In 2016, things started going wrong. I’m talking, of course, about ‘Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice’. Even the title makes me gag. It was supposed to be the movie event of the decade, and I’m not sure I’ve ever looked forward to any film - or hyped up any film - as much as I did Batman V Superman before its release. But then early reactions started leaking. And they were… bad. Then the critic’s reviews came out. And they were worse.
29% on Rotten Tomatoes.. 44% on Metacritic. The film was a bomb. A stinker. A bad movie. How could this be, I wondered. They must be wrong, I protested.
Batman V Superman was probably the most disappointing, frustrating mess I’d ever seen. They got all the hard parts right - a great cast, fantastic visuals, awesome costumes, a phenomenal soundtrack, great moments ripped straight from the comic pages - and all the easy parts wrong - story, dialogue, pacing, editing, well… basically everything else.
This film managed to take two of my favourite comic book characters and make me not care about either of them. What could have been a David and Goliath story for a new age, instead became a two and a half hour cringe fest that I wish had never happened.
The punishment kept coming. Suicide Squad. Aquaman. Justice League. Sub-par film after sub-par film. Neither myself or my DC-loving best friend even watched Justice League, such was the damage and lack-of-faith wreaked by the onslaught of mediocre films. It became clear - the Nolan trilogy was just a fluke. At least we could enjoy Marvel films, which could even make stories of a talking racoon and a treeman relatable, engrossing and fun.
So when it was announced that YET ANOTHER Batman reboot was coming, I just ignored it.
But I’m always a sucker for a good trailer, and from the moment I heard the sultry tones of Nirvana’s ‘Something In The Way’ combined with Robert Pattinson beating the absolute snot out of some random thug, I began slowly and cautiously clambering back on the hype train. A few weeks before release, my anticipation once again reached fever-pitch heights I thought were no longer possible. The tone. The darkness. The story. It was exactly what I wanted. Exactly the Batman I wanted.
As much as I loved the Nolan films, Christian Bale was not really Batman. He was just a realistic version of what Batman might be if he were real. The Tim Burton films are classics, but Michael Keaton is not really Batman. He was a caricature to sell toys, with some truly dorky lines (“You wanna get nuts!? Come on… let’s get nuts!”). He kills people outright in the opening scene for crying out loud. Good films, but not good Batman. They are all films that relied on their villains, with Batman’s light only shining bright due to their darkness.
The Batman is aptly named. It is the first film we’ve had where we see THE Batman. A great detective. A brutal monster. A broken soul. I absolutely adored every moment of it’s insane three hour long runtime. It’s a fantastic movie that might not be the best Batman FILM, but it’s the best BATMAN film. I have never felt so close to Gotham’s dingy, crime infested streets.
What has been fascinating to me is that some of the reaction has been polarising. I’ve seen comments ranging from ‘masterpiece’ to ‘worst batman film ever’, and I think much of this has to do with people’s personal interpretation of Batman. With a character created over 80 years ago, there has been plenty of room for different iterations, from the campy Adam West days, to the colourful Keaton days, to the cringey bat-nipple days, to the hyper grounded Bale days. Everyone has their favourite. Everyone will have ‘their Batman’. But for me, Batman has always been best represented outside of film. In the comics, the cartoons, and the excellent Arkham games. We’ve not seen this batman in movies until now. For those not used to the source material, witnessing the real deal might be jarring.
He’s only in his second year. His rage is uncontrolled, and he makes mistakes. ‘Bruce Wayne’ is not yet a mask he has learned to wear. For Batman, Bruce was the part of himself that let his parents die, powerless to stop it. Batman is more than just ‘vengeance’, he is a persona developed to protect Bruce. Strong. Cunning. Invulnerable. A monster forged from shadows to fight monsters, and perhaps the biggest tragedy of Batman is that by doing so, he creates monsters of his own. Wide grinning, winged, elemental terrors. ‘The Batman’ encapsulates this perfectly, and despite all its darkness and brooding, brings a small ray of hope. Something I think we all need right now.
And for the first time in seven years… I can’t wait to see more.