Hope Makes a Hero

Why The Batman’s cast and characters, refreshing takes, and social commentary make it deserving of all the positive reviews


Courtesy of @thebatman on Instagram

“I am vengeance,” the Batman tells a street gang as he is introduced in the beginning of the film. A line restated numerous times in trailers is one of the main themes of this movie, with a twist. Released on Mar. 4, The Batman is a standalone Batman film, starring Robert Pattinson as Batman and directed by Matt Reeves. Despite the movie having all of your standard Batman content, like the Bat-signal and Alfred, it feels very different from any other Batman or superhero film I’ve seen. 

At times, it feels like a horror movie with slasher film aspects. The dark, dirty feel of Gotham gives us the grimmest, grittiest adaptation of Batman ever. The Riddler’s Zodiac Killer vibe is creepy, and a lot of the content is certainly for more mature audiences.

Micheal Giacchino’s soundtrack is eerie and effective. Often, the horror movie and the mystery thriller vibes are switched and introduced by the score. Additionally,“Something in the Way” by Nirvana—that plays over Pattison’s narration at the beginning and end of the film—brings the tragic feel that Batman should have.  

There is a legitimate case to be made for The Batman as the greatest Batman film, possibly even the greatest comic book film of all time. However, that is up for you to decide as individual viewers. I could not speak highly enough of this movie; I have seen it three times. It’s my favorite comic book movie, and certainly one of my favorite films ever.  What there is no debate on is this: The Batman is a masterpiece. 


SPOILERS AHEAD. This is not just a call, it’s a warning. 


The Cast

This cast is immaculate. Every actor is nearly perfect for the role they are given, embodying the essence of each character and excellently portraying them in this adaptation. They all add a new twist to the characters, providing new depth and dimension. 

Although Robert Pattinson got mixed reactions early on, he was an incredible choice for Batman. He is easily my favorite caped crusader on film, nailing the voice, donning the suit so well and really getting down what it means to be Gotham’s vigilante. As for Bruce Wayne… more on that later. 

The rest of the cast is the same. Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman is an instant classic. Her smooth, charismatic presence on screen is a delight to watch, easily making her the best on-screen Catwoman ever. Colin Farrel, who’s almost unrecognizable with all the makeup—delivers an incredible rendition of Penguin. The comic relief he provides at times is great, and oh my, that car chase…

Jeffrey Wright as James Gordon and Andy Serkis as Alfred are fantastic choices as well. Both of these characters have a lot of history, and these actors certainly do it justice. Both have fantastic chemistry with Battinson, and their back and forth give some awesome moments and build real character. 

Finally, it’s the villain: Paul Dano as Riddler. Both masked and unmasked, Dano does so well encapsulating the essence of the role. This is definitely a new take on Riddler, but one I quite enjoyed, and one that I thought was the perfect villain for this Batman. He is modernized; gone is the goofy spandex costume, and in is this terrorist, killer look. 


Who is The Batman? 

Two years into his career as Batman, this movie follows Pattison’s dark knight as he tries to discover who he is as a person and a hero. This Batman is not perfect; he often trips, makes errors and is steps behind the Riddler. There is growth to his character, however. Early on, and for much of the film, he remains convinced that he is vengeance, and that fear is the best way to operate and make change. “Fear is a tool,” he says. 

However, as the movie progresses, and especially in the third act, Batman realizes that fear does not bring change. Hearing a member of the mob of the finale restate his vengeance line, and convincing Selina (Catwoman) to not throw her life away by killing Falcone, he changes the direction of his character. 

Heroically leading the crowd out from the rubble with a flare, Batman evolves from a symbol of fear, vengeance and revenge to a symbol for hope. This is the Batman—a beacon of hope—who sees us off at the end of the film, and the Batman that Pattison’s Bruce Wayne will set out to be in the future. 

Batman’s feeling of fearing loss is heavily explored in this film. Although he fights with fear, he is tragically cursed by the fear of losing those he cares about. When talking to Alfred after he is badly wounded, this fear is ultimately revealed to the audience. Clearly the trauma of losing his parents—something which remains a mystery despite how much plot surrounds it—has seriously broken Bruce and has had its impact on the Batman. 

To address Bruce Wayne, the main complaint one could have with this movie is the lack of his presence. However, upon thinking about it, I have come to understand why that choice is made by Reeves, whether or not I agree with it. 

Batman has decided that it is unimportant to fulfill his life as Bruce. Alfred has to continue to remind him of his duties as Bruce Wayne, duties that the bat frequently brushes off. Although there are moments in which Bruce is at the forefront of the film, those are only when his family’s legacy is questioned. 

It appears that after his parents’ death, this Batman has felt that the development of his life as Bruce Wayne has been stunted, and a different person emerged. The human part of him is broken, thus the emo loner we see as Bruce. Bruce Wayne is the ‘mask’ that Batman wears in public. For better or for worse, “The Batman” lacks Bruce Wayne. 


Batman vs Riddler

The Riddler is a fantastic villain. In the opening scene of the film, it was apparent to me that I would be afraid of Riddler. This Riddler is hardcore, and emerges like a character out of Halloween. He is a terrorist, he is a muderer, but most terrifying, he is a genius.

Throughout the film, he  leads Batman to expose, or ‘unmask,’ the corruption in Gotham. He reveals how much the District Attorney and Gotham City Police Department is tied up in dirty money, and reveals Falcone is the rat in the system, killing him to set up a new age. 

A central theme in this matchup is that the Batman and the Riddler are more alike than different. He is a foil for Pattinson’s Batman. Both exist through their masks, and the people under are less real. They also both work to cleanse Gotham using fear and arguably evil tactics. 

At one point the Riddler even argues that he and Batman are a team. He is right, and this is one of the things that urges Batman to shift his message. The Riddler is a scary reminder that although the concept of making change in a flawed society may be noble, how it is gone about can ultimately be immoral. Unlike Batman, Riddler wants to destroy Gotham, not fix it. This brings me to my final talking point of the film. 


The Social Commentary 

As with any Batman film, there is a lot of social commentary.

The main, Batman-typical, commentary is that of corruption and flawed institutions. Gotham is a city filled with dirty cops and privileged politicians. However, it takes a more nuanced approach to how it makes the commentary by more so condemning how people deal with corruption. 

The Batman makes its message in the idea that hope is stronger than fear. It also makes a point of reminding viewers that although there are deep flaws in many institutions, to simply abandon them is foolish. Hope in this film is characterized by Batman and the new mayor Bella Reál (Jayme Lawson). 

As Bella Reál is celebrating her election, a violent mob inspired by the Riddler’s ‘mission’ attacks—a comment on the way that social media can produce extremists and domestic terrorists. Batman saves the mayor and others as he leads them through the water to rebuild Gotham with his flare. The flood of Gotham is symbolic: it’s a baptism, a new beginning for both the bat and his city. 

The Batman’s social commentary encourages people to protect its institutions and use them to make the world a better place. For institutions to flourish, the people must fill them with good, trustworthy, committed public servants. It warns of the dangers of corruption, but also reminds viewers that the mob-rule stirred up by social media and its aggressors (The Riddler) is no better. 


Final Notes

I love this movie, and it may be one of my favorites of all time. I love the cast and the characters. I love the new take on Riddler and Bruce Wayne. I love the dark, gritty, horror type of feel it had. I love the Batman-nostalgia it brought out in me, something that the Marvel Cinematic Universe dominated superhero genre hasn’t given me in a long time. Finally, I loved the nuanced social commentary and messages it had. This film is a reminder of what a hero should be: a symbol for hope. 


Courtesy of Warner Brothers on Youtube


Score: 9.75/10