The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves, is dark—literally. Heavy rain and nightfall cover nearly every minute of the three-hour-long movie in the newest adaptation of the famed vigilante.
The film follows Batman (Robert Pattinson) and Selina Kyle (Catwoman, Zoë Kravitz). The Batman hunts down the Riddler (Paul Dano), following gruesome murders that include puzzles and riddles. He’s joined by Catwoman and Commissioner Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) at various points in the story, which many have drawn comparisons to noir detective movies.
Review: Entertaining, but lacking character (and long)
The characters are two-dimensional and void of development throughout the movie. Robert Pattinson’s depiction of Batman feels flatly sullen, and each character seems to exist in service to the plot. The ending is long and drawn out, adding far too much time to its already marathon-like length. The whole movie is gritty and dark, and it doesn’t let up for a second. Not a single line is humorous.
In spite of these shortcomings, the plot is complex and interesting. The Batman‘s cinematography and depiction of Gotham city are absolutely stunning. Enough eye candy flows from the screen for enjoyable viewing, even if it sometimes lacks substance. The Batmobile alone is worth the price of admission.
While you may not feel connected to Pattinson’s moody portrayal of a young, inexperienced, year-two Batman, you will enjoy watching him act as a sharp detective and fighter.
The movie opens with a harsh-voiced narration that reveals Batman’s central motivation in the movie: “I am vengeance.” He has devoted his life to bringing vengeance against the city of criminals that killed his parents. Despite his vigilantism, Gotham remains corrupt from the low-life criminals all the way to the highest officials, and that corruption is a main theme of the movie.
Enter the Riddler, who tantalizingly leads Batman and crew along with puzzles and riddles as he murders. He and several other villains create a crescendo to the movie as Batman uncovers new murders and works through unexpected twists and turns.
Although it’s repetitive and long, The Batman is immensely entertaining overall.
The Batman parental advisory
The Batman is PG-13, and the movie explores dark themes and depicts gruesome deaths. Drug addiction is discussed.
Thankfully, the film stays clear of explicit sex scenes or nudity, although it explores sexual harassment and abuse by the powerful.
All that to say, we recommend discretion and discernment.
Is corruption everywhere? (Spoilers)
One point of reflection in the movie is on the theme of corruption. We watch different characters handle the misuse of power. The Riddler kills the corrupt, Batman beats up the corrupt, Catwoman uses the corrupt, Gordon tries to arrest the corrupt, but most simply become corrupt.
The movie reflects a pervasive cultural sentiment of the younger generation: thorough distrust of all institutions and leaders. Around 7 percent of Gen Z put “a lot” of trust in people of positions of power and 43 percent put “some” trust in them. Those numbers continue to decline.
In the movie, important lawyers, political officials, rich businessmen, police officers, and everyone of importance go to the “Iceberg” nightclub run by the Penguin (Colin Farrell). In the raging club, we see the District Attorney high on the same drugs that he prosecutes criminals for and off-duty policemen protecting crime bosses. While Gotham is always corrupt in Batman retellings, this movie places special emphasis on it.
In some ways, it reflects the idea of a post-truth cultural worldview. The good guys are really just as bad as the bad guys. And more often than not, the bad guys (like Catwoman) are actually just trying to make it by.
While the movie picks up on the culture’s ultra-focus on cynicism, it provides a more in-depth look than one might expect. There are some characters with good qualities.
The gray area of morality?
In Batman stories, Bruce’s father Thomas Wayne is always depicted as pure and incorruptible, a true hero for Gotham. However, in The Batman, Bruce Wayne comes to believe that his own father had a journalist killed to cover up his mother’s mental illness during a mayoral campaign. Thomas Wayne told a crime boss to “get rid of” the journalist.
When Batman confronts Alfred (Andy Serkis), Alfred tells another story. In his account, Thomas Wayne “made a mistake” and was trying to protect his wife, not save his image. Wayne never intended to have the journalist killed but wanted him bribed. He felt guilty about asking for help from the crime boss up until his death.
Two interpretations of one leader’s failing come into view. One is more cynical: everyone is corrupt and evil, even Thomas Wayne, and justice is impossible. The other holds that some men are good, though everyone is imperfect. This would mean Batman can move forward knowing that everyone with power makes mistakes (including himself), and he can still look up to his dead father.
Batman seems to be poised at this fork in the road in the movie. The audience is on that implied path as well, creating a realistic picture of leadership and corruption.
By the end, Batman discovers that vengeance is the wrong motive, and helping those in need is far nobler. This redemption comes from a renewed faith in humanity.
Should Christians be cynical?
As Christians, we should not be naive. We must stand to watch against the wolves and false teachers (Matthew 7:15). We must be crafty as serpents while being innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16). Though cynicism is destructive to the spirit, Christians should hold a biblical view of the world. The world is fallen, broken, and in darkness.
Because of sin and an outrageous lack of accountability, moral failures continue to plague the church. More has come to light in recent years, and those failings do unthinkable damage to our witness. In the evangelical world, the sexual abuse by Ravi Zacharias that came forward after his death was just one tragic example of many.
All people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The Bible makes that clear in all of its stories. The Bible in no way whitewashes its heroes. King David, an ancestor of Jesus and the greatest ruler of Israel, committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed his friend to cover it up. This kind of failing repeats over and over in the Bible.
That is part of why I’m a Christian. The Bible doesn’t shy away from the hard truth of sin. Everyone has a point in their lives where they must “deconstruct their faith in humanity,” as my father likes to say.
That is why we desperately need Jesus. If we put our faith in people, we will be let down.
We cannot diminish the consequences of sin by saying, “Everyone sins.” God forbid we do that. And some sin has far, far greater consequences than others. Theological principles help us understand the necessity of accountability for sins.
Instead of following cynicism, however, realize that people can turn their life around and be redeemed, not because of their strength but because of the Spirit’s power.
We can defeat sin because Christ first defeated it.
While people will fail, Christ never did and he never will.