Arts, Column

Keller: Four Films to Watch Before Seeing ‘The Batman’

A  new chapter of the comic book cinema world will begin with the opening of The Batman on March 4. Robert Pattinson takes on the role of one of the world’s most beloved multi-billionaire characters and suits up as Batman, an equally beloved superhero. 

The last time the caped crusader had a solo film was when Christian Bale wore the Batman suit in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises. But fans weren’t completely deprived of Batman, as Ben Affleck took on the role for cameos in Justice League in 2017. 

Batman’s solo return after a long break has people excited, and Variety projects that the film should top 100 million dollars at the box office during opening weekend alone, but fans are wondering what to expect. Here are four movies to guide your expectations when walking into the theater to see The Batman that will hopefully get you acquainted with the film’s neo-noir genre. 

The Long Goodbye, directed by Robert Altman

Batman—and Bruce Wayne, for that matter—has always been a secluded character. He keeps to himself and conducts his work in secret. When wearing the mask, Batman bears a stark resemblance to many old-fashioned sleuths.Today’s Batman is most reminiscent of Philip Marlowe. 

Originally from the Raymond Chandler novels, Marlowe is the central character of multiple detective films, but no one has played a better Marlowe than Elliot Gould in The Long Goodbye. Gould’s macho grit, astuteness, and contempt for his adversaries perfectly encapsulate what it means to be Marlowe, the archetype of a noir detective. 

The Long Goodbye tells the story of Marlowe, a private detective, helping his friend get to Mexico after the death of his wife, Sylvia. But when Marlowe becomes a suspect in Sylvia’s murder, he begins a new investigation that accidentally unravels the truth about what had happened to her. 

With Gould’s masterful performance, the textbook macho detective is put to the test, just as Batman is constantly in his films, making The Long Goodbye a great watch. 

Se7en, directed by David Fincher

Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman tracking down a psychopathic serial killer one clue at a time—what more can you ask for? If there is one movie that best represents what the new Batman movie is all about, Se7en is that movie. 

The Batman follows a serial killer–esque villain the Riddler ripping through Gotham City, forcing Batman to step in and track him down. At face value, Se7en follows a similar pattern. 

Kevin Spacey plays the menacing criminal John Doe, whose only intent is to send a message. With each murder, there’s a story behind it that tells the tale of Doe’s motivation for the killing. I’d expect Paul Dano’s Riddler to be a similarly mysterious and calculated mind. The Riddler is known by fans as a highly intelligent figure that can set up elaborate crimes all from behind his mask. 

Se7en exudes the same dark, suspenseful tone of the Batman films. I imagine the new film won’t gloss over the harder topics, such as serial murder and mental health issues, and instead it will throw them right in both your and Bruce Wayne’s faces. Batman will have to deal with larger-than-life issues that somehow still feel heavily grounded in reality.

Prisoners, directed by Denis Villeneuve

A large part of Batman’s character has to do with his inner psychology. 

Prisoners is the parallel, giving an example of how a person’s psyche can be put to the test under stressful situations. A man’s child is abducted, and he takes extreme measures, testing the boundaries of morality, in order to get her back. It’s an interesting take on how far someone is willing to go under dire circumstances. 

The movie is a perfect appetizer for The Batman because Batman is constantly pushed to his limits. He faces gruesome villains, and this upcoming film should be no exception. So, when dealing with monstrous criminals all the time, his mind is put to the test the most. The question of whether Batman will be able to keep his cool or crack under pressure, like the main character from Prisoners, is something that should be a focus of this film. 

Chinatown, directed by Roman Polanski

The Batman is set to be the latest neo-noir film coming out of Hollywood. To get a general sense of the genre, there is no better example than arguably the greatest neo-noir film ever made: Chinatown

Neo-noir films are any noir films were created after the classic noir era of the 1940s. Film noir, then, is a type of dark storytelling that focuses around intricate heroes, a mystery plot, and a peculiar lighting style. 

Batman is your typical noir hero. He fights crime and solves mysteries but has a darker side to him that he must keep in check. All newer Batman films are noir flicks, so it’s important that the audience be familiar with the genre to understand some central themes. 

The movie follows Jack Nicholson’s character J.J. “Jake” Gittes, a private detective hired to closely monitor the activity of a woman’s husband. Things begin to spiral out of control once Gittes realizes that the woman who hired him is not who he thought she is, and her husband turns up dead. Gittes has to put all the pieces together to figure out what is truly going on—a true neo-noir masterpiece. 

Featured Graphic by Annie Corrigan / Heights Editor

March 4, 2022