Sunday, October 24, 2021
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Why must the Dark Knight be so dark

The first trailer for the much anticipated “The Batman” has finally emerged from the shadows. 

Matt Reeves (director of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) will direct the new film starring everybody’s favorite smelly sad boy, Robert Pattinson, as the titular caped crusader. The trailer promises a high-octane detective story with Batman having to solve a series of gruesome, riddle-themed murders. It’s another reimaging of Gotham City, one full of grit and darkness.

And maybe a little too much darkness. For the past fifteen years of movies (and through three different incarnations), Batman has been an edgy character. A superhero who operates in moral grey areas, who lacks the boy scout-ish hang ups that hold his super friends back from delivering true justice.

Just saying that idea out loud, it sounds subversive and innovative, and at one point, maybe it was. However, after such a long time, the idea of a gritty Batman has run its course. Even if the new trailer looks like a quality movie (which it does) it does not stop the entire idea of a “realistic” Batman taking a death worse than Jason Todd’s (that’s a little Batman joke, google it).

In other mediums such as cartoons or comics, Batman is more balanced. He is a depressing and conflicted character, but one that exists in a comic book world. When done correctly, this is the peanut butter and chocolate combination of the comic book world. When you strip away the colorful and sometimes outright goofy world that his original creators, Bill Finger and Bob Kane, constructed him in, you’re left with a drab and rough character doing morally questionable things. It’s hard to feel good when watching modern Batman movies, even though, if anything, that’s how a superhero movie ought to make you feel.

And while there are certainly more pressing issues in the world right now than Hollywood’s misunderstanding of Batman, it’s a shame that a potentially inspiring character turned into such a totalitarian jerk. What makes Batman great is that he has no superpowers. His choice to be a hero comes not from a responsibility he feels to make the world a better place because he was born with or gifted great powers. He chose to become something greater, to do everything within his will to make the world a better place.

And that is ultimately a more relatable notion than most of his heroic cohorts. There is no way to be Superman or the Flash or Green Lantern. Realistically, there’s no way to be Batman without an unending flow of cash, but the idea of Batman, the idea of committing oneself to good out of simple virtue, is something anyone can do.

The Dark Knight trilogy touched on this thematically, but more recent iterations have dived headfirst into the idea of Batman being a fascist. A much talked about scene in “The Batman” trailer is where Batman beats a thug to the ground in a savage and psychotic manner. It’s a cool scene, for sure, but it’s sad to see Batman reduced to power fantasy.

The movie isn’t out yet and there are very few details known about it, so it’s very possible that none of these concerns for this film are valid. Regardless, it would be nice to see Batman lighten up, just a bit.

mason.dredge@gmail.com

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