The Batman (2022) Spoilers Ahead
The Batman is everything a superhero film should be. It’s gritty, stylistic, and most importantly, there’s an intrinsic balance between the action and quiet moments, which Matt Reeves masters superbly through this adaptation.
Starring Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Andy Serkis, Paul Dano, Colin Farrell, Jeffrey Wright, and more, The Batman dives deep into the heart of Gotham and its civilians. It approaches the film through a social commentary lens, which meticulously establishes The Riddler’s role as a villain and precisely how someone like him can rouse followers against government officials. Reeves also gives viewers a long-awaited look into Batman as a detective, bringing layers from the comics that films often don’t explore.
And these are the very layers that play into Batman’s inner battles as he wrestles between who he wants to be to honor his family’s legacy and how he could potentially clean up this city. In that same sense, as a city, while Gotham has always felt like a character, through this adaptation and the role of the caped crusader as a detective allows us to dig into the messier parts in a way that personifies it that much more. Simultaneously, it effortlessly nudges us to feel the floodgates of emotions and tantalizing fears more closely, submerging us deep into our hero’s heart and those who stand beside him.
There’s something far more relatable in Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne than any of the former ones, which includes my personal favorite, Christian Bale’s. Behind every scarred cape crusader is still an orphaned boy who’s consistently breaking from it all. And Pattinson shows us those rougher edges with his inability to grapple with his demons and the overwhelming fears that threaten to govern.
And fear is the crux of Bruce Wayne’s characterization that’s easily stood out. For a man who walks around calling himself “vengeance,” it’s refreshing to once again see his vulnerabilities come to the surface. And this is precisely why his quiet moment with Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis) is the most gut-wrenching in a film full of sinister, cruel murders. Because for a brief instant, Bruce Wayne isn’t a hero or a vigilante; he’s but a mere boy, looking into the eyes of a man, telling him that he’s afraid of yet another loss, and there’s no emotion more tremendously taxing than the fears that grief can instill.
It doesn’t matter how young a person is when the loss occurs, the trauma follows regardless, manifesting itself differently for all of us, but it’s a weight we carry, no less. And he says it best towards the end of the film: “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.”
The fascinating thing about scars is that they’re a permanent part of our physical beings—even removals of scars can only go so far. And perhaps the same goes for grief, and the fears born by virtue of the lingering pain humans could never truly be free from. Because the truth is, you never stop missing people who’ve died, and therefore, you never really stop hurting. You learn how to mask the pain, one foot in front of the other, until something stops you in your tracks, forcing you to confront the terrors that quietly linger if someone’s home too late. Thus, seeing The Batman address this colossal fear and do so with such organic vulnerability between Bruce and Alfred was remarkable.
Pattinson and Serkis played off one another with a type of sincerity that bled off the screen—it was evocative, it was harrowing, and even if you weren’t having a visceral reaction to it because of your own grief, it’s still a scene powerful enough to emote. There’s a plethora Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne is dealing with, and trust isn’t easy to come by, but this is a start that’s critical to his development as both a man and the hero he becomes. Acknowledging Alfred’s place in his life, learning from him, and appreciating him is part of the strength that Batman carries—the belief in another human being for whom love and trust is given freely.
The same can be said for the vulnerability he allows himself to show in front of Selina Kyle. In the quiet moments of allowing her hand to brush his face, his decision to apologize when he’s wrong, and the sheer compassion he harbors give us plenty of insight into his willingness to endure. Bruce and Selina are both capable of feeling profoundly, but life forces them to seclusion, darkness, and tireless pain. And in those quiet moments where we see the two of them, we see the healing potential. There’s a moment where they merely breathe in unison, resulting in a scene that deserves thousands of words—the passing of strength and the vulnerability it entails is vehemently overwhelming as we watch two people find a kind of solace they never thought possible.
The Batman gives us great love stories within a story of self-discovery through various characters and the city itself. It takes us closer to excavating the rougher edges of Bruce Wayne’s scars as we learn about his desires right alongside him. Both he and Selina Kyle are our eyes and ears into the world through a refreshing, profoundly emotional lens. It’s a vulnerable look into harrowing fears that touches on superhero strength through an unmatched sincerity hidden beyond the depths of a mask.