by Sanjana Srikanth (’24) | April 8, 2022
“I am Batman!”
For years, this infamous phrase has characterized the Batman we’ve all grown to know and love: the crown prince of Gotham City, an orphan determined to carry the burden of Gotham’s future on his back by fighting for criminal justice.
For the people of Gotham and for us, the infamous bat signal strikes something of a wonder in our hearts, not only at the spark of hope it resembles in the future of Gotham, but for the complex, mysterious ray of light Batman brings to an eternal, and seemingly indisposable world of darkness.
When the trailer for Matt Reeves’s The Batman first dropped, the world witnessed the dawn of a renewed Batman, a continuation of the story of Gotham and Batman’s own character. Naturally, as a Batman enthusiast, I was thrilled to see this film and after watching it, I have to say that I am absolutely enthralled with this renewed portrayal of our traditional hero.
The Batman opens immediately with a display of shocking grittiness in the murder of Mayor Don Mitchell by a nameless stranger, who establishes his signature as the “Riddler,” by leaving behind a riddle written on a card addressed “To the Batman.” The Riddler introduces himself as possibly one of the most terrifying villains known to Gotham City since The Joker, making it his mission to target Batman in a string of gruesome murders throughout the movie with each subsequent riddle piecing together to form the Riddler’s grand plan for Gotham’s future. In the initial scene of the Mayor’s murder, Commissioner Jim Gordon (played by Jeffrey Wright) and Batman (played by Robbert Pattinson) witness a daunting message written across the mayor’s face in blood, “No more lies.” This message symbolizes the Riddler’s presence and motivation throughout the film, one that Batman and we as the audience are left to decode. The movie ultimately follows Batman’s adventures in trailing the Riddler, with the critical introduction of Catwoman (played by Zoë Kravitz) as a key player in the story’s plot and Batman’s own character development.
What makes The Batman a groundbreaking movie, aside from the absolutely stunning cinematics and visuals, is the psychological battle between the villain—the Riddler—and the hero—Batman. The irony lies in the fact that both the Riddler and Batman have made it their determined mission to rid the city of the same injustices—the Riddler targets corruption in the Gotham elite, and Batman alike deals with criminal activity in the Gotham streets. Both seek a world of renewed hope, free of false promises and injustice, all for the same city; but where does it all go wrong? This precisely, I would say, is why the movie is so enticing to watch. The characters’ complex backstories and characteristics pose many reasons for the far-fetched natures of their work. Once we strip these intricate characters of their public images and distinct personalities to look at their motivations, we are left with a daunting truth: that dedication can be taken to an absolute extreme (in this case, seen in the Riddler’s murderous actions) when drawn from the wrong values.
Furthermore, love is more intricately woven into Robert Pattinson’s Batman, bringing in raw emotion to an otherwise emotionally void character. Love doesn’t just develop Batman; it develops Bruce Wayne. As the story progresses, Bruce grows closer with his butler, Alfred Pennyworth (played by Andy Serkis), who displays fatherly care and concern for Bruce in times of danger and despair—feelings which Bruce later reciprocates in moments of intimacy with his caretaker. Through Catwoman, Bruce experiences romantic love and friendship with someone who shows Bruce that he is not solely alone in his fight for justice. The further development of Bruce’s relationships exposes a different side of Bruce Wayne: one that is vulnerable, and ultimately human.
Bruce Wayne’s character development is really what ties in the film altogether. By the film’s end, the audience is left with a realization of the extensive depth of duality that Batman symbolizes: the difference between fear and hope, embodied within one spirit. It is this new characterization of Batman, a darker and grittier exploitation of our traditional hero, that Matt Reeves directs us to see. And almost accordingly, a new catchphrase is born for a new Batman:
I highly recommend watching The Batman because for Batman and non-Batman fans alike, the movie provides ample thrilling action, both physical and psychological, to keep you in suspense until the very end. The characters, the acting, and the cinematics all make The Batman truly a movie truly worth being on any movie-lover’s bucket list.