Spoilers for the new Batman movie.
I’m not usually one for conspiracies unless they’re completely buckwild, like the moon being hollow and filled with a creamy cheese center, but I am telling you the computers are listening. Phones, Alexas, Google whatevers, they’re all listening, all the time, and funneling that information to God knows where. How else do you explain the fact that I got the Batman movie I’ve been casually asking for for the past five or six years?
The Batman Movies We’ve Been Getting
Of the ten live-action Batman or Batman-related movies we have gotten since Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman (ten! Ten. That I can think of! Ten in thirty-three years! That’s around one every three years! I’m not even including all the animated stuff) most of them feature an already established Batman. This Batman has been Bataranging around Gotham for years before the movie starts. He’s got his gadgets, and he’s got his signature moves, and he’s certainly got the reputation. He’s jamming in and out of the Bat Cave so often he’s had to put street lights in front of the cave entrance, and everyone in Gotham knows if they hear someone free climbing the bank behind them to pretend that nothing’s going on or their local billionaire celebrity is going to be on the news the next morning with a black eye and a hangover complaining about citizens ‘putting themselves in harms way’ or whatever the fuck. Batman is a known Gotham entity with a complete rogues gallery and a frequent shopper’s card at the Blackwater Surplus Store.
Then you’ve got Christopher Nolan’s 2005 Batman Begins, the only truly origin story of the lot, and it’s…fine? It’s fine. Bruce Wayne trains in the middle of the vaguely Asian wilderness…hold on…okay, I looked it up, and apparently he’s in Bhutan. So Bruce Wayne trains in the middle of the Bhutan wilderness with the guy from Taken and then comes back to Gotham to become the Batman. You get a little awkwardness as he puts his costume together, tries to decide where to start with Chicago-I-mean-Gotham’s crime, and then he gets the beginnings of his rogues gallery with Scarecrow. It’s fine.
But it wasn’t what I wanted in a Batman origin story.
Also, before we move on: if I have to see Thomas and Martha Wayne die in that alley one more time I’m going to choke myself to death with Martha’s pearl necklace.
The Problem With Batman Begins
He’s too fucking good at his job. Like, almost immediately. Sure, he’s testing out shit, has a few problems with his costume, needs to set up the Bat Cave and get the Batmobile – excuse me, Tumbler. My God, that era of ‘superhero movies pretending to be Actually Serious Movies’ was fucking exhausting – but Christian Bale plays Bruce Wayne/Batman as already so sure of himself. He comes out of the gate with the confidence level of a swan in a tiara. He wins his fights. He seems to have a pretty firm understanding of the inner workings of Gotham’s supposedly intricate and deeply imbedded criminal underbelly, despite the fact that he’s been gone for years and prior to that the only connection he had to it was the fucking moron who killed his parents. It takes him all of a month to bully his way back to being in charge of Wayne Enterprises.
Despite being an origin story, Batman Begins isn’t really about Bruce Wayne growing into Batman. He shows back up into Gotham and he is Batman. Fully formed. Like Athena from Zeus’ head, if Athena was covered head to toe in black body armor.
The Batman Movie I’ve Wanted
An origin story about Batman, but Bruce Wayne absolutely sucks nuts at it for a while.
I don’t mean I want to see training montages. Learning how to fight is, like, the least interesting part about becoming Batman. The man can do so much more than punch dudes and scowl. He’s a great driver, that didn’t just happen. He’s got some sick parkour skills, that’s hours of training right there. And he’s supposed to be a great detective! You don’t get bit by a radioactive spider and decide to sleep it off because you’re broke with no health insurance and wake up the next morning the best detective in the world! Fuck no, you have to earn that shit.
That’s the stuff I wanted to see. Bruce Wayne earning the title of Batman. Working through the kinks. Actually learning about the criminal element in Gotham from people who know. Make mistakes. Get his ass kicked. Have one of his gadgets fuck up because it hasn’t been properly beta-tested.
Ten movies later, I finally got it.
This latest movie plays out almost like a sequel. This first missing movie would be the actual origin story. Bruce Wayne loses his parents at a young age, gets raised by Alfred Pennyworth, decides to become a vigilante, blah blah blah, we’ve all seen it. It leads into this movie, which is so, so much more interesting.
Bruce has only been Batman for a year or two. Everyone in Gotham knows him, but they’re not really sure what he’s about (except Gordon, who is fully onboard to the point of already setting up and running the Bat Signal). The movie opens with Batman saving a man from a vicious beating at the hands of some street ruffians, but then the man begs Batman not to hurt him, too, because at this point all Batman is known for is violence.
No, wait, wrong V word. Vengeance. He’s known for vengeance. A cop who otherwise does not interact with Batman in this movie sarcastically calls him “Mr. Vengeance,” telling us that Batman’s ‘I am vengeance’ line that he gives to the ruffians before tossing them around like so many sacks of rice is something he tells every ruffian, goon, and dweeb. Not only does he not fully understand what Batman could and should be, he can’t even think of another line.
He fucks up. A lot. He’s a good detective, but not a great one. He has to fiddle with his contact lens camera to get a good signal from Selena. The absolute best is when he escapes from the GCPD, hesitates at the roof before jumping off because he still has a healthy fear of heights, and then after a fairly-successful glide in his wing suit pulls his parachute at the exact wrong time and takes an entire overpass to the face. And then has to look around to make sure no one noticed before hobbling back to the shadows. This is immediately after he let a bomb blow up directly in front of him, which is how he ended up in the cop shop in the first place.
Bruce Wayne doesn’t fully suck as Batman in this movie. In fact, he’s pretty good. But he’s still got a lot of kinks to work out.
In retrospect, I fully hated Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne. Again, he’s playing Bruce at the beginning of his cowled-vigilante journey, and yet he plays him with such confidence. Like becoming the night is so fucking easy. There’s barely a hint of hesitation, never a single question of whether he’ll be able to pull off what he’s doing. He’s fucking smug about it.
Meanwhile, Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne is fully fucked up. He’s not a man, he’s several mental health issues standing on top of one another in a trench coat. When he’s out of the costume he can barely make eye contact, for fuck’s sake.
He’s so bad at playing Bruce Wayne the way he needs to. At some point in the past year he’s completely checked out. Doesn’t give a shit about Wayne Enterprises and hasn’t realized that at least pretending to will be to his benefit. He’s not there yet. For the first interpretation of Bruce Wayne that doesn’t show the death of his parents at all, he’s the most affected by it.
When he is Batman, what drives him isn’t so much confidence as it is grim fucking determination. It’s clear he’s doing this because he literally doesn’t see any other way forward, for him or the city. He’s hilariously awkward about it (fucking knocking on the front door of the Iceberg Lounge and dealing with the bouncers to be let in?? In his full Batman getup?? I’m still processing how hilarious this moment was) and while obviously better at human interaction when able to hide behind the mask he still isn’t very good at it, mostly just staring at the people trying to talk to him until they get too intimidated and give up. The only reason he’s so good with Jim Gordon is because, for whatever unfathomable reason, at some point before this movie Batman became Gordon’s ride or die.
This is My Favorite Batman Movie
Yeah, so, low bar to clear in the first place because I’m not really much of a Batman fan and most of the others are hot garbage for one reason or another. The only other really good one is The Dark Knight and while I think that movie is still a banger, The Batman is simply more fun to watch. The Tumbler may have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and been able to do flips and shit or whatever, but The Batman’s Batmobile was a fucking Dodge Charger with a jet engine mounted on the back and it fucking growled so loud my ears hurt afterward. The difference between a ‘grown up’ Batmobile, and a fun one.
I’m excited to see if they make another one of these, unless it includes the Joker. Y’all, I cannot express to you how over the Joker as a character I am, and I will be especially unhappy if he’s played by fucking Druig.