless as they just narrate what the movie is showing us. This means they that the director (or often someone the director works for) doesn’t trust their own movie to tell the story or their audience to understand what they are being shown — kind of insulting to all involved, if you ask me. This movie opens with a big long sequence showing us this version of Gotham City and how Batman has come to affect the city’s criminals. It works really really well, but it has a voiceover that is one hundred percent not required. Then it disappears pretty early on and only returns at the end, during a sequence that, again, works just fine to tell the story on its own.
The way the story’s skeleton works.
One thing I like is a tight story — characters who are related to each other in interesting and surprising ways can be great and scenes that references other scenes and other people help build the universe the story takes place in.
The script for The Batman that did this well when it brought the whole big conspiracy back around to Bruce’s dad. Super cool. The script did this poorly when we learn that Catwoman’s mom was murdered by John Turturro’s gangland crime boss, Carmine Falcone… who was also the guy who Batman’s dad asked to silence a reporter who was going to expose Batman’s mom as a deeply unstable woman, mentally.
On the one hand, I am impressed with the intricacies of all that, but the conspiracy story that drives Riddler’s actions is already tied directly to Batman’s dad, so this all just felt like overkill. Riddler was even at the event as a young boy (as was a young Bruce Wayne) where the basis for what would become the core part of the conspiracy began. That’s not even all of it. Basically, everything in the movie is connected. Again — no small feat! But it’s also too much to keep track of or care about.
There is also the aspect that the movie is ultimately driven by the Riddler. Batman is always behind him by several steps and didn’t feel like he was in charge of the story. Ultimately, if you think about it, it was really Riddler’s story, but the point-of-view was Batman’s which is also reminiscent of Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises.
Pattinson played Batman so emotionally remote that I feel it damaged the movie. As I said, it felt to me like each actor was acting in a different The Batman movie. I think each actor who had to engage with Pattinson’s Batman had, basically, a brick wall to interact with. This meant there isn’t chemistry between Batman and Gordon, Batman and Alfred, and, worst of all, Batman and Catwoman.
The movie doesn’t even play the card that is always played when Catwoman is involved — her using her sex appeal to get what she wants from Batman. Their chemistry is literally the point of involving her as a character in the first place. It’s what has allowed the two characters to be probably the best known power couple in the world of superhero comics. Like I said earlier, there’s no reason there could be non-sexual reasons for them to play cat and (flying) mouse, but there has to be SOME sort of dynamic drawing them together or why bother?
Instead the two are treated as asexual beings, but even then, that wasn’t a plot point. It was just a boring relationship where nothing interesting happened. Again, it doesn’t have to be sexual. She could be overtly smarter than Batman, outthinking him at every turn. This could be a great excuse to make Batman break with his emotional coldness and actually show us he can still feel.
Likewise, when Batman interacts with Jeffrey Wright’s Jim Gordon, Gordon comes across as almost intimidated by Batman, thus making me wonder why/how he’ll get his eventual promotion to commissioner. Don’t get me wrong — intimidated is the right emotion to feel when Pattinson’s Batman is staring coldly into your eyes.
Even when Bruce Wayne is on camera Pattinson is still playing him as Batman — keeping everything bottled up and away from the viewer — to the point where, when he actually does express his emotions through words to an injured and bed-ridden Alfred, he could be lying for all the emotion we see on his face.
I totally get that Batman is one of those “edgy” characters that lives right on the knife blade of insanity (or should), but making him less emotional than a Vulcan on Star Trek makes it really challenging for the audience to give a crap. I mean, he’s Batman, every single viewer knows who this guy is, so you’re not losing anyone, but you’re also not making them care about him.
When the climax appears, it comes somewhat abruptly, and while it “worked,” it was so reminiscent of what Bane did in Dark Knight Rises, that it felt like it had been done before. And while I do like that Riddler’s minions were incels, the way he has all of them show up to kill the new mayor seemed illogical, since she represented an actual change for Gotham. If it was supposed to be a “Trump-follower” thing, where they ignore new facts that contradict their brainwashing, then the movie has to acknowledge that.
While there are a lot more things I could be critical about, what you’ve just read are my main issues with The Batman. There were issues with pacing throughout and scenes that should have been shorter or cut differently, or just removed.
How I’d (have done it)
This is a tough task! Making a Batman movie, let alone writing one, is hard to do. If you do it right, you’re considering 80 years of comic book storytelling, plus the cartoons/animation and live action shows and movies that have come before. That’s a lot! It’s obvious this film was trying to be a “Batman: Year One” kind of story while not just adapting the actual “Batman: Year One,” comic by Frank Miller, which might have been an easier thing to do.
So, how would I have written this story? This specific story? I wouldn’t have. Batman is 80+ years old. His story has been told and told and told over and over and in many different ways. It’s even a bit too late, in my opinion, to do something new with him. Just look at how DC comics has already published a slew of alt Batman stories over the last five or ten years, like “The Batman that Smiles” and “I Am Batman” and many more. The latter actually has me intrigued. I want to read it because it’s not about Bruce Wayne. It’s about a person of color becoming the Batman. Now THAT would be a Batman movie we haven’t seen before!
That said, if I had a gun to my head, I’d write a Batman story about the End of Batman. This would involve him using his money to open homeless shelters, job programs, community centers in Gotham, hire a ton of people, and even invent a new kind of policing where the focus is put on de-escalation and better treatment from the penal system so that Batman isn’t even necessary. Gotham would become a paradise and every time some new criminal element would spring up, Bruce Wayne would just buy them off or Batman would physically remove them from the city.
The conflict would come from people trying to undermine his “utopian ideals,” in the form of both human trolls in the press and supervillains literally attacking the community centers, job training offices, and homeless shelters Bruce Wayne built.
It would be a Batman story we haven’t seen before. The closest I’ve come to writing this already was my“How I’d” for Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice shortly after it came out. However, it’s more a “How I’d” write a Superman movie that addresses everyone’s gripes about him being a lame character.
The Batman has a lot of cool ideas, but…
Detective Batman, leaving the Joker behind (mostly), making Riddler a legitimately demented guy, the Batmobile looking badd-ass but not particularly batty, having it all be about the tangled lattice of Gotham politics and crime, and so on… this movie started with a lot of great ideas (leaving out almost all emotional content was not one of them — nor was making it three hours long). In the end it was a GREAT movie on paper, but felt like it was made for Vulcans.
As franchises like Batman approach centenarian status, people who control said franchises need to recognize two threats facing them:
saturation — put too many Batman projects in front of people and they won’t watch. As a nerd, myself, I know all of DC’s random movies and shows that do or don’t have anything to do with each other has the combined effect of making me not want to get invested.
All the best ideas have been done… or have they? Hiring the right writers to write something new, or at least write something old in a different way, will be incredibly important for keeping that income from said franchise flowing. With all the trouble DC properties have had getting made well into comics, shows or movies over the last 10–20 years, maybe it’s time to step back and wait a few years until Marvel runs out of steam? Or at least until someone can come up with a cohesive, comprehensive plan for the world of DC properties to exist in. Almost 100 years of money making and fans means this IP truly deserves such a plan.
Was The Batman entertaining? Some people sure thought so, but some folks felt otherwise. You have to admit, it would have been better if it was shorter, more emotional, and less long!!