The next installment in the Batman series, the aptly-named The Batman 2022, has a decidedly different tone than its predecessors. The film opens with a startling image: Alfred (voiced as usual by Geoffrey Rush) stands behind a massive wooden podium, clutching the Gotham Academy diploma that future billionaire and socialite Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) will gracefully accept after his graduation today.

The narration continues, “This year’s graduates include…” The camera pans to reveal that young Bruce has company: The Ringer (Charlie Day), the son of the famous Judge Solomon (John Goodman), and the rebellious yet brilliant Dick Grayson (Ben McKenzie), who decides to cap off his graduation ceremony with a bang: He unveils an elaborate trap, complete with spike-lined walls and sharpened metal spikes, for the school’s principal, Jeremiah (Patti LuPone), who he believes has been unfairly singling him out in detention.

The audience is immediately thrown back to the heydays of the 1920s, when young Bruce would be out on the town with his trusty companion, Dick Grayson. Scenes from the original silent serial film, considered by many to be the best of the entire series, Flash Gordon, are woven throughout the conversation pieces and comedic relief that make up this movie. It’s a delightful romp through Dick Grayson’s imagination, which comes to life due to his remarkable artwork and design sense.

However, this is no ordinary graduation ceremony, as the guests have traveled from across the galaxy to celebrate the occasion, leading to a rather high-stakes affair! The stage is set for a fight to the the death (or at least a super-brawl) as these unlikely allies are pitted against each other in a battle of wits and combat skills that is sure to please fans of the series.

The Best of the 1920s

Though The Batman in some aspects feels like a departure from its predecessors, it still benefits from the unique aesthetic design and colorful costumes crafted for the classic serials of the 1920s. The filmmakers even pay homage to the legendary serials by incorporating elements such as the Batmobile, which first appeared in the 1929 serial, The Bat-Motor, and a recreation of the Batsuit, which was first seen in the 1927 film, The Bat. The filmmakers also wanted to recapture the spirit of those bygone days, and they succeed, with the help of modern technology, of course!

The aesthetics of The Batman are a combination of the classic style of the early decades of the 20th century and the cutting-edge design that emerged in the post-World War II era. The costumes, wardrobes, and cars reflect this blending of the retro and futuristic styles.

Flash Gordon’s Revenge?

There’s also an Easter egg for purists, as the original Flash Gordon (Samuel L. Jackson) makes a cameo in the film. He’s there to rat out Dick Grayson to the police, but the cops aren’t buying his story about a stolen car and instead arrest him for soliciting prostitution. When Flash finds out about his appearance in the movie, he’s not pleased. “They’ve changed the game,” he says. “But they’ve still got to pay me…”

Alfred’s Not Going Quietly

One of the more intriguing aspects of The Batman is how Alfred (Rush) will go from being a somewhat stoic butler in the previous movies to a character with a surprising amount of depth and dimension. The filmmakers explore Alfred’s (Rush) backstory in the comics, where he was initially presented as a more complex character who was also involved romantically with Talia (Lily-Rose Depp). So it’s no surprise that audiences will learn more about the butler’s tumultuous past when he appears in The Batman, as he finally gets the cathartic closure he deserves in a satisfying denouement.

Though the filmmakers have tried to distance themselves from the “predictable” nature of the Batman franchise, it’s difficult to deny that these movies have a pattern and they always resolve in a similar manner. And yet, that very predictability is what makes the Batman films so engaging and enjoyable.

A Whole Different Kind of Family

The Batman series has always revolved around a group of interconnected characters related by blood or marriage who rally together to prevent terrible evils from befalling Gotham City. However, The Batman 2022 gives us a whole different kind of family: One composed of unlikely allies who must rally together in order to save the world, if you will. It’s a breath of fresh air to have such complicated interpersonal dynamics at the center of a narrative, and the complexity of the relationships between these characters is one of the major highlights of this film.

More Than Meets The Eye

The Batman, at least in its original incarnation, was never really about violence and villainy. Sure, there were plenty of dark elements to it, but it was also a showcase for the unique costumes, sets, and cinematography of the period. That aesthetic sensibility has carried over to The Batman 2022, as the filmmakers went all out in making this film as lavish and spectacular as possible!

Who Wants To Be A Superhero?

It’s ironic that The Batman has become notorious for being a “soft” superhero movie because, at its most fundamental level, it’s not actually about superheroes at all. Though the protagonists may dress up as superheroes and engage in fights with monsters, they are not actual superheroes. They’re simply regular people who happen to dress up in costumes and fight crime on occasion, like anyone else. To quote Flash Gordon, “It’s great to be a superhero… once you get used to it.”

Still, even though The Batman is ultimately a comedy, it’s no laughing matter when lives are on the line, as they frequently are in these films. The series took a dark turn when it was adapted into a video game in the early 21st century, as the gameplay turned into a button masher, with no real choices to be made other than pressing the button and hoping for the best. While playing the game, it eventually became clear that all the villains were behaving in a “non-lethal” manner, and the heroes had to decide whether or not to kill them, as there was no option other than to press the button again to continue playing. This reprehensible debacle tarnished the otherwise positive legacy of the original game, and it was the last time Batman and his pals would go up against pure evil, at least not in a video game environment. For years, the only villainy these heroes would face would be individual crimes, such as mugging, car theft, and the like, with occasional robberies on the side, but never anything that could truly be considered “organized” or “synthetic” evil, like in Marvel and DC Comics today.

A Metaphysical Inquiry Into The Mysteries Of The Universe

The most recent Batman film, 2021’s Batman vs. Dark Phoenix, delves into the dark heart of the Batman character, examining his connection to the mythos of destruction and death and the role that his greatest enemy, the giant alien lizard, Thanatos, plays in all of this. It was directed by James Wan (The Conjuring, Furious 8), who also helmed the upcoming Aquaman, so it’s no surprise that he would bring his A-game to this project, as well.

Batman vs. Dark Phoenix opens with scenes from the Vietnam War, where young Bruce Wayne (Pattinson) has just returned from duty. As he walks through the door, his father is waiting for him with an unusual request: To help him solve a series of murders that have been plaguing Gotham City for some time now. The city is in chaos, with rampant crime and corruption at every turn. The police are overwhelmed, and the people are afraid. Alfred asks Bruce to step in and help out, which he does, reluctantly, because he doesn’t want to get involved. However, the violence and death that engulf Gotham in Batman vs. Dark Phoenix is far more extensive and complicated than the “ordinary” murders that plague it in the comics, which are usually the result of gangland warfare or random acts of violence.