Reflection on The Batman

The Batman (2022) is possibly the worst Batman movie I have ever seen. In this iteration of one of the icons of the DC Universe, Bruce Wayne/Batman was a young, rich, messed-up, entitled,  very white young man who wears an armoured suit, and plays at being a vigilante by beating up street thugs. His city, Gotham was a morally and financially corrupted cosmopolitan marked by squalor and poverty. The corrupted elected officials and the criminal elements are living it up in the city. Bruce Wayne/Batman was not exhibiting any of the cleverness which earned him the title ‘The World’s Greatest Detective’. Instead, he fumbled behind the villain with lots of bashings, gore, explosions, and destruction.

I felt my insides cringe as the overlong movie stretched on. I had looked forward to this new Batman movie with much anticipation and eagerness. Pathetic was my impression as the movie credit rolled.

In its 80 years of history, the saga of Batman has always been the reflection of its times. From his first appearance in comics, then television, and finally the movies, Batman’s Gotham is a mirror reflection of the socio-political-economical and sometimes moral climate of its times. There was the hopeful period of the early Batman to the darker tones of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.

Unlike other superheroes, Batman does not have superpowers except he is very rich (if money can be considered a superpower). Batman is always a man who tried his best to fight the evil of a person, a corporation, or an institution to make a difference. Using his brains, his technology, and his perfectly trained body Batman managed to defeat even the uber superpowered Superman. Yet in this movie, Batman was a messed up young man with kohl eyeshadow, like a rock star, making a lot of bangs but not actually going anywhere.

In the days following watching the movie, my insides cringed again as I reflected on the movie. Gotham, I realized is a dark reflection of the world today. Most if not all our elected officials are corrupt. Law enforcement and the judiciary are in tatters. The rich are getting richer while the poor are poorer. Cities are degenerating into dangerous places where crime and violence prevail. We are hapless; manipulated and driven by social media. As in the movie we are rushing headlong into total self-annihilation.

[spoilers ahead]

I was very impressed by the ending scene when Batman carried a child in his arms to a waiting chopper for evacuation, after leading people out of a flooded convention center. Whether that is the intended message, the key to making a difference is helping one another. That is a satisfactory alternative to beating up villains, locking them up in prisons or Arkham Asylum, and by the next comic issue, they are back on the streets again. Violence and vigilantism may not be the answer to rebuilding Gotham, and by reflection, our society. After 80 years, it may be time for a different Batman. I await who this Batman will become. Perhaps he will be The Batman who will make a difference!

Alex Tang

25 April 2022