How the Batman Becomes a Popular Avenger
I knew I’d love The Batman about thirty minutes in when Robert Pattinson (as Bruce Wayne) locks eyes with the mourning son of Gotham City’s slain mayor. It’s a weighted moment, heavy with meaning but free of the excessive, drawn-out cinematic melodramatics typical of Zach Snyder’s DC takes. That Bruce’s parents were murdered when he was a child doesn’t need to be overwrought. But for an origin story probably as familiar in the West as the birth of Christ, The Batman somehow manages to imbue the account with new life.
Pattinson’s Batman isn’t a crusted-over vigilante, beating up criminals out of calcified anger á la Batfleck. His parents’ death is still an open emotional wound. One he lives with. The tragedy doesn’t fuel him; it preys on him.
And that is what makes The Batman a far more personal film than any recent big-screen offerings. Yes, the city needs to be saved from the Riddler. (It isn’t.) But, more importantly, Batman himself needs to be saved from the web of deceit that enwreathes Gotham and the Wayne family name.
In Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (of which I’m a huge fan), Batman is waylaid — his hand seemingly forced — by the lies deemed necessary to save Gotham. In Batman vs. Superman, the Dark Knight is brought low in Lex Luthor’s twisted mission to kill a god. But in Matt Reeves’ slow tourniquet of a film, the frayed vigilante remains above the moral (or immoral?) fray. He’s always on the edges of things, not merely brooding and biding his time, but considering: What is justice? What is truth?