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The Smartest Superhero Movie of 2022 Is Already on HBO Max

It may be dark, but this movie's message is profound.

Credit: Warner Bros/Matt Reeves

For nearly two years, the hype around Robert Pattinson’s The Batman was unavoidable. Was it going to be the best Batman ever? Could anything top Christian Bale in the Christopher Nolan films? Did this automatically cancel out the possibility of more Ben Affleck as Batman in the Snyder-verse? Now that The Batman has actually come out, there aren’t really any answers to these questions. Directed by Matt Reeves, The Batman isn’t exactly the BEST Batman movie of all time, or, if it is, it’s still too early to tell. However, there is one specific aspect of the film, which, thus far, has been under-discussed that does set it apart from all of its predecessors.

Other than perhaps the Adam West film in 1966, The Batman is one of the few big-screen versions of the Dark Knight in which Batman actually realizes that vigilantism based solely on getting perpetual revenge for his parents’ murder is…toxic.

This may seem like a small thing, but one of the best things about The Batman is that it encourages the audience to root for Bruce’s violent form of anti-heroism, but then, in the end, flips around all of your emotional tethers. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, ruining this twist actually ruins the entire film. The twist is mostly an emotional one, but it packs a serious punch.

In fact, what makes The Batman so different is that it posits that Batman’s journey to becoming a hero known as “the Dark Knight” begins by having him step into the light. Ever since the 1989 Michael Keaton Batman, directed expertly by Tim Burton, there’s been a hunger in the zeitgeist for more and more dark and gritty versions of the Caped Crusader. Families sometimes struggle with this basic fact about the Batman mythos: Yes Batman is cool, but unless you go back to the ’60s show, or find a few cartoons like The Brave and the Bold, the vast majority of Batman stuff is well, a little too dark. Sure, many versions of Batman have a rule about “no guns” and “no killing,” but the character of Batman himself often feels a bit amoral.

What makes Pattison’s Batman different is that you’re sort of invited to think that the movie endorses a kind of moral grey area for Bats — yet again — but, in the end, you realize that’s not at all the point the movie was trying to make. The Batman is still not a movie a very young child should watch, but, for older kids (including those inner children in the bodies of grown adults) the film’s message is more potent than many of the Bat films that have come before. Dressing up as a bat and kicking ass is one thing. Becoming an actual hero is something else.

Is The Batman on HBO Max?

As of April 18, 2022, The Batman is streaming on HBO Max. Catch it there while you can. And if you haven’t seen it yet, get ready for the awesome twist.