Is “The Batman” 2022 a mistake?
We all love a good superhero story. Perhaps it’s the ultimate escapist fantasy. A (mostly caped) crusader/vigilante with superhuman physique. With the mental abilities that save helpless citizenry from an evil nemesis. Countless superheroes from the Marvel and DC universes have come and gone over the decades. However, very few have had the cultural impact of the dark knight from Gotham, Batman—The Batman 2022 movie or not.
The beauty of the superhero genre is that the creative possibilities are limitless. It allows the subversive genius of a Frank Miller or Stan Lee to innovate without inhibition. Superman, Batman’s DC counterpart and the comic book world’s first superhero, is a prime example of this.
Superman was born on another planet, where he was not “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap in a single bound” (you know the spiel); his human manifestation in Clark Kent is conventional: An All-American, heterosexual white (albeit slightly awkward) male. As Superman, he unironically wears flamboyantly-colored tights and a cape. They created Superman in the 1930s. He's ideal, as the name “Superman” suggests—the picture-perfect white picket fence citizen and a faultless alpha superhero.
As a kid, I remember watching Christopher Reeve’s Superman flying so fast around the earth that he turned back time to save Louis Lane. Debatable physics aside, the Superman brand did not age particularly well. Despite DC’s attempts to make the new Superman films “dark,” modern onscreen adaptions just haven't worked; his suit was just too cheery and skintight, his powers too lofty and unattainable.
Batman (and Bruce Wayne), on the other hand, is deeply flawed. He has no superpowers other than having an arsenal of high-tech gadgetry, an advanced knowledge of martial arts and a cool car. Bruce Wayne may be a billionaire, but in terms of comic book universes, accumulating wealth is far more attainable than developing a superpower. Batman ultimately is just a man and is hence relatable. Bruce Wayne, despite coming from obscene wealth, has moreover had a troubled past. As a sheltered and vulnerable child, he witnessed his parents being viciously murdered. He grew up an orphan and overcame devastating adversity to become Batman. But despite his childhood trauma, as a crime-fighting vigilante, he commendably follows a strict code of ethics.
Batman is an inherently dark character, which makes it easily adaptable to modern versions (be it on film, graphic novel, or video games). We are intrigued by darkness, grit, and imperfection, and Batman’s pop culture durability is a testament to this. Gotham City is sinister with pervasively gloomy skies; Arkham is wretched.
Despite a history of questionable casting choices in Batman’s onscreen history (most recently Ben Affleck, but George Clooney, Val Kilmer, and Adam West did not exactly have critically-acclaimed performances), the mystique of Batman does not fade. Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale’s trilogy understood what they were working with (as did Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix with the Joker)—that because Batman’s universe is intrinsically dark, it could be taken seriously by adults through disciplined acting and creative storytelling, and not reduced to some zany superhero flick. We hope Robert Pattison does the character justice in Batman 2022 (no pun intended), but regardless, it seems Batman is here indefinitely.
Words Art Vandelay
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver