The Batman (2022)

Imagine the darkest Christopher Nolan housed in Crimson Peaks (a literal Bat Cave) and some grainy Edward Hopper cinemaphotography (only the lights are mostly turned off, apart from some very bright scenes with the Riddler). This the Bat Man of mobsters and gangs and lawlessness.

Worryingly it seems to glory in women being strangled and in violence -the ugliness of snuff movies intrudes. Equally disturbing is the racist abuse at the beginning — too close to home and recent events — the focus is on the violence, not the saving of the victim, and the fearful rescued man can’t tell rescuer from tormentor — they all look the same? The bright spots are in Andy Serkis’ humane butler/valet Alfred (more of Alfred please!) and in Bat Man’s stompy gum boots.

But perhaps The Bat Man is more gothicky crime ridden gloom and less Kerpow and Kablam! This is no frothy jokey Spiderman-esque movie. It also has about four endings — each of them superb — but every time it seems to end, it keeps on getting up and going. Part Sixth Sense and part Sherlock and part Seven, a series of horrific murderers are being committed with gory souvenirs as clues in a trail to follow and it is down to Bat Man to solve the riddles.

Some beautiful moments of cinematography, relishing the image and iconography of the rain soaked Bat Man; indeed the Bat Man’s atoning his guilt by saving young boys in peril (just as he was) — a beautiful image of him wading in a flooded conference centre with a flare to reach out, rescue and lead to safety those who are in danger of death and perishing. What does it take for a person to atone for their own family’s guilt, shame and culpability?

Cat Woman — daughter of a criminal and protector of strays, vengeful vigilante, makes us question (as does Bat Man) when does a vigilante become a terrorist or a criminal? Which vigilantes and lawbreakers should we trust? Another standout is Jeffrey Wright as the only good cop and trustworthy ally on the force — someone who genuinely wants to solve crime and bring justice; a thinker who can organise and mobilise as lots of police officers mill about apparently without purpose or point and gorged on power and corruption, which the sender of the riddles seeks to root out and expose, and judge/punish very publicly.

Some neat tricks here in terms of viewpoint — but also some worryingly Porn industry elements creeping in. This is a society which fetishes women to the endth degree. Watching The Bat Man I wondered how desensitised we are as a culture, that we need to be pushed so far to be ‘shocked’ when such very real horrors are happening in Ukraine and all over the world. Some elements are incredibly stylised — a series of rolls which would surely leave the Bat Man in a coma and with incredible damage to his brain — which he bounces back from with a battered cape and a short-term limp; a man is repeatedly smacked in the head with a blunt instrument and yet is alive enough to drive a car under duress; the 500 assailants only fire at the Bat Man one at a time!

The aerial fight is superb as spectacle and yet the Bat Man can’t die, but live to brood and mumble another day. The flooding took this film in an unexpected Poseidon adventure direction — but did allow for Commissioner Gordon’s beautiful and understated heroism. This film left me with mixed feelings — I found much of it disturbing (as perhaps I should) and as a woman, much of it was an uncomfortable watch. (I did wonder why Cat Woman had to schlep around in quite so much rubber — yes, a contrast to the Batman rubber suit? -why women were either victims or mothers/wives/’whores’?) and yet in a society shown as controlled by a lack of real law and justice, addiction to the drop, lack of respect for women; of abuse of power and position, neglect of doing the right thing and law abiding citizens of all kinds; of talk and not action — how much more does it have to say to us about reconciliation, restoration and the need for law. I hope the Mayor lives to fight to Part 2! In Cat Woman and in Commissioner Gordon, the Bat Man has found that missing ingredient — friends….

The Grungy music was a wonderful treat though and indeed the soundtrack (crooning!)! as was the fabulous Bat mobile and Robert Pattison’s sustained mumbling! The whole movie has just left me questioning the society this movie holds a mirror up to, including its thoughts on women…(although Zoe Kravitz does rock a mean pink wig and get to ride off into her own sunset)….

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