Review by Daniel Blackaby March 4, 2022
The Batman (Christian Movie Review)
Final Verdict: A relentlessly dark tone, fresh and captivating aesthetic, and nuanced story work together for one of the best comic book movies in years.
About The Film
The Bat Signal is shining, and the Batman is driving his flame-spouting new Batmobile back into movie theaters to answer the call. I’m a simple man. I hear that a new Batman movie is coming and I get excited. Still, I had some questions. Do we really need another Batman? Will director Matt Reeves bring anything unique or fresh to the character? Can Robert Pattinson, that sparkly vampire from Twilight, play a convincing Batman? The answer to all those questions is an emphatic yes.
The Batman is one of the best comic book films in years. I’m not a big proponent of the comparison game. I prefer to evaluate a movie on its own merits rather than in contrast to other films. But I will say that while The Batman may lack some of the crowd-pleasing, high spectacle, big blockbuster rewatchability of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, it is on that same lofty level.
The film has a clear vision and identity. The Batman is unrelentingly grim, rarely punctuating its melancholy tone with humor (although Colin Farrell’s unrecognizable turn as The Penguin is good for some scene stealing moments and laughs). The dark film squeezes as much juice out of its PG-13 rating as possible, landing somewhere between The Dark Knight and 2019’s Joker. Some audiences, particularly Christian viewers, may understandably find fault with this brutal and grim identity. This version of the Batman character won’t be for everyone. However, just as not every song needs to be a catchy singalong, I do not believe every superhero film must be bright or hopeful. The Batman character has always been a compelling vehicle to explore darker themes, and The Batman succeeds in doing that.
The film is long and moody, but that is not to suggest that it is slow or lacks gripping action. A nighttime car chase scene is edge-of-the seat thrilling, with suburb sound design that makes you feel the action as much as see it. While it has its fair share of good ol’ fashioned goon-pounding, The Batman is more a phycological thriller than an action movie. It is a testament to the strength of the script and pacing that the movie maintains a near-constant level of tension despite its (overly long) three-hour runtime.
Robert Pattinson is well suited (sorry) for the role as a young, mopey, and angry Batman. He is also almost exclusively Batman, with surprisingly sparse appearances as an unmasked Bruce Wayne. In fact, he might have more screen time in the batsuit than Christopher Bale did in the entire Dark Knight Trilogy combined. This is very much a Batman story. Zoë Kravitz is also well cast as Catwoman (or is she “purrfectly” cast?), even if her involvement in the action sometimes felt too convenient. Similarly, the romantic story-beats felt abrupt and plot-driven rather than earned, but these are a fault with the script and not Kravitz’s performance. Arguably the star of The Batman is Gotham City itself. The corrupt cesspool of a city has never looked better, managing to feel grounded and believable but also wholly fantastical and dystopian.
Of note, this is also perhaps the most socially conscious Batman film. You do not need to look too long or hard to draw real-world parallels, touching on topics of conspiracy theories, racial tensions, corrupt cops, white supremacy, youth violence, toxic politics, and more. Milage may vary on whether this is a sticking point or not. While I noticed the inspirations, I was not bothered or distracted by them. These contemporary elements felt more a way to ground the fantasy in familiar realism rather than preaching any particular agenda.
In the end, separating this version of Batman from the more supernatural DCEU and allowing the movie to fully embrace its dark, more grounded identity proved to be an inspired decision. I don’t know if it’s “the best Batman movie ever made,” but it is certainly one of the most unique and fresh.
On the Surface
Profanity: 1 F-bomb, frequent other profanities, and repeated uses of Lord’s name in vain (“J— C—”, “C—”).
Sexuality: A woman is briefly shown in her underwear. A stripper is shown pole-dancing in the background of a club (she is blurry and not clearly visible). Prostitution is strongly implied. A lesbian relationship and a bi-sexual character are also clearly present, even if not directly depicted or affirmed.
Violence: Several characters are killed in violent ways. The violence is mostly implied rather than shown, but is still disturbing and unsettling.
Beneath the Surface
Engage the Film
Vengeance and Justice
When a city thug asks Batman his identity, Batman growls, “I’m vengeance.” Batman then proceeds to demonstrate this by beating the goon to a pulp. Although it is not explained in the film, it is implied that “The Vengeance” is the name adopted by Bruce Wayne for his vigilante persona and “The Batman” is merely the moniker given to him from others. This is fitting, as one of the central themes is an exploration of vengeance in relation to justice.
When the movie begins, Bruce Wayne is two years into the Batman gig. He is not motivated by justice as much as by vengeance. In one scene, he knocks down a goon, then proceeds to pound him again and again, unleashing a violent fury of rage. In a visceral way, the moment highlights that Batman’s desire is not just about cleaning up the city; it’s also about punishing it. He wants to make Gotham pay for the pain he has experienced. The complicated tension between Batman’s selfless heroism and selfish vengeance is at the heart of the film, and brings to mind Romans 12:17-19 and the truth that final vengeance belongs to God alone. In the end, vengeance serves no one.
Masks and Identity
A valid criticism of The Batman is that there is not much character development. While that may or may not be an issue on a narrative level, it works on a thematic level. Batman is more of a symbol than a person. Bruce Wayne has been wholly consumed by the Batman. Arguably no Batman film has ever better depicted the physical and mental toll of being Batman.
Both Batman and the Riddler spend most of the film masked. The movie’s tagline is “unmask the truth,” but its central question is whether the masks conceal their true identity or reveal it. What is the difference between the two masked men?
The Dark Knight explored this theme in the relationship of Batman and Joker. For as great as that film is, it never convincingly showed how that the same chaos that the Joker embodied also lived inside Batman. In The Batman, the similarity between Batman and Riddler is more clearly apparent. Bruce Wayne comes to realize that it is easier to crusade against the evils of the world than it is to look into the mirror and see the evil in his own heart or past. “You’re a part of this too,” the Riddler rightly sneers. Ultimately, the Batman must aspire to be more than an angry man in a mask.