Trigger Warning // mentions of Asian violence
! Discreet spoilers ahead !
9:45 pm. Our lone car sits in the theater parking lot, rain striking its windows. As we run in, puddles quiver under our feet, breaking the neon reflections cast against the pavement.
Despite the drizzly, late hour, there’s no damper to my mood. I’m home for spring break, watching a movie with my family, for the first time in forever. We prance into the theater fifteen minutes late, but thanks to the endless trailers and commercials, we don’t miss a thing. In the very last row, reclined as far back as we can go, we even catch a teaser for the animated D.C. League of Super-Pets, which features a cast of Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, along with Keanu Reeves, voicing their own cartoonish Batman. I attempt a wordle as we wait for the lights to dim. A solid two minutes; I give up. I imagine this is how Batman must feel, going up against the Riddler.
But all throughout the film, he solves them with ease. Bruce probably has no problem guessing his way to green squares in six tries– even the ones after the New York Times took over. He’s just cool like that: the hero who uses fear as a tool and carries a Presence™ everywhere he goes. But like user @NebsGoodTakes on Twitter, it “took me an embarrassingly long time to realize [that] Batman was walking slowly to record everything, not just for the vibes.”
In the opening of the film, the mood immediately reads darker, more melancholy than your usual superhero-starring motion picture. The eery, tired rasp of Curt Kobain’s voice sets the scene seamlessly: his numb hum shapes the perfect song when I walk into a room for the perpetually dark circle-sporting Batman.
To gush a bit more about the film’s score and soundtrack:
It’s the last show of the night. As well as a new beginning and end for Gotham. I Have But One Heart, Dido’s Lament, and the familiar Ave Maria all heighten the apocalyptic atmosphere of the place. If I were a professional playlist curator, I’d also sneak in Cannibal Holocaust by Riz Ortolani and Where Did You Sleep Last Night by Nirvana, as they’d fit right in with the rest of the tracks.
Also to applaud: the camera work and elements of depth of space, movement, and lighting. The use of upside-down and wide shots, blur, and an unmoving camera were extremely effective and refreshing, especially for a superhero movie. This veers from the movement-heavy style of most Marvel films, which accommodates the need to follow the action, draw the audience in, and heighten the intensity. But utilizing still shots – which allow the action to unfold without ceremony – lays it all out for the audience to take in, somehow creating a greater sense of emotion, tension, and magnitude. I felt closer to the events plastered across the screen; it all seemed more raw. Visceral.
The movie handled difficult themes, yet felt easy to watch. Even for somebody who went in not knowing the first thing about Batman (me). Something that immediately stood out to me was the early-on subway attack scene, where Batman defends an Asian victim against a group of men who target and follow him out of the subway. It caught my eye as an Asian American person wondering whether this was a subtle call-out or acknowledgement towards real life events. However, many viewers found the scene “triggering” and insensitive to Asian Americans during a time of increased violence against the community, regardless of whether the attack was intended as racially motivated” (Yang). David Chen, who hosts the podcast “Culturally Relevant,” argued that “depicting such loaded imagery without making a larger point about the meaning behind it is disrespectful. “To me, this was an irresponsible and inflammatory use of this imagery that (knowingly or unthinkingly) gestured at real life horrific events” (Yang). It also feels notable to mention that this is the only Asian representation in the entire film; using this scene simply to portray Batman’s “I’m vengeance,” tagline and foreboding demeanor feels off-putting.
Aside from this controversial choice, I genuinely enjoyed the film and found it brilliant, well-casted, and visually dynamic. Running back out into the empty lot at one am, I happily splashed my way back to the car. It may have been raining, but hey, at least this city wasn’t treading in deep water.
Featured Image from Hollywood Reporter: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/the-batman-box-office-opening-1235104983/
NBC News – ‘The Batman’ criticized for scene of attempted subway attack on Asian victim: