The 3rd of March is the release date for Director Matt Reeves “The Batman” movie. It will be the seventh Batman movie. Fans are locked in positions of distrust, disgust and dismissiveness. Not merely due to a three hour runtime. After seven Batman movies what could this one do that requires almost three hours of screen time?
The answer could lie in the movies direction made by the Director Matt Reeves. Unlike many other Batman movies there will be no scene where Batman’s parents are killed. It is a scene that is so well known you could ask most twelve year olds what happened to Batman’s parents and they would be able to tell you.
Where did the freedom to leave out a key part of the Batman mythos come from? Every other first Batman movie has had it. Why not Reeves? Well there is a movie that did the same as Reeves. One that came out some time ago.
It Began in 2017
In 2017 there was a Batman movie that changed all the rules for Batman. It had more than three villains, included cameos by the Justice League. It co-starred Robin, Batgirl, the Joker and Harley Quinn too. It was also made of Lego.
Lego Batman is derided as a kids movie, by grim and gritty Bat-fans. If you did not see the irony there you are not going to like where rest of this article goes. Because comics, the ones Batman originates from, are for kids.
Lego Batman pokes fun at everything that was held dear to that certain group of Bat-fans. Most of whom are over the age of thirty. You see Batman used to swing from grim, gritty loner to Bat-dad head of an extended family of crime fighters. Batman has aged phenomenally well, yet the grim and gritty gear got stuck in the 1980s. It has never swung back in the movies, till Lego Batman.
When Will Arnet’s voiced Lego Batman states seriously “I don’t do relationships.” it opened the door to a part of Batman that has never been seen on the screen. In Batman movies apart from Alfred, Batman is alone. While Batman does have Robin and Batgirl in the Clooney Batman movies it is not used to explore what Lego Batman doubles down on, Batman’s fear of loss.
Family, especially found family is a very common trope in narratives. Take away the sci-fi, the force and aliens from Star Wars and found family is the core narrative. Grim and gritty Batman is alone. Batman has to win by himself, by being one step ahead of everyone else. The comics do a good job of both of these concepts. The movies….well…
Grim and Gritty Sells?
The argument was that grim and gritty Batman sells. That such tragic characters have to be dark, humourless and all about the single hero rising above the odds to win the day. The rosetta stone for all the bleak dystopian anti-heroics is a single comic. Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns. It is a violent, and bleak vision of a future where nuclear winter is the end result.
From this comic you can connect all that is known of movie Batman today. However if you actually read it all the way to the end you can see the relational sunshine that peeks out. An end that has Bruce without the costume, re-establishing the bat-cave as a base of operations alongside a new generation, that he is training.
Even in Miller’s much lauded guidebook for grim and gritty at the end is Bat-dad. Ok, maybe Bat-Sensei, but the pendulum swings. Lego Batman pushes the Bat-dad dial to eleven and beyond. Batman’s pain is obvious, his isolation so severe that his only partner in crime is Apple’s Siri. By the end of the movie Batman is surrounded by Alfred, Dick, Barbara and even the villains of Gotham city.
Bat-fans see it as too much. I call it shock therapy, not just for the fans but for movie producers and directors too. Lego Batman exposed other narrative elements to the Batman mythos that can be used. Not just the cotton candy coloured Disney G rated elements, but serious relational and mental health elements that have yet to be touched.
No need for Martha Wayne’s pearls falling to the bloody ground of Crime Alley. Everyone knows what happened to Batman’s parents. Lego Batman did it with family pictures. Was is bombastic and over the top? Yes. It showed what could be done. This is just the start of Lego Batman’s influence.
As fans age more than they are right now, the pendulum will swing further. The call for brighter stories is being heard and answered. On the app WebToon there is ‘Batman: Wayne Family Adventures.’ it is a web comic about the fun that the Bat-family gets up to when not fighting crime. Total heresy for certain Bat-fans, yep. For all Bat-fans, no. Just the pendulum swinging again.
Phillip Hall has been too long in Melbourne to see AFL in the same light as those back in Fremantle. East Fremantle born and bred, he would love to see the Dockers back in the eight. But would settle for just beating West Coast twice a year.