Written by: Rahman
Visual by: Mischka
After nearly 10 years since the Dark Knight Rises, the Caped Crusader returns to the big screen starting a new trilogy. The film hones all of what made the previous movies great while also making sure to avoid their mistakes. Batman stories have always had striking real world political commentary as well as grand acts of terror. While the latter is not present on the same level as the Dark Knight, The Batman’s real-world parallels, themes, and morals manage to be more compelling. The theme of inequality leading to violence and radicalization while being present in past films is done incredibly well here with a new spin. Spoiler warning – by the end of the film we see Batman turn a new leaf and realize that his black and white view of the world can no longer serve him or his city.
The way the movie shows inequality and the gap between the haves and the have-nots turning into chaos is consistent with what we witness in our world today. Throughout the film we see a juxtaposition between Bruce and Batman’s worlds. Bruce Wayne’s Gotham is filled with wealth, elites, and luxury. While Batman’s Gotham has run down crime ridden neighborhoods and mass poverty. Batman sees the underworld that is held down by the city’s corruption and inequality, yet for most of the movie he doesn’t see that what’s holding back his goal of ridding the city of crime is the lavish lifestyle he lives as Bruce Wayne. His plan throughout the film is much like what it was in the previous films of seeking vengeance on all of Gotham’s criminals and stopping crime through vigilantism and trying to arrest every one of them. At first his view of the problem lacks nuance, as he can’t see how the city’s vast organized crime network and corruption are both just symptoms of the problem – poverty and inequality.
One of the opening scenes is him riding around the city on his motorcycle, we see stark transitions between skyscrapers and slums hinting to the audience what the real problem is. While he rides around, we hear a narration of him writing into his diary about how two years into being Batman he is further away from his mission. Robbery, murder, and other forms of crime are all up and his idea of using fear to convince criminals to stop, is failing. In the past Batman films the idea of going around and punching wrongdoers into submission has been heavily treated as a reasonable and successful solution for crime, a very unrealistic sentiment in my opinion. In this latest movie, Christopher Nolan pivots Batman’s image from being a symbol of fear to a symbol of hope and trust. While in the past films Bruce Wayne counters the city’s deeper problems through philanthropy, the new Batman gets a sense of reality and in a last-ditch effort starts trying to save civilians, breaking the brand he’s created of himself, not using violence or fear. He said at the beginning “Fear is a tool. When the light hits the sky. It’s not just a call. Its a warning.” while by the end he sees how vengeance and spreading fear are also the key motives of those he’s supposed to be fighting and says “Vengeance won’t change the past. Mine or anyone else’s. People need hope.” This strongly shows a change of heart and greater more realistic understanding of the city’s problems not before seen with previous Batmen.
The new movie while building on what made Christopher Nolan’s trilogy great also rights its wrongs. We see a major improvement in representation here and while it can sometimes be a bit on the nose, it is still long overdue. The only prominent black character we saw in the previous trilogy was Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox, while he did subvert stereotypes associated with African Americans he was the sole source of racial diversity. Racial diversity should play a role in any Batman film as time and time again we see Gotham’s problems boil down to an extreme wealth gap and in today’s world urban wealth gaps often have racial lines along them as well. In the new film we see the representation of prominent black female characters like Catwoman and Bella Reál as well as Commissioner Gordon. I am a firm believer that representation matters as it influences public opinion however subtly and a lack of good representation can reinforce inaccurate beliefs and generalizations. While I can see how some think this representation was overdone with all the black characters being good guys and all the white characters other than Batman and Alfred being either corrupt or villains. I believe it’s important to have this subversion of harmful stereotypes as we also saw in the Nolan trilogy that a large portion of the organized crime was involving black people with almost no representation on the other side. The Batman 2022 also breaks new ground on gender representation as there was a complete lack of LGBTQ+ representation in the previous trilogy, while in this one of the main characters Cat woman is bisexual.
In conclusion, Batman 2022 is an extremely successful return of the highly influential character to cinemas. It manages to highlight major issues of today such as inequality and introduce positive representation that the franchise has been lacking for a long time.