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4 Things Parents Should Know about The Batman

4 Things Parents Should Know about <em>The Batman</em>

Bruce Wayne is a pensive, wealthy man living in a city – Gotham – that's desperate for hope.

The crime rate is skyrocketing. Murder and drug use are at historic highs. Masked vigilantes roam the streets, killing people for fun. Even the police are corrupt.

The city needs a leader – a hero – to help its citizens feel safe.

That hero is found in Bruce Wayne's alter ego, Batman. Wearing a cape and a mask, he stands in the shadows at night, catching the bad guys and bringing them to justice.

But then the city is attacked by a villain who is not so easily caught. His pseudonym is the Riddler, and he kills the mayor, and then the district attorney, and then a host of other high-profile individuals. Each time, the Riddler leaves a clue for Batman at the scene of the crime.

Will Batman ever find him?

The new movie The Batman tells the story of Bruce Wayne and Gotham City, starring Robert Pattinson in the lead role and Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. It was directed by Matt Reeves, who also helmed Cloverfield, War for the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Here are four things you should know:

Photo courtesy: ©Alon Amir/Warner Brothers

Batman in the rain

1. It's a Reboot

If you're confused about where this film fits in the Batman timeline, you're not alone. That's because The Batman is part of either the third or fourth series of Batman movies in the past 25 years, depending on how you count.

There were four Batman movies from 1989 to 1997, starring Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and George Clooney in the lead role.

The series took a more dark, gritty turn under director Christopher Nolan with a reboot beginning with 2005's Batman Begins, followed by The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Christian Bale played the lead role.

The DC Extended Universe included Batman in a series of movies starting with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and then Justice League (2017), with Ben Affleck playing the caped crusader.

The newest film is the beginning of yet another reboot, with multiple movies and spinoffs planned by Warner Bros. Thus, if you've never seen a Batman movie in your life, you won't be lost in the story.

Photo courtesy: ©Alon Amir/Warner Brothers

The Riddler

2. It's Impressive … but Very Dark

The Batman is one of the best Batman movies ever, partially because of its dramatic good-vs.-evil clash but also because of its moral themes (revenge-vs.-vengeance), its family-centric plot (more on that below), its action scenes (a car chase going against traffic!), its cool gadgets (Batman wears a contact lens that records video) and its cinematography (the final 10 minutes is stunning).

Our caped crusader opposes evil at all costs and helps the common man in any way he can. In one scene, he walks out of the shadows to help a man who is being kicked and punched by a ruthless gang. In another scene, he puts his life on the line to save citizens facing a deadly flood.

Gotham City needs a hero – and Batman is determined to fill that role.

Still, The Batman is a dark movie – both visually and thematically. It rains throughout the film – often at night.

The film's antagonist is a mentally deranged villain, the Riddler, who shocks the citizens of Gotham with a series of viral videos describing his grizzly, murderous deeds. Creepy music plays in the background.

Batman's search for the Riddler takes him into a dark shady nightclub, a dark back alley and a dark abandoned warehouse.

Then there is the Gotham government. It's corrupt – and so are the police.

The film contains little humor to cut the tension.

Adding to this darkness is Nirvana's song of desperation, Something in the Way, which we hear twice. Some call it the most depressing song ever composed by the 1990s grunge band.

Photo courtesy: ©Alon Amir/Warner Brothers

The Batman

3. It's about Fatherhood, Families and Hope

In the midst of this darkness and despair, though, there is promise.

"People need hope and know someone's out there for them," Batman says.

Batman is determined to rise above his tragic past – his parents were murdered – and to save the city he loves. As he says, the city is scarred, just like him. Scars "can destroy us," or they can "transform us" into a better person, he says.

"They can give us the power to endure and the strength to fight," he says.

During one poignant moment in the film, Batman sees a young boy who is grieving his father's murder. Batman stares at the boy, contemplating his own past while considering the boy's future.

"People need hope," Batman says.

The significance of fathers – and families in general – forms the backdrop to the film. Batman was an orphan. So was the Riddler. So were multiple other characters in the movie.

"You needed a father," Alfred tells Batman/Bruce Wayne. "All you had was me."

The film tackles other moral themes. Catwoman wants revenge on her tormentors. Batman, though, encourages her instead to seek justice – or "vengeance," as he calls it. He even goes so far as to save a murderer from falling to his death. Revenge, Batman says, will ruin a person.

The film is filled with biblical undertones.

Photo courtesy: ©Alon Amir/Warner Brothers

Batman and Catwoman

4. It's PG-13 … but Nearly Was Rated R

The Batman isn't a children's movie. And even though it garnered the same rating (PG-13) as most Marvel movies, it's far more coarse. Barely 15 minutes into the film, we hear an f-bomb. That's followed by frequent use of other strong language, including "GD," several misuses of "Jesus" and SOB (details below). If there ever was a PG-13 superhero film with more strong language, I missed it.

The violent and thematic content, though, might be worse. The cartoonish-like villains of the 1960s TV series have been replaced in modern Batman films by disturbing individuals with serious mental problems. The 2019 film Joker gave us one example of this: a disarranged murderous man who bludgeoned people to death. The Batman avoids the bloody content of that R-rated film, but it keeps the eerie content found in psychological thrillers.

The movie's primary villain – the Riddler – kills people by strangling and torturing them. One victim is killed when rats eat him alive. (We see the rats but don't see the man die.) Another is killed after a bomb is strapped around his neck. Elsewhere in the film, we learn the Riddler severed a man's thumb to make a "thumb drive." (We see it several times.) The Riddler's mannerisms – he screams and laughs while staring into the camera – are intended to frighten. It does.

No doubt, parents who are expecting a movie in the likes of Sony's Spider-Man or Marvel's The Avengers will be surprised – and may walk out.

Variety reported that there "had been internal chatter" within Warner Bros. that the film "could be the first R-rated Batman adaptation due to its dark and gritty tone." It escaped that only by avoiding nudity and cutting down on the excessive extreme language. (In other words, it doesn't contain multiple f-words.)

It's another reminder that the American rating system should borrow an idea from the British rating system, which consists of more categories, including a "12A" (suitable for 12 years and older), a "15" and an "18." In the United Kingdom, the film is rated "15." That sounds about right.

The Batman is rated Rated PG-13 for strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong language, and some suggestive material. Language details: h-ll (13), a-- (3), GD (10), d--n (1), misuse of "Christ" (3), misuse of "Jesus" (16), misuse of "Jesus Christ (1), single misuse of "God" (1), f-word (1), s--t (14), SOB (7), b----rd (1)

Entertainment rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Family-friendly rating: 2 out of 5 stars.


Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.



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