Sunday, May 15, 2022

A Bad-Mood inducing Brooding Batman

After two years of being cooped up at home, over Covid-related concerns that not even a currently raging war in Ukraine can dispel, I ventured out to catch the latest blockbuster Hollywood has churned out in the Superhero oeuvre. How bad could it be, I reasoned, even if the Twilight dude whose screen personas suggest he is forever suffering from severe indigestion, had been roped in to fill Christian Bale’s oversized Bat shoes. There were further concerns.
According to Twitter buzz, the new Caped Crusader was even darker than in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy which was single-handedly responsible for making it a cardinal sin for superheroes to do anything less than simmer endlessly in all things sepulchral. This was every bit as ominous as the trailer which gave the definite impression of a film desperate to be deemed a masterpiece, but I am a sucker for caramel popcorn and determinedly ignored the warning signs. 

 The film certainly lived up to my worst fears. Nowadays, it won’t do to make fun films based on comic books. Current cinematic offerings have to take after Booker Prize-winning weighty tomes and be every bit as dense and dismal but with none of the magically conjured soul-stirring sadness that makes the books worthwhile. 

 It is practically a prerequisite for not only the protagonist but every other character to be tormented souls with tortuous backstories and trauma enough to set up a shrink for life. Robert Pattinson tries so darn hard, managing to convey little more than the unavoidable fact that the Batsuit has made it impossible for him to have a bowel movement. 

Furthermore, the narrative has to be overstuffed with socio-political commentary, weighty themes like duality, good versus evil, which, hold your breath, are actually two sides of the same coin! The hooey keeps looping back and forth in sickening spoon-feeding style to give the impression of complexity lest it becomes confused with pedestrian popcorn fare. 

 The villain cannot be allowed to be a run-of-the-mill megalomaniac who likes to blow things up with maniacal glee a la Jack Nicholson and create masala-worthy mayhem. Instead, he is a monster who has torn free from a nightmare, fed on the decay of a corrupt society, and erupted with the vengeful fury of a volcano spewing forth the ugliness befitting a terrorist. Mercifully, female characters have more to do in these films besides being bodacious. Their bottoms are more artfully displayed. Besides they get to brood and kick booty just like the hero! 

 All that canny crafting may be catnip for the critics but the dearth of organic emotional beats leaves the heart groaning with impatience and a simple longing for the earlier iterations of Batman, even the one where studio executives greenlit a Batsuit with nipples on it. 

 This column originally appeared in The New Indian Express

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