The Batman (2022): An Unexpected Comedy
Humor enhances the newest Batman movie
April 16, 2022
With the release of each new Batman movie comes a wave of praise and criticism from virtually every corner of the Internet. The most recent addition to the franchise, Matt Reeves’s The Batman (equipped with an ominous article), was no exception. So far we’ve heard praise for the well-rounded development of Bruce Wayne, complaints of the movie’s three hour run time, and overwhelming appreciation for the attractive cast, namely Batman himself (Robert Pattinson) and the leading lady, Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz). But what is often overlooked in mainstream bat-discourse is the movie’s use of comedy — intentional, and more notably, unintentional.
At its simplest, The Batman follows the classic detective storyline: our brooding hero sets out to solve the murders of high profile individuals in Gotham, ultimately revealing the scheme of our troubled villain, the Riddler (the perfectly cast Paul Dano). The premise isn’t notably groundbreaking — what makes the newest Batman special is the comedic execution.
Among The Batman’s noteworthy intentional jokes are the Riddler’s first clue: a “thumb drive” (the clue is on a USB attached to a severed thumb, haha) and Batman’s casual observation that Selina Kyle, alias Catwoman, “has a lot of cats.” A bit on the nose, these quips are sprinkled throughout the movie’s tensest scenes, briefly serving their purpose of comedic relief.
However, most of the unintentional comedy stems from the duality of Bruce Wayne. Unspecific to the most recent Batman, the audience can revel in the ironic concept of his character. At his simplest, Bruce Wayne is an edgy billionaire who thinks that dressing up as a bat, gallivanting in the night, and beating up petty criminals on the street is a quick fix for Gotham’s rising crime rates. In addition to the classic rich boy lack of self awareness, Reeves adds another comedic layer: Batman is, for lack of better words, an emo girl. This characterization is exacerbated by Pattinson’s legacy as the face of the Twilight franchise, championing pop culture’s emo obsession in the 2000’s. Equipped with dark bangs and an extreme side part, the brooding hero is troubled, angsty, and socially awkward. In fact, Batman is so oblivious to the romantic advances of Selina Kyle that in an IDM interview, Pattinson himself agreed that “this Bruce Wayne has never felt the touch of a woman.”
The comedic heart of the movie revolves around this contrast. Batman calls himself “vengeance,” yet often he is subjected to the will of the Riddler, who is portrayed as a social media influencer who humiliates Batman during Instagram-esque livestreams to his (apparently impressive amount of?) 500 followers. Gotham’s modern setting allows for a Facetime scene between the two, and mighty Batman stares awkwardly at himself in the front camera of an iPhone. In a romantic parting scene, the audience notices the customized bat ears on Batman’s motorcycle, making it, well, cute.
Contrary to what we may predict, deviating from the seriousness of previous Batman movies does not diminish the consistency of the Batman franchise — in fact, it enhances it. Reeves’s skill (though perhaps unintentional) in bringing humor into the bleak world of Gotham creates a whole new experience for viewers, appealing to a broader audience by accidentally stumbling into another genre. Bruce Wayne becomes a more well rounded, understandable, and dare I say relatable character with the addition of comedy. The Batman has something for everybody: long-time fanatics can enjoy the iconic Batmobile car chase and non Batman paraphernalia-owning viewers (like myself) can share a little laugh.