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The Batman

The Batman

Everybody loves this film. This is not an exaggeration. Ask your mom, ask your dad, ask your nephew, ask your cat. There is not a single soul on this planet who doesn't love this movie. Besides me.

I hate to be contrarian. I really, really do. It feels wrong to be an outsider, to not understand how much everyone else loves this thing. So why is it that I think this film, to put it bluntly, sucks?

Maybe it's my theater experience. Because in all fairness to this film, my experience at the theater was awful. The projection was really scuffed and dark, which is especially detrimental to a film shot like this one. The kid next to me sucked on his ICE-E straw at a volume previously unbeknownst to man. His father was on his phone the whole time, talking to his child about who knows what. And after the movie ended, I discovered someone had broken into my car.

However, I've had bad theater experiences before, and I've always been able to enjoy a film in spite of them. Therefore, it seems that the film itself is the problem. There are elements of this movie that, in my eyes, simply do not work. I will point out these qualities, and maybe somebody out there will agree with me. But before I move forward I must point out that, due to the praise The Batman has gotten from everyone who isn't me, I would still recommend it.

The biggest issue with this movie is structure. This plagues every faucet of this movie, from the screenplay to the characters. The most immediately noticeable structural weakness is in the development of Batman himself. We start at the low point of the character, and end at the low point of the character. Batman is flawed, mopey, and at times incompetent. This on it's own is fine. The very essence of Batman as a character is struggle, and the filmmakers clearly understand this. However, to relate to a character's struggles, we must know where they come from, and in this movie, we learn essentially nothing about who Bruce Wayne is. We learn some things about the people around him, sure but there's never a point where he himself feels relatable and just. He tells us his mission is vengeance, one of the movie's main themes. Indeed, he doesn't seem to really care about the people he's saving, because he rarely interacts with them.
WARNING: "The Batman" spoilers below
Yes, there's an ending scene of him saving children (I think they were orphans? If they were I think that's a nice way to point out him "saving himself"), but we don't ever get to see any shift in his actions before then that points to him gaining a care for humanity, so it feels a bit forced. Same idea with the speech at the end.
With this being the case, you'd expect the vengeance thing to come through more, and while he does indeed talk about it, you rarely see the vulnerability that would allow someone to block themselves off in such a manner. The most emotion he ever shows is apathy, save for a couple of yelling scenes. The most interesting thing about a mysterious character isn't the mystery itself, but rather, the discovery of what's being hidden, and in this sense, Batman fails as a character.

The same thing applies to all the other characters in the film, because they fail to have any meaningful relations with anyone besides themselves. They attempt to have a relationship between Batman and Catwoman, but it doesn't work at all, since they have no motivation to care for each other outside of solving a crime. There isn't any chemistry. Catwoman indeed has motivation stemming from another person, but that other person is never explored and feels more like a plot element. There's another revelation with her that gets into spoiler territory, but it also feels pretty underdeveloped and forced.

The editing is another structural issue. This movie is 3 hours long, and for a 3 hour movie to work, you must keep the audience engaged. Unfortunately, the order of scenes destroys any sense of narrative cohesion. Mystery movies often jump around from character to character, as things get revealed. This is a good thing, and can serve to heighten tension. But for it to work, you need to have each scene feel in tune with the overall thrust of the film. In this movie, the transition from scene to scene kills any tension. A character will find something out, and then that revelation will be completely untouched for 30 minutes. Instead, we explore other characters, and due their undeveloped nature, their actions never run parallel to the events and emotions of the plot. It's a lot easier to explain this concept with an example, and while I've tried to avoid comparing Batman films, The Dark Knight does this so much better. In TDK, whenever Batman is in a dire situation, so are the others. This is a generalization to avoid spoilers, but it always feels like the stories of all the characters are in some way cosmically connected. Their stories effect one another plot-wise, of course, and the same thing happens in The Batman, but they also have an emotional connective tissue scenes in The Batman lack.

This issue is further compounded by a general lack of urgency. Very rarely do we see things in motion before they happen, and when we do, the setup and the payoff happen in a very short window. Because of this, the characters never feel like they're in prolonged periods of danger, so the audience is never given a chance to worry for them.

The score is very understated, which I like in theory, but it also means scenes lack any auditory connection. There is a motif they play constantly, mostly near the beginning, but it never feels like it's signaling anything noteworthy.

There's nothing worse than walking out of a movie feeling nothing. We watch films because we want them to take us somewhere new, to give us a renewed sense of wonder and excitement. The Batman gave me nothing. No joy, no hope, not even hate. At least movies like Batman V. Superman are absurd enough to be somewhat amusing. This just feels like staring at a ceiling for three hours. I'm so glad other people love this movie, truly. And I hope my feelings are rarely echoed, because although it sucks to feel alone, I can't help but feel joy seeing people love film with such a passion, a passion I can relate to. If you loved this movie, continue to do so. Seeing your love might just give me the spark the film couldn't.