Batman Has Never Been A Hero
Updated: Oct 14, 2021
Is Matt Reeve Going In A Different Direction For The Batman?
“Because he's not our hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.”
― Jonathan Nolan, The Dark Knight
Nothing like an iconic Nolan line to remind audiences of Batman’s moral complexity. It’s a fair question to ask whether some of the actions taken by previous interpretations of Batman were ethical or just straight out looney. It’s another thing to say that Batman has never been a hero.
Well, if you think that’s crazy, then Robert Pattinson seems to think the same thing.
That’s right! Back in October 2019, the star of Matt Reeve’s upcoming comic
book film The Batman told the New York Times, "Batman’s not a hero.” He continued his summarization by saying, “He’s a complicated character. I don’t think I could ever play a real hero — there’s always got to be something a little bit wrong.”
As shocking as The Batman trailer from DC FanDome 2020 was - which showed the brutal beatdown of a thug at the hands of an unrestrained caped crusader - Robert Pattinson has already elaborated on just how dark his interpretation will be. Judging from the David Fincher-inspired Gotham City of The Batman, then it only leaves the question of whether any heroism can exist in this place. A place that already seems to be a cinematic dystopia of the morally grey and the ethically deprived.
The critical success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy left audiences highly receptive to a dark/grounded version of the iconic comic book character. However, one misinterpretation fans and general audiences still make is in thinking that Batman is a “hero.” His actions can certainly be heroic at times; and at other times, they can be the exact opposite of what traditional morality would dictate.
The more common interpretations of superheroes and their morality have always operated from a lens of unwavering heroism. It would be bizarre to ask whether Iron Man or Captain America are in fact the good guys. Even when the recent MCU interpretations have taken some risky creative choices, like pitting them against each other in the philosophically complex Captain America Civil War.
However, when it comes to the upcoming 2022 release of Matt Reeves’ The Batman, the term “hero” might be a joke fans haven’t gotten used to laughing at just yet. Even when the most acclaimed of Batman films, The Dark Knight, literally had the caped crusader stop the clown prince of crime through illegal surveillance.
It’s been over a year since the trailer for The Batman captivated internet audiences at DC FanDome 2020. In that time span, easter eggs, fan theories, and overall excitement have emerged. But the most iconic moment of the trailer is when Batman viciously beats down a thug (possibly killing him,) while dishing out the iconic “I’m Vengeance” line.
It only skyrocketed the anticipated excitement for what is sure to be a groundbreaking comic book adaptation. Another thing that scene accomplished was to give the tweet “The Batman movie is a horror movie,” by Bluray Angel much more weight.
It’s only natural that every time Batman demonstrates his martial arts expertise on a criminal, the only response is to cheer with testosterone-fueled excitement. It’s rare to pull away in horrified disgust as the new Dark Knight repeatedly rams his fist into a punk with a relentless fury not even a squad of armed GCPD officers would be able to stop.
And so, with that, the idea of Batman being a hero seems absurd. One that a revolutionary filmmaker like Paul Thomas Anderson or William Friedkin would work beautifully into their aesthetic of the morally neutral protagonists. These are people they no doubt believe capture more of everyday life than the absurdist fantasy of a fool’s Dudley do right. When it comes to Batman’s morality, well-intentioned as it is (especially with the no-kill rule) fans are more inclined to listen to Alfred’s line from the highly underrated video game Batman Arkham Origins:
“You're not some hardened vigilante! You're a young man with a trust fund and too much anger.”
As bleak as that description of our favorite costumed vigilante is, it seems like a good indication of what Matt Reeves has in store next year.
Andres Benatar is thepyrrhic.com resident film expert. You can hear him on the 'Cinema 237' podcast - a podcast for cinephiles.