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The Batman: Done-to-death superhero films desperately need reinvention. But how to go about it?

Comic book-inspired film The Batman has released worldwide on March 4. Is there anything that the movie's trailer did not tell us what it is going to be about? We look at the classic superhero movie sins and if it all the genre can be reinvented in the coming time.

Written by: Devasheesh Pandey New Delhi Updated on: March 04, 2022 12:52 IST
Robert Pattinson

Official poster of The Batman film starring Robert Pattinson

In the past few years, superhero or comic book-inspired movies have divided the filmmaking community like never before. They have time and again proven to be the biggest draws at the box office, making millions, even billions worldwide. During the COVID-19 pandemic, high hopes have been pinned on them to bring the audience back to cinema halls for their 'viewing experience', and they have succeeded in doing so. Limited series format on TV is also seeing an influx of superhero storylines and only more releases are to follow, given the returns on investment are massive. But a question that remains unanswered is what's new in them?

The Batman: Is it serving old wine in a new bottle?

There is massive hype surrounding the new Batman movie, starring Robert Pattinson. It is sure to set the cash registers ringing at the ticket window. There is a new actor under the suit, a new villain (Paul Dano as Riddler) outsmarting his moves, great CGI, thrilling music, great action and shock value. But can The Batman be something more than a repeat of the same old superhero movie formula? 

When Joaquin Phoenix starred in Joker (2019), the movie was much discussed in the cinema community for its portrayal of mental health issues. Same happened with The Batman Trilogy from Christopher Nolan, who portrayed Batman in a fallible light. Both these examples prove how the genre can be reinvented by incorporating varying themes. 

Just CGI-reliant films?

One criticism that has been coming in for superhero movies is that they are a CGI-spectacle. Many movies being made today are doing great CGI and post-production work. Free Guy (2021) is a recent example of how a CGI-powered movie remained true to storytelling and its theme. It was more than a video game movie and brought in a unique style of action-comedy.

While DC superhero films have been usually dark in tone and tenor, Marvel Cinematic Universe has incorporated humour to some extent in films like Thor: Ragnarok and The Guardians of The Galaxy franchise. This has made them stand apart in the MCU collective, while others mostly compete on the basis of which one has better VFX and green screen action sequences.    

Nothing more than in-the-moment thrills

Superhero films are made on a set of themes that have classicly worked in the genre. Set pieces are laid one after the other and the viewing experience is more in the moment. For the most part, the focus remains on the action and not the story per se. Black Widow (2021) is an example of how the genre let down one of its own by not investing in scripting and relying on the star's appeal and the action. Eternals (2021) also failed to impress based on the same parameters as it tried to go beyond its own restrictions of presenting moments of thrill one after the other and just could not do it in the most spectacle-like manner. It has exposed the genre's biggest weaknesses. 

Superhero movie fatigue

With superhero films and series coming in huge numbers, all one is expecting is more of the same. If the fatigue of such films is not kicking in yet, it surely has had an impact on the viewing habits where everything else in comparison starts to seem 'boring'. 


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