By Tanwin Tanoto

“I‘m Vengeance” … That is how the Batman introduces himself in the latest iteration of this iconic comic book character. The Batman is not your typical superhero movie, it is closer to a modern noir detective murder mystery than a comic book movie.

The story revolves around the Riddler, a serial killer who murders key political figures in the city of Gotham. The Batman, together with (not-yet Commissioner) Jim Gordon, try to solve the clues and puzzles that the Riddler leaves behind in each murder scene. The plot line has a heavy Se7en (1995) vibe – which I love.

I am dividing this review into two parts: (1) General spoiler-free review and (2) Spoiler-filled analysis at the end. So, if you want to avoid spoilers, don’t read the last section until you have watched it. You have been warned!

Things I Love

Image: ‘The Batman’, directed by Matt Reeves

The cinematography and the music. While most of the movie is shot in the dark with only some basic colours being used in the movie, the cinematography is excellent. The movie embraces the dark not only as a plot tool but it becomes the character itself (you will see at the analysis at the end how it impacts the ending). You can see some of the influence of Tim Burton’s Batman here.

The villains. A story is only as good as the villains. With the Riddler, the Penguin, and Catwoman, you might think that this movie might be too crowded with that many characters. But I found that all the villains are great. Their character developments are never rushed and they tell their own story. Colin Farrell and Paul Dano were excellent!

The Batman. I have seen many Batmans in my lifetime. The best ‘Batmans’ in my opinion are not the one that is battling villains, but the ones that are battling their inner-self. While this Batman is not as fleshed out as Christopher Nolan’s Batman, I can see the inner-battle of Bruce Wayne/Batman dynamic. With Nolan’s Batman, Bruce Wayne is struggling to be Batman, in Reeves’ version, the Batman is the true self.

Things I Don’t Like

The length. The movie is 3 hours long, so go easy on the drink. While it is long and it feels long, I am struggling to find unnecessary scenes. The last act feels like a drag because I was already tired by then. While watching this, I kept having the sense of this-must-be-the-ending feeling 3 or 4 times!

The Themes (SPOILER)

There are many themes in this movie, I’ll just highlight some of them.

Vengeance to Hope

He started as Vengeance. In fact, you hear people call him by that name more than “Batman”. But throughout the movie, Batman is struggling whether what he is doing bring any change. In the two years since he has become the Batman, crimes are rising and more people were murdered. In fact, the Riddler was inspired by what the Batman is doing. So, the Batman, trying to fix Gotham’s problem with vengeance, actually created an even bigger problem. Batman uses fear to save Gotham and the Riddler uses fear to uncover and destroy it.

Through a series of events, at the end of the movie, the Batman realises that he needs to be more than vengeance. He needs to be the beacon of hope. This is visually represented by him reaching out to the people trapped under the stage. While everyone does not trust him, the little boy (the son of the Riddler’s first victim) grabs his hand first then everyone follows. This is also an image of redemption for the newly orphaned boy. Bruce Wayne was orphaned and alone but he had money, so he becomes the Batman. The Riddler was orphaned, alone, and poor, so he becomes the Riddler. By reaching out, the Batman is reconciling with his past while giving a future to this boy.

“Vengeance won’t change the past.” – Batman

Darkness to Light

“They think I am hiding in the shadows. Watching. Waiting to strike, but I am the shadows.” – Batman

As I mentioned, this is a dark movie. Most scenes were shot at night or in the dark. You can notice that Bruce Wayne has to squint his eyes when Alfred has the window open. He is not used to light because he is the shadows. 

The last scene, however, is a stark contrast to the rest of the movie. The movie ends with a sunrise – visualising the rise of the Batman from darkness to light, from vengeance to hope. It also ends with the scene of the city being rebuilt. The rebuilding does not only happen in the city, but also in the character of Batman. Knowing that fear and vengeance can never save the city, he needs to be something else. The Bat symbol that Gordon uses to call the Batman has transformed from a call for Batman and a warning to the criminals, to a beacon of hope.

“Our scars can destroy us, even after the physical wounds have healed. But if we survive them, they can transform us. They can give us the power to endure and the strength to fight.” – Batman

 

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