"The Batman" extends "Joker's" gallery of grotesque horrors by taking its morally abhorrent simplism even further. It's only recommended in case you've ever wondered how far the most over-the-top reactionary individualism could go.
Plot and atmosphere of "The Batman"
"The Batman" follows the line blazed by Joker. The setting is the same: Gotham City, micro-universe of a decadent and violent society. The story is also recounted through the eyes of a marginal character who intends to take justice into his own hands: Batman. Like the Joker, he is not a rebel rising up against injustice, but a violent deranged man. The difference: he intends to defend the established order and has plenty of means to equip his fantasies of power and revenge.
While in Joker social discontent is portrayed with riots of costumed extras dressed as clowns, in "The Batman" alterity is directly described through a terrorist group claiming to fight against "the lies of politics". They are, of course, led by a villain, a madman who from the first scenes assassinates politicians and civil servants.
As the plot evolves, political corruption and police violence are revealed as a result of the influence of the Italian Mafia. Batman finally imprisons the villain, but car bombs planted by the latter destroy the dam, which floods the city causing an unspecified number of deaths. However, in the midst of the collapse, Batman prevents the new lady mayor from being killed.
Read also: Joker, 20/10/2022
What is "The Batman" trying to tell us?
Gotham's universe is, like Joker's, the expression of the inanity of contemporary US ideology. It betrays its incomprehension and its impotence, its decadence and its anti-human morality.
There is not a single detail that would not be signed by a plethoric and deluded Ayn Rand. For instance, the evil guy needs to challenge Batman into discovering his identity by means of riddles. Not that Bruce Wayne is a millennial with a lack of motivation, it is just that in this terminally individualistic universe no one takes part in anything collective unless they have a "personal" reason to do so. Some characters -the simpletons- are motivated by money and others -heroes and anti-heroes- by some kind of revenge or resentment.
The collective element is necesarily either repressive and the product of a superior will paying for it (the police or the mafia) or takes as its starting point the highest cultish depersonalization. The "rebels" who in the other film followed the Joker and disguised themselves as clowns, now disguise themselves behind the Riddler's mask. In both cases, the leader will use and sacrifice them to further his own ends.
Accordingly, while in Joker the revolt is pure irrational and destructive barbarism instrumentalized by the villain to assert himself as a counter-power, here the revolt is directly the thuggish activism of a cult.
The crudest and oldest reactionary discourse plagues the plot: there is no real revolt possible, only brainless people following a leader who has gone over to the dark side and become alienated. Because, just in case we hadn't noticed, the Gotham world is divided into leaders and followers, protagonists who develop a personal and egocentric agenda and paid or mindless extras who follow them.
But we would be mistaken if we thought the script was written by one Ayn Rand gone through an ayahuasca retreat. This is not the US right wing talking. And we are meant to understand that by the ending. Moreover, one needs to be deeply sympathetic to the faith and myths of the Democratic party to understand: the mayor represents the hope for renewal simply because she is relatively young and black, i.e., symbolically Biden.
And that's the key to trying to get some sense out of "The Batman." If Joker was an attempt to digest Trumpism, "The Batman" transpires Democratic frustration at Biden's first year and counting. But even this is not relevant.
What "The Batman" reveals to us is that the US bourgeoisie and its ideologues are no longer able to sustain even the infantile Manichean good-evil divide of their superhero comics. Poisoned by their own cynicism they are incapable of getting excited about the epics in which they pretended to re-educate the world. Their galleries of prefabricated and simplistic heroes have definitely become carousels of grotesque horrors. The emperor isn't just naked, when he looks in the mirror he discovers that he's flayed.