I’m very excited for this assignment! I really like the DS 106 assignments, there’s a lot of variety and a lot of unique assignments to get done. Me personally, I’m more drawn towards the writing assignments, specifically the ones that focus around reviewing or critiquing media, like this one about reviewing movies, or this one about reviewing games. If all else goes well, I would love to ideally build a career out of reviewing games and movies.
After all, I talk people’s ear off about this stuff anyways, might as well get paid for it, right?
So, I’ve decided that I’m going to do the first assignment I linked, about reviewing movies, and do a review about one of the movies that I loved last year:
The Batman: An Ode to the Dark Knight.
When it comes to movies, Batman’s greatest nemesis isn’t the Joker or Bane, it’s the writer’s ego. Everyone thinks they know Batman, to the point where they never really decide to do any research, because they get Batman already. Everyone knows the story, right?– Rich kid watches his parents get shot in a darkened alley, and decides to work through that trauma by beating up criminals at night dressed in spandex. They all get the basics of Batman, and because they get it, they treat it with a level of contempt that we all harbor for that which we are intimately familiar with. They don’t bother reading into the character’s history, or the numerous re-imaginings and reboots throughout the years. They never take the time to get to know the side characters who are just as integral to the Batman mythos as the caped crusader himself– The Robins, the Villains, the darkened streets of Gotham itself, and as a result they all fundamentally fail to capture the essence of the character.
Every Batman movie prior to this has fallen prey to this contempt: Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman and 1992 Batman Returns is egregious in it’s reimagining of the character. The very substance of what makes Batman Batman is thrown aside to fit Burton’s lackadaisical style-over-substance form of film-making.
Christopher Nolan’s critically-acclaimed Dark Knight Trilogy also falls prey to this. Though the acting is tremendous, with world-class performances from Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow, Heath Ledger’s Joker, and Tom Hardy’s Bane, the character of Batman becomes a side-character in his own story. We are supposed to believe that these villains are dark mirrors to the Batman, but the lack of care and effort put into the very development of Bruce Wayne from movie to movie just fails to sell that idea.
And last but not least, Zack Snyder’s Batman vs Superman. Ugh.
Intellectually shallow and aesthetically vain, Zack Snyder fundamentally misunderstands Batman, and the sanctity of his no-kill rule, removing all the complexities of the character in service of mindless action. I could fill multiple essays with how much I despise Snyder’s style, and his butchering of every comic adaptation he’s ever done, but this is not the time nor place.
All of this is to say, that while these movies do have their merits and most are perfectly serviceable, they fail to understand Batman as a character and have no respect for the source material they are adapting.
Which brings me now to what is, in my opinion, the best movie of 2022 and the first Batman movie I’ve ever seen which finally got it right: Matt Reeve’s The Batman
Matt Reeves does what none of the other directors have done before: Research. Though his rendition of the Batman is by and large unlike any version of Batman from the comics, there is an obvious reverence to the source material that had been lacking from movie adaptations for decades.
Let’s begin with Batman himself. We see a Batman very early on in his career, only two years in. He is angry, vindictive, futilely attempting to punish the criminals of Gotham for taking his parents from him, all those years ago. He cares little for himself, risking his life to mete out violence.
Unlike the Batman of Zack Snyder’s run, this is shown to be wrong. The violence is not meant to be a glorified spectacle, it serves to show this Batman to be a man so blinded by his zealous pursuit of vengeance, that he foolishly risks his life for no gain.
Throughout the movie, as the mystery unfolds (I won’t spoil any details, as I want anyone who hasn’t gotten the opportunity to see the movie to do so.), we get to see Batman be a detective, slowly untangling a conspiracy in the vividly dark neo-noir fashion of the 80s-90s era of the caped crusader.
And, above all else, we get to see Batman be a hero. The emotional climax of this movie isn’t the spectacle and bloodshed, but Batman reaching out his hand to help someone in need, and protect them from danger. It is him learning to put his need for vengeance aside in order to truly save the city and the people he cares for.
Overall, Matt Reeve’s adaptation of Batman is one of the best ever put on screen, and a wonderful homage to the comics from which it gathers it’s inspirations. It gets many things right, and is a gripping narrative that keeps you guessing all the way until the credits. 10/10.