MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
The Batman - In Theaters
Directed by Matt Reeves
Starring Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz
I observed families with younger children finding their seats and hunkering down with big buckets of popcorn and soft drinks, ready to enjoy this superhero movie. They would need large size snacks to last through the 3-hour running time of The Batman.
Their laughter and joyful anticipation was about to come to an end.
They will see a Gotham City that is dirty and dark, home to damaged villains (and heroes), corrupt politicians, homeless drug addicts, pole dancers, and a string of brutal killings. The Bat Signal seems to be missing a few bulbs, but Batman (Pattinson) is never in much of a hurry to respond. The entire film seems to exist in darkness, accompanied by occasional downpours of rain and a throbbing musical score by Michael Giacchino that occasionally threatens to overpower the dialogue.
At about fifteen minutes into the film, one of the bad guys drops an F-bomb (an occasional use of this word is allowed in a PG-13 movie) to let you know that The Batman is not about to pull any punches in its bleak worldview. This is one mixed up muddled up, shook up world.
This movie assumes that its audience is familiar with Batman. There are no origin stories here, for Batman, Catwoman (Kravitz), or any of Batman’s arch enemies.
It’s not exactly a superhero movie at all, but a police procedural (honoring the fact that Batman first appeared in DC’s Detective Comics). Batman teams up with Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) to solve a series of murders by a serial killer while also struggling with his role as a vigilante out for vengeance. (Who could possibly be behind these crimes, leaving only greeting cards with riddles?)
Robert Pattinson and Zoë Kravitz as Batman and Selina Kyle/Catwoman create empathetic characters with sad backstories, and both show real athleticism in well-choreographed fight scenes. All of the actors turn in good performances and Director/Co-Writer Matt Reeves has a clear sense of purpose in crafting his own bleak treatment of this saga. I am just not convinced that we needed this movie (or the sequels that it will spawn.)
The Batman joins a long succession of revisionist comic book films that hold up a mirror to reflect the brokenness of an ugly and senseless world. Big whoop. Maybe it’s time to flip the script of the apostle Paul and pick up a few “childish things” that we can share with our kids, including compassionate superheroes and villains that can be occasionally defeated by the forces of good.
If only ...
Holy déjà vue! I think I’ve found it! It’s the 1966 television series Batman with Adam West as the Caped Crusader and Burt Ward as Robin. It’s streaming for free (with ads) on Tubi. Watch a few episodes of this wacky show and you will never fear the Joker, the Riddler, or the Penguin again!
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Two halos: A good cast and a distinctive vision reimagines a familiar story, with mixed results.
Four pitchforks: Brutal murders; drug abuse; corruption; violence; despair; PG-13 level swearing.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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