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The Batman: a Dagger to the Heart of Marvel’s Blockbusters

Opinión│The Batman: una daga al corazón para las películas taquilleras de Marvel

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Screams and desperation run through the streets of a troubled Gotham City on Halloween. Masked thieves take advantage of Halloween’s absent-mindedness to prey on the city’s small and medium-sized businesses; neo-Nazi groups terrorize workers who just want to get home after a long working day in the metropolis of maniacs. The youth, lost, looks for where to fit in an increasingly rotten, corrupt and faithless society. Mafias dominate, trafficking drugs, bribing authorities and killing.

The police, absent, cannot cope with crime. Politicians play out their laughable power struggles to get their hands on juicy public funds. All seems lost for the common citizen and favorable for the criminal, but there is still a fervent believer of Ghotam City; a vigilante, who does not act as a ray of hope, but as a shadow of terror, waiting for the bat’s signal to apply “Revenge” against the scum of his city.

This is how The Batman, the second highest-grossing film since theaters reopened after the pandemic, is staged. A brilliant installment from DC that has made a brave, and successful, bet by distancing itself from Marvel’s superfluous cinema.

The Batman, closer to the psychological thriller than an action movie

As with Phoenix’s Joker, or Wacthman, directed thirteen years ago by Zack Snyder, The Batman is a rare film within the genre; one that delves into each of its main characters with complex moral-ethical debates, taking its time to develop the complex plot while respecting the audience’s intelligence. It’s not a film for the distracted, mind you.

Its director, Matt Reeves, takes great credit for creating a film that speaks to the historical context of Gotham City. Its political framework, the historical governmental decisions, the struggles between mafias and the astonishing cases of corruption. It enriches and gives a plus to the film.

The Batman also prioritizes the understanding of the characters’ morals above all else. Why they do what they do: their motivations, ghosts and internal dilemmas.

The heroes have their shadows and the villains their lights; each one tries to defend what they understand by their ideals and there are also individual struggles, there is no single story and, in fact, as Sergio Monsalve says in his analysis, “the film is about us and reflects what we really are, by removing the mask and the cape of heroes. A gesture that ‘The Batman’ proposes as a shock therapy for the consumers’ search for certainty, who are used to having everything explained to them and told to them with sweetened mush. This is the way to rescue a dying art.”

Robert Pattinson passed the test with flying colors

What’s most striking about this version, unlike other installments, is that Bruce Wayne doesn’t develop alongside his superhero version. Here Matt Reeves presents you with a very human Batman, hesitant, who does not know if his actions are generating something positive in his city two years after starting his mission as a vigilante. In contrast, Wayne, still young and in a sedentary, almost emo stage, seems more convinced of what he is doing, trying to keep his family’s legacy standing while rescuing the city where he was born and grew up as an orphan. But the world comes crashing down on Wayne when an old family secret is revealed that puts his integrity and legacy on the ropes, leading the protagonist to confront his own demons and his father’s past.

The Batman: una daga al corazón para las películas taquilleras de Marvel
Photograph given by Warner Bros. showing Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne, during a scene from the movie “The Batman.” (EFE)

Robert Pattinson, more than established at this point in his career, not only passed with flying colors the challenge of playing the most complex Batman in history, but probably signed the most important role of his career. He was outstanding. With an imposing suit and relentless boots whose sound showed the roughest face of The Revenge. His scenes with Zoë Kravitz, by the way, are a visual delight. In fact, a high point of this The Batman (besides its very good soundtrack,) is the play with the cameras; much is conveyed through eye level shots, there are also blurs and a careful choice of each of the shots. Visually, it is a very well done work that is worth seeing in the cinema.

The star of The Batman is the villain

The other man who stands out in a big way is Paul Dano as the Riddler, who can easily overshadow Pattinson’s huge performance as he brilliantly plays one of the darkest, weirdest, and wackiest villains DC has ever created.

This Riddler is nothing but an incel. Insane, yes, but with a faithful belief in taking justice into his own hands and giving the corrupt in the city their comeuppance no matter the cost. The end above the means. A villain who acts as a contemporary terrorist, using social networks to spread panic and gain followers of extremist ideas. He manipulates them and uses them obscenely for his plans. He is also essentially one of them. A social outcast, a person who could never adapt in a metropolis where only the strongest survive.

To some extent, this Riddler is also faithful to the original character, although his riddles are simpler and he does not enjoy an outrageous costume as in other editions. The Riddler surprises with his ability to distract the viewer and use all his wit to stay one step ahead at all times. His plan, more than brilliant, is meticulous, dark and unexpected.

Interestingly, although the Riddler seems to be a man who doesn’t make mistakes, his sin was as human and foolish as any of us: prejudice, extreme confidence and lack of a plan B. A villain who goes from genius to the mediocrity of a whiny teenager when he has his expected conversation with Batman.

The world comes crashing down on this character when he learns that the figure he was inspired by, Batman, is diametrically opposed to him. While the Riddler is a ruthless bloody revolutionary who seeks to dynamite Gotham City in order to found something new, Batman believes in restoring the institutions and faith of its inhabitants. That is where Vengeance finally changes, making way for a more empathetic and caring hero.

Photo provided by Warner Bros. showing Jeffrey Wright (left) as Lieutenant James Gordon and Robert Pattinson (right) as Batman, during a scene from the movie “The Batman.” (EFE)

Therefore, the contrast of Gotham City could not be more evident: the aesthetically brutal scene at the beginning of the film, where the underworld, degeneration and corruption breathed in the back of your neck, ends with a devastated city; flooded with water and facing tragedy. But with a more optimistic message of unity and new challenges ahead without the weight of the secrets of the past and the lies of those who bled Gotham City for at least two decades. There Batman definitely understands his role: to take care of the uncertain future of his metropolis, to which turbulent times lie ahead.

What Matt Reeves achieved with The Batman is admirable and surprising. His film will debate with The Dark Knight as the best Batman installment in history and will enter the category of DC shootings that changed the classic and predictable superhero genre with grandiloquent, deep and dark deliveries; completing the list along with Watchmen, Snyder Cut and Joker. Closer to a psychological thriller than to an action movies. A dagger to the heart for Marvel’s blockbusters and an ode to good cinema.

Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.

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