Where the Sun Never Shines

Bruce Wayne monologues about being a nocturnal creature, and it turns out this Gotham is a perfect home. It’s oppressively dark, and while Gotham’s politicians bemoan various issues, no one seems afflicted by the lack of lights anywhere outside the Times Square-like center.

It’s more than mood setting. The Batman doesn’t even appear interested in basic contrast. The gloom and haze that sweeps across the screen is wholly fatalist, as if The Batman came from murky, depressive 1970s cinema.

The narrative follows too, written with a direct, crass political bent that believes few (if any) systems exist without corruption. While most Batman stories celebrate the wealth of the hero, The Batman finds the villainy in that as well, anchored to a contemporary eat the rich/Occupy Wall Street mindset that doesn’t ignore Wayne’s frustrating refusal to help Gotham aside from vigilantism.

The Batman is almost certainly the most effusively liberal entry in this franchise, at least in terms of Batman’s film side. Paul Dano’s interpretation of the Riddler is that of an outcast seeking to violently tear down the political elite while building an army of followers who feel he’s doing right. It’s a story concoction so directly linked to current national discourse, the conclusion is frighteningly prescient, if so ludicrously elaborate as to strain credibility.

The Batman follows the character’s roots as a leather-clad detective

Mostly though, The Batman follows the character’s roots as a leather-clad detective, deciphering clues, outing Gotham’s underground mob, and contending with Bruce Wayne’s (Robert Pattinson) inner turmoil. It’s long – overlong – and punctuated by few action scenes of merit, then bouncing between Batman and a weepy, goth-esque Wayne moping about Wayne Manor. Away from the suit, Wayne comes across as pathetic, if suited to this Gotham. Seems everyone speaks in the same whisper-like tones to match him. Must be genetics, or maybe the water.

Following Tim Burton’s Batman, then Christopher Nolan, and now Matt Reeves, the goal in each case appears to be making this character ever more adult. At some point, the trend will hit a wall; here, it’s dangerously close to doing so. The Batman is so intertwined with the real world and locked to this historical moment, there’s not a kid in the audience who will follow along – assuming any kids are left after the dopey Justice League and Batman v Superman lark.

This Batman exists on its own, apparently. DC/Warner never settled on a direction for their overall comic franchise, leading to one-offs like Joker, yet that film seems like it fits smoothly into this Batman world. It’s not to be, although maybe because Joker used colors other than orange and gray; The Batman does not. A population this persecuted by the ruling class doesn’t deserve color.

The Batman
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Dim, fatalist, overlong, and not shy about its politics, The Batman is an imperfect adaptation without barely any comic book flash.

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