NOTICE: The article includes spoilers for The Batman (2022) and Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021).
THE DARKNESS OF THE BATMAN
With both Zack Snyder's Justice League and The Batman (2022) we can witness what it actually looks like when you let people work and don't force them to be unfaithful to their vision. The Batman is the darkest film about the Dark Knight yet. And at the same time it is one of the most optimistic ones and I believe that this actually is thanks to its dark atmosphere.
FROM VENGEANCE TO HOPE
There is no better way to end your film on a heroic, hopeful note than to start at the absolute bottom. The character that we are introduced to at the start of Matt Reeves's The Batman is a year-two Batman. There is no Bruce Wayne, no alter ego. Just an embodiment of anger, depression, despair and the only purpose available - Vengeance. Batman is marked for life by the death of his parents. So much that he swears vengeance to every criminal on the streets of the most atmospheric Gotham City to ever grace the silver screen. Everybody is equally guilty for the death of his parents. The identity of the killer himself is not imporant, it is the state of mind, the moral position that they all share. Batman even explicitly introduces himself with "I'm vengeance..." which is a direct reflection of who he is at the moment. Similarly, he says "They think I hide in the shadows, but I am the shadows...".
Throughout the film we can see people being brutally killed - eaten by mice, exploded, beaten with a carpet tucker, it is dark all the time. Batman's only connection to reality - Alfred is nearly murdered which brings Batman near to live through his worst trauma once again. However, Alfred is able to survive thanks to luck (This is what I didn't like in the film. I think it would be more impactful for Batman to save Alfred by himself. He would realize that he doesn't have to avenge, but that he is able to prevent bad things from happening - prevent his father figure from dying again). Gotham is unforgiving, we see three orphans who were both treated unfairly, but each of them had different resources at hand - Batman, Catwoman and The Riddler. All of them were the embodiment of vengeance but each of them dealed with their trauma differently.
The Riddler had no resources like Batman - money, yes, but more importantly, Alfred who would keep him from falling into the abyss. Hence why he resorts to murder all those who had wronged him. Catwoman's fate was that of an unwanted kitten which was left outside in a box and in order to survive she had to use her slyness. Catwoman as a character is always on the edge between being a hero and being a villain. She is similar to the Riddler in such a way that she would end her vengenace with a murder. But in her case, she had Batman to stop her from descending to the darkness and wasting another of her remaining lives.
Batman is the one who changed the game. He realized that he only way to stop the circle of violence and darkness is to give up vengeance. When he looks at the mayor's son, perhaps he realizes where he has started and what has become of him and he doesn't want the same thing to happen to the boy. He doesn't want that to happen to the boy he once was. This is one of the signs that he should change course while it is still time. The full epiphany comes at the end of the film when Batman realizes that he doesn't have to be a self-damaging force of darkness to cope with life, he can be something more, the hero that Gotham deserves and needs. He can save and protect people instead of avenging them. But more importantly he can give tham hope that someone out there is on their side. He is no longer a vengeance. This part of his life has ended when the mystery of the death of his parents had been solved. He is hope. And hopefully, he is on his way to become justice.
This evolution would not be that powerful and impactful if we had not been drowning in darkness from the very beginning. It wouldn't be impactful if the film would involve light-hearted humor. I'm sorry for the little boy who was sitting in front of me in the theatre and was clearly expecting a different kind of comic book film which is why he asked his father to leave in the middle of the film, but this is pure Batman.
ZACK'S SNYDER'S BATMAN
With all that being said, I must compare this version of Batman with the one from Zack Snyder's films. In my opinion, Zack Snyder's interpretation does justice to Batman as well. Similarly to The Batman, in Batman v Superman we see a dark vengeful Batman although this time a seasoned and disillusioned one who perphaps once too had hope to overcome his shadows. But after the death of Robin, he lost all hope to climb out of the dark pit that he became what Pattinson's Batman successfully avoided to become - a true bitter vengeance. Until Superman shows him that men can indeed be good in BvS. In Zack Snyder's Justice League we witness him rise from the abyss. The ideal of Superman draws him up and he regains faith. "Faith, Alfred, faith." At the end of the film we literally see Superman pull Batman up to his level after the heroes save the world which could not happen without Batman whose faith, determination and leadership united the greatest heroes of the DC universe. The brightest moment of redemption that doesn't undermine Batman's character and which would not have been impactful if he wasn't at the bottom in the beginning. It certainly made Batman more inspiring and bright than the abomination that was Justice League (2017) reshot by Joss Whedon where Warner Bros. insisted to make Batman an idiot in order to make the film more "ligh-hearted" which it already was before.
Based on these two, in my opinion, great interpretations of Batman, I say that the darkness is DC's most precious source of inspiration, hope, heroism and positivity. Because there really is no light without darkness.
Published: 1 year ago
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The Batman's successful use of darkness
The latest Batman film starring Robert Patinson in the role of the Caped Crusaders shows that the dark nature of DC's characters and stories is one of its biggest strenghts. There is no light without shadow.
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