Robert Pattinson crushes new role as Batman, adaptation incorporates current cultural anxieties

Illustration by Amelia Madarang

My roommate and I love to watch movies that we can brutally roast and reference out of context. So, over winter break, we dutifully watched all of Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies and all of the entire “Twilight” saga starring Robert Pattinson. This was all in preparation for the March 4 release of “The Batman” in theaters. 

“The Batman” director Matt Reeves is best known for his work “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (2014) and “War for the Planet of the Apes” (2017). Whereas Pattinson grew to notoriety from the aforementioned “Twilight” saga and has starred in smaller projects like “Robert Pattinson Desperately Needs a New York City Hot Dog.” He has only recently come back to big-budget movies with the release of Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” (2020). Reeves and his choice of Pattinson were received skeptically by fans, but some were excited about the return of a darker, grittier Batman.

The movie trailer advertised that Batman would be challenging  his classic nemesis the Riddler, a vicious criminal who leaves clues and ciphers for the police to solve. The trailer showed a darker version of both the Riddler (who is reminiscent of the Zodiac Killer) and Batman himself, who is shown beating a man for what is maybe too long before saying “I’m Vengeance.” 

Now, fair warning, the rest of this article will contain spoilers for “The Batman.”

Those familiar with the DC Universe know that the story of Batman is pretty formulaic. A young Bruce Wayne loses his parents in Gotham City, which ultimately led him to craft the Batman persona and seek justice against criminals. He has a lot of money, a butler named Alfred and a set of strict rules he created and which he abides by.

“The Batman” stays true to all of these tropes but turns away from the “Bruce Wayne and his secret identity” storyline. When this movie starts, Batman is already established, so we do not focus on his origin story. Unlike Nolan’s playboy philanthropist Batman, Reeves writes a Batman that is socially awkward and takes lots of beatings. It is more of a crime-fighting, detective version of the masked vigilante.

The movie plays on a lot of the anxieties of our current time. There are widespread systems of corruption within the police and local government. “Rich white men” are mentioned a few times as being able to get away with anything that they want. The corruptions also lead to infrastructure problems that later result in levies breaking and Gotham flooding. A nod to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina? Who is to say?

There are also references to other true crime events. The Zodiac Killer’s riddles and ciphers are emulated, as well as the “collar bomb” from the death of Brian Wells and the Unabomber’s mail bombs. Like Elliott Rodgers and many other mass murders, the Riddler live streams his killings, posts videos and creates a community online of like minded people, who form an armed militia and disrupt the mayoral election. These events all show the dark and gritty realities Batman is now dealing with.

Now this movie did have its faults. I thought people were joking when they said it was a three-hour movie. It was not a joke. There were a few moments when I thought the movie was going to end, but it kept going. I also thought Batman was going to die a few times, but he kept going. I felt like there should have been more women, and there were a lot of deus ex machina tropes. However, these are all the normal action movie complaints. 

“The Batman” has a lot of the quality we expect from superhero movies. There is a good score, fantastic fight scenes, fun redesigns of classic Batman gadgets and a few good twists in the plotline. If you do not like Batman or action movies this might not be for you. But for Batman fans? I have heard a few people say that Pattinson can not be their Batman, but honestly, I think this movie is worth giving a try. 

Also, if you are a fan of puzzles make sure to stick around for the end credit scene. Full disclosure, I did not and I live with regret.

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