Matt Reeves‘ Batman is one of those superhero films that serves like the biggest hit from the comics, featuring many famous and beloved (or despised) characters straight from the pages of the classic DC series. From a villain perspective, Riddler (Paul Dano) takes the lead as the film’s main villain, striking fear into the hearts of the rich and powerful Gotham with his own style of Zodiac-meets-Unabomber terrorism. But he’s not the only Batman (Robert Pattinson) villain to appear in Batman. Played by an unrecognizable person Colin FarrellPenguins are also important figures in the Reeves universe, and even the Joker (Barry Keoghan) gets his moment under the spotlight in the film’s final scene. As for Batman’s allies, both Alfred (Andy Serkis) and Commissioner Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) — still a lieutenant at the time of the film’s set — is there to ensure that Gotham’s favorite vigilante can take advantage of his crime-fighting skills. Caught between the two worlds, Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz) is one of the key plot characters, though under Reeves’ gritty lens she is usually referred to by her real name, Selina Kyle. However, there is one classic Batman characters that are notably absent from Batmanmuch to the detriment of the story: the billionaire behind the mask himself, Bruce Wayne.
Okay, might say that Bruce Wayne was absent from Batman is kind of redundant. After all, Wayne and Batman are one and the same, so unless you decide to go with one of the other secret Batman identities in your film, there’s no way to cut Bruce Wayne out of it. Moreover, even if we think of Batman and Wayne as distinct characters, each with their own journey, Bruce did make several appearances over the years. Batman, and even before the film was released on March 4, Pattinson’s “weird” reinterpretation of the character was already making some ripples online. However, unlike other Batman films, Batman spent very little time with the man behind the mask, with Reeves choosing to focus more on the titular hero than Wayne. In many ways, this is a good choice: absolutely no one wants to see Martha and Thomas Wayne gunned down for the umpteenth time or talk about how The Dark Knight came to be. We already know what happened there. But that doesn’t mean Bruce Wayne should be taken for granted. From romance to character development to social criticism, relegating Bruce to the sidelines of Batman films has many unintended consequences.
The most glaring issue has to do with suspending viewers’ disbelief about Batman’s secret identity. There’s a reason most Batman movies, from Tim Burton1989 Batman to Christopher Nolan‘s Dark Knight Trilogy, devoting ample screen time to the man behind the mask. Even if Batman isn’t the superhero with the most conspicuous secret identity—he wears a full-face mask, unlike Superman, who only wears a Kryptonian-given face—there is still a need to show how Bruce’s playboy personality contradicts the image. of a brooding gothic paladin. The hedonistic billionaire is the same Wayne creation as the bat-clad criminals who roam the streets of Gotham at night. The two identities were carefully crafted to separate them from each other in the public eye. Devoting screen time to Bruce Wayne helps us understand how this differentiation works and accepts without question that the people of Gotham don’t know who Batman is.
In the Matt Reeves film, on the other hand, Bruce Wayne is not Welcome, but, as stated earlier, strange. Pattinson’s version of the character is a brooding emo recluse who is only above suspicion because Gotham’s criminals believe he’s too cowardly to be a crime fighter. For viewers, this is a tough sell. While there’s nothing wrong in reimagining Bruce Wayne as a lonely doomer, alone, but there needs to be some character exploration to keep his image separate from Batman. Otherwise, it’s hard to believe that the residents of Gotham would never have guessed that the local billionaire sad boy and black-clad vigilante fighting crime in a million-dollar suit was the same person, no matter how cowardly Wayne seemed. Becomes.
Another tough sale coming directly from BatmanBruce’s weakness is his romance with Selina. The second most important plot of the entire film, the love affair between “The Bat and the Cat”, as Selina put it, feels far-fetched. Indeed, Kravitz and Pattinson are two very alluring people, and it’s not hard to understand why they feel so physically attracted to each other, even with their masks on. But there is a world of difference between physical attraction and true love or even infatuation. In order to build a romantic relationship between the two characters, it is necessary to show them learning to care for each other, and share a bit of their personalities and life stories in a way that makes them worthy of fans’ emotional investment. None of this happened in Batman- at least, not in Bruce’s case. Although Selina shares a bit of herself with the mysterious vigilante, informing her of her desire to leave Gotham and her relationship with mob boss Carmine Falcone (John Tuturro), Wayne never gave him anything. Throughout most of the film, she is just a prop for him to continue his investigation. However, even after the romance solidified, it was only through the Batman persona that Bruce interacted with Selina. Sure, one could argue that Bruce Wayne couldn’t just take off his mask for every beautiful woman he met, but he didn’t have to: there’s a lot of personality that can be demonstrated without ever giving away Batman’s true identity. Just one scene of him actually bonding with Selina instead of just plotting with her would have been a huge help.
But when it comes to the topic of masks, there is only so much an actor can do by covering his face, and his body movements are limited by armor. Although Selina Kyle’s interest in Batman is evident from Zo Kravitz’s facial expressions and body language, Robert Pattinson doesn’t get the same opportunity to show his character’s emotions physically. It’s a shame: as his work on Twilight Saga, Pattinson sells “sad and horny” unlike any other actor of his generation. The scene where he sees Selina through the eye camera is one of the few where we get a small spark of desire coming from Bruce Wayne. In this scene alone, Pattinson’s face tells a tale of lust, confusion, and anger that should have been told for at least half of the two hours and 56 minutes of film screening time, instead of being held back for just a few seconds.
The film could also be very productive if Selina had the opportunity to interact with Bruce without the mask. Because of that, not only was it hard to understand why she felt something other than a physical pull towards him, her character also had no room to grow. When Selina first appeared in Batman, he has very crystallized ideas about class, kindness, and power. There’s no room for nuance in his way of thinking: if you have money, you’re evil, and while Selina doesn’t enjoy killing like the Riddler, she’s also not shy about sharing her low opinion of her victims, Bruce Wayne included. Asking him to find out about Batman’s secret identity would be a great way to challenge his worldview and make him realize that the problem lies not with the individual, but with the system. Unfortunately, he remained unrivaled and unchanged. His journey from point A to point B ends with him being the exact same person the movie started.
The same can be said of Bruce Wayne himself. For a while, Reeves makes it seem like he’s about to give his protagonist an internal obstacle he must overcome in order to grow as a character. This obstacle comes in the form of revelations that Bruce’s father had dealings with Falcone and may be behind the murder of a journalist. Bruce was distraught by the discovery, but his disappointment in his father did not last long. Alfred quickly convinced him that Thomas Wayne (Luke Roberts) is one of the good guys and just vented to Falcone about how much distraction reporters were having in his mayoral campaign. Although there is something to criticize in making Thomas Wayne naive to believe that he could have gone, as a politician, to the local Don Corleone to complain about a journalistic investigation and not expect this to be considered a solicitation of violence. , this is not an issue that we wish to highlight here. The real problem is that we don’t spend enough time with Wayne wallowing in self-doubt for important revelations. There’s only one scene where Bruce enters his parents’ old room and looks at childhood pictures of his family before we get back to business as usual.
The only character that undergoes any transformation during Batman is Jim Gordon. Before the Riddler began his series of attacks, it seemed that Gordon legitimately believed that his partners and allies on the legal side should not be dirty. Much like the story of Thomas Wayne’s chat with Falcone, this is a strangely naive display for a character in such a dark and dirty universe. And, aside from Thomas Wayne’s story and Selina’s lack of political overtones, it emphasizes another problem that could have been avoided with a little more action by Bruce.
Matt Reeves’ film is all about social criticism, with the director trying to explain how corruption is endemic in Gotham’s politics and social structure as a whole. However, this criticism often fails. Instead of letting his characters re-examine the world they lived in—letting Bruce see his father from a different perspective, letting Selina challenge his preconceived notions, letting Gordon question the institution he worked for—Reeves quickly turned around. to “some bad apples” mode. By having his characters end the film exactly as they started, he undoes any kind of deeper debate about structural issues. It’s not that there is an established order that destroys the good, it’s just that there are bad people. Likewise, it’s not that criminals are actually a system that perpetuates wealth inequality, and not one individual rich person, it’s just that Selina doesn’t know how great Bruce Wayne really is. And you know what? Probably not. But how could he when Bruce Wayne wasn’t even there in the first place?
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