You could probably tell a lot about a person by their answer to the question: “Who’s your favorite Batman?” Me, personally, I’d probably say Michael Keaton from the Tim Burton Batman and Batman Returns movies, with Christian Bale’s Dark Knight a close second (but that’s because of Michael Caine as Alfred). I don’t know what that says about me (escapist nostalgia?), but I have a theory about people whose favorite Batman is now Robert Pattinson in The Batman: they’re probably thoughtful, complex people who know what it’s like to struggle with trauma and anger, and who care about responsibility and accountability.
Here’s why I think that. I’m not going to summarize the plot for you too much, because you’ve probably heard plenty about this movie while it was coming out (I sure did). I wasn’t surprised that a brooding Bruce Wayne faces a brutal Riddler after two years fighting crime as Vengeance. What I was surprised by was how NOT romanticized the Batman figure was. Rather than making him a kooky crimefighter (Adam West style), a pitiable and misguided orphan martyr (like in the Gotham TV series) or a playboy and noble warrior for justice (Christian Bale style), this film makes him (and his Bruce identity) undeniably problematic both as a person and as a symbol to Gotham. Feminists will probably be notably uncomfy with his behavior toward Selina Kyle, Alfred fans (like me) will be startled by how little time and affection Bruce has for his surrogate father, mental health advocates will recognize a truly troubled personality in the unwashed and obsessive Bruce, and by the end of the movie there will be a deep dive into the dark effects a violent vigilante like Batman would really have on the culture and crime rates of Gotham. It’s an important thing to consider in an age of radicalization, polarization, and people pushed to extremes – and it makes a film that really sticks with you.
I know many people were struggling to accept Pattinson’s jump from Twilight mega-fame to tough-guy Bruce, but if you haven’t already you should definitely give this film a watch. If you’re not interested in the philosophical exploration of violence and accountability, try it for the truly wild card atmosphere of this film. For one thing, I promise you are not prepared for the Wayne Manor, and second, I would not be surprised if the casting call for this film stated “must have an unusual or silly-sounding voice”. Moreover, Zoe Kravitz’ Selina Kyle is as tough and sultry as advertised, and ALMOST as good at critiquing Batman’s privileged perspective on the world as Michelle Pfeiffer’s in Batman Returns. Other worthwhile highlights for longtime Batman fans include a clearly retro-inspired Batmobile, an ethnically diverse cast including a particularly effective Jim Gordon, and skillful camera work and orchestration (almost as good a score as The Dark Knight, though not quite at that unsettling level).
Whatever your reason, don’t miss the latest reimagining of The Caped Crusader, now available in DVD and Blu-Ray at the library. Did I miss your favorite Batman? Tell us in the comments!