Is The Batman Trying To Bring Sexy Back To Comic Book Movies?
Some might think we should all be tired of yet another interpretation of DC Comics’ Caped Crusader on film. Yet here we are, just over two months away from a “new vision” of the character, this time courtesy of director Matt Reeves, entitled The Batman. With Robert Pattinson donning the cowl this time around, the film will show a young Bruce Wayne at odds with organized crime figures in Gotham like The Penguin and Carmine Falcone, a “Zodiac Killer by way of Se7en” version of the Riddler, and a sexy cat burglar who may not be as different from Bruce as he might think.
Obviously, Catwoman is a major figure from Batman’s comic book lore, and there have been more than a few interpretations of the character in live-action. Actresses like Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, and Lee Merriweather, to Michelle Pfeiffer and Anne Hathaway, all brought something unique to the character. But to say that I’m excited to see what Zoe Kravitz will bring to The Batman, would be the mother of all understatements. This is the daughter of two of the most blisteringly attractive people on the planet! If you were to tell me you didn’t have a crush on Lisa Bonet on The Cosby Show back in the 80s, I would submit that you were lying with your whole ass. And make no mistake, she could definitely still melt me into a puddle with just a look, in this, the year of our lord, 2021. Lenny Kravitz? This man is almost 20 years older than me, and I would sell my immortal soul to have the body that he has NOW! So naturally, it comes as a surprise to no one that their offspring would be the living embodiment of sexuality as an idea . . . as a concept . . . as a principle!
With the latest trailer for The Batman, which dropped earlier this week, I will say that I am at least encouraged by what we’ve been shown of the interactions between her and Robert Pattinson. I’m not 100% onboard for the film in general just yet, but as someone who once pegged Reeves as a perfect director to handle the source material, shortly after the end of the Nolan trilogy, I at least have to give him the benefit of the doubt. This is a director who understands story, character, and spectacle. Whatever misgivings I may have about certain choices that have been made with regards to The Batman, I have to be open to trusting a director who has yet to disappoint me.
The dumb knitcap mask notwithstanding, Zoe Kravitz looks to be absolutely going for it as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, and there’s an effortlessness to what we’ve seen so far that would suggest that her performance could stand toe-to-toe with some of the best to ever play the character. She is playful, enigmatic, and aggressive when she needs to be. She’s confident in her sexuality and the power it represents. If sex is a weapon, this girl is wielding a katana forged by Hattori Hanzo. The way she balances these qualities in comparison to the harder edge of Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman is making for a dynamic fraught with the kind of sexual tension that I’m legitimately surprised to see in a major comic book film these days. It’s around the 1:07 mark of the latest trailer that I firmly believe that Pattinson and Kravitz have perfectly encapsulated Batman and Catwoman’s entire comic book history; a physical representation of the ever-changing power dynamic between them. Even as Batman appears to gain the upper hand, Catwoman’s non-verbal response would suggest her anxiously waiting for him to take full advantage. Batman is a character who wants to maintain control, while Catwoman longs for the moment when he finally loses control, and it is debilitatingly sexual. I can honestly say that I can’t remember the last time a comic book film so cavalierly blurred the line between suggestive and explicit, without it being raunchy and/or vulgar.
As some of us may recall, there was quite a bit of conversation around Marvel Studios’ Eternals featuring a love scene between two characters, and there were certainly a handful of fans who questioned its necessity. This certainly got me thinking about the almost deliberate lack of sex and sexuality in most comic book films over the past 15 years or so. We can, of course, argue the need to keep comic book films free of such things, given the young audiences studios are admittedly required to cater to, but I swear to God, even the most prominent romantic interactions in such films feel painfully toothless. Most of the actors involved end up having the chemistry of two flake-style Fruity Pebbles positioned an inch apart from one another. To say nothing of the fact that most of the pushback is coming from fans who are grown-ass adults, and the type to congratulate themselves on social media for watching a given comic book film half a dozen times during its theatrical run.
And make no mistake, Batman definitely fell victim to this de-sexification when Christopher Nolan was at the wheel. From Rachel Dawes to Selina Kyle, to Miranda Tate, nothing about any of these “romances” ever felt real. Nothing about any of them felt passionate or exciting or urgent. The fact that two of them happen in one film makes it all the sadder. Part of this comes down to Nolan rarely knowing what to do with his female characters in his films. They may have some degree of agency, but are often undercut by disastrous character choices. The fact that The Dark Knight Rises ends with Bruce and Selina absconding to Europe together will never not boil my piss, when measured against all the ways Selina did Bruce dirty. She stole his dead mother’s pearls, as well as his fingerprints so that Bane could use them to authorize stock trades in Bruce’s name that ultimately bankrupted him. Then she stole his Lamborghini. That one was arguably forgivable, until Selina went for the hat trick, leading him into a trap that saw him crippled by Bane, who tossed him into a Middle Eastern death prison for months on end. Do we ever establish why Bruce is willing to forgive all this to share a life with this woman? Nope! Not a single ounce of work is done in the context of the film to make this relationship believable, let alone one worth rooting for. But it’s Batman and Catwoman, of course they have to be endgame, as far as the film is concerned! When I tell you, Nolan’s version of Catwoman is THE ABSOLUTE LAST PERSON Bruce Wayne should ever end up with long-term. To say nothing of the fact that Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway had all the chemistry of an unfrosted Pop-Tart that never saw the inside of a toaster oven.
Will The Batman be another bold reinvention of the classic comic book hero? We’ll all surely find out on March 4th. And while most fans will be looking to see if the action and story are engaging enough for them, I can’t help but look forward to some good old fashioned, warm-blooded sexual tension. Zoe may appear to be doing much of the heavy lifting at the moment, but it’d be foolish to count out Robert Pattison in this whole equation. Even without knowing their former relationships in real life, there is no denying that they are each other’s type, and a lot of that appears to be translating well to the screen. If for no other comic book-based films, you NEED that for a Batman film featuring Catwoman. It is essential. . . It is mandatory. Batman Returns ran so The Batman could run faster. And who knows? Perhaps other comic book films can follow suit, and not feel obligated to showcase romantic interactions with passion levels no higher than a left-open can of Diet Dr. Pepper.