Directed by Matt Reeves ◆ Written by Matt Reeves and Peter Craig ◆ Produced by DC Films ◆ Distributed by Warner Bros.
As I noted regarding The Dark Knight in 2008, it’s strange that films based on comic books should be disseminated as if they were serious works of art. There’s no question that the director of the Dark Knight trilogy, Christopher Nolan, expected his audience to take the films with high seriousness. Yet they were based on a comic book aimed at children. I had been a Batman fan as a child, but to see it revered as solemnly as though it were a latter-day work of Shakespeare seemed odd, to say the least.
Now we have another instance of the same deadly serious phenomenon, this time with Robert Pattinson wearing the cowl. Stranger still, is that this action film has little excitement in it. Presumably that would get in the way of the film’s political theme, which is unmistakably left-wing. The Batman asks its audience to believe the world would be a better place if the have-nots took by force from the haves in order to make a more equitable society.
If taking from the haves doesn’t fix matters, then the have-nots should be given leave to eliminate them. Class war, in other words, and yes, if the have-nots find it necessary to remove obstacles, such as the police, for example, then so be it.
Keep in mind, this sage advice comes from a comic book. Does a film derived from such a source have the right to become so dark?
And I don’t mean just thematically. I saw the film at two different theaters under the impression that the projector was out of kilter at the first. Nevertheless, at both showings, what was on the screen was so literally dark that its visuals were often barely discernible. The audio on the sound track suffers a similar issue: it was so blurred and heavy that often the dialogue sounded garbled. Why had the producers allowed this to happen? Was it a stylistic gesture that reflected their anticapitalist agenda? This would indeed be strange given that this film, and the Batman creative license, were made to make money—lots of it.
Batman derives from a comic book supposedly created by Bob Kane, who, by the way, didn’t write or draw any of the stories but nevertheless wangled things so that he got the credit rather than the caped crusader’s real creator, Bill Finger. Kane was the perfect capitalist. He expended the least capital possible in order to get the most profit. Strange, then, that in this latest version, Batman is a kind of violent Robin Hood, ripping the wealth from the rich and even killing some of them when deemed necessary.
I wonder how many parents would sign on to this material were they at all aware of the ideas it promulgates. That, and the film’s sexual content, which involves a fairly obvious lesbian romance between Catwoman and her female buddy. I was shocked that DC studios would display such material to an audience that includes children. Yet few seem to be complaining. I suppose contemporary audiences have owing to frequent exposure become inured to such material.
What troubles me almost as much is the film’s lack of entertainment value. It’s slow and ponderous, with a plot that makes little sense. A criminal named the Penguin seems to run a night club whose habitués indulge in a cocaine-like substance. He’s intent on destroying his competitors and is untroubled by law enforcement, though he and his cohorts do suffer repetitive beatings under the fists of the Batman. What drives our hero’s ferocity? The film doesn’t explain.
Yes, his murdered parents have a lot to do with it, but late in the story, we discover that they themselves were implicated in their own respective demises. It turns out that the plot hangs from a series of misunderstandings that are never sufficiently clarified, and we’re left questioning the writer’s purposes at every turn. It’s a muddled, unprofessional piece of work that doesn’t bother to clean up the messes it makes.
Robert Pattinson is a morbidly uninterested and loftily uninteresting Batman who seems so sluggish as to be entirely inept as a crime fighter. I recommend you save your money and stay home with the kids. There’s always reruns of Buster Crabbe’s Flash Gordon, with Charles B. Middleton as Ming the Merciless.
Robert Pattinson as Batman (Warner Bros.)