Entertainment

In 'The Batman' Gotham City Is Finally as Gross as They Say

Make Gotham gross again.

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Gotham City is gross. I know this because I am told about how gross Gotham is every time the city is the setting of any major conflict involving superheroes and supervillains that tend to fashion themselves after animals and/or comedians. Exchanges of dialogue about how Gotham is corrupt, diseased, and rotting from the inside are as essential to any Batman movie as the caped crusader himself, so much so that we have taken it for granted that the actual sets will reflect any of that. It’s not enough to have mere scenes where characters mutter and moan about the deterioration of their city if we can’t actually see what they’re talking about.

In recent years, in fact, Gotham has looked downright pristine. When Christopher Nolan‘s Dark Knight trilogy ushered in the modern era of superhero movies for adults, the director’s commitment to realism meant that his films needed to look and feel as grounded as possible, famously subbing in Chicago and Pittsburgh whose streets looked swept almost to a shine. Zack Snyder‘s films, stylized as they are, took the same approach, simply hiding regular city streets and augmented nighttime skylines behind layers of rain and mist. There’s nothing wrong with any of this, by the way, except that I fail to see in any of these movies what exactly makes Gotham City a hive of scum and villainy.

The realist angle of superhero cinema is a fun experiment, and led to some downright incredible movies, but the inherent problem with bringing fantasy characters into the real world is that they don’t belong here. As silly and heightened and fantastical as they could be, Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns (and, to an extent, Joel Schumacher’s less beloved Batman Forever and Batman & Robin) created an outrageously heightened world where one would believe immediately that a rich guy would fight crime by dressing up as a bat to save the city from itself.

With The Batman, Matt Reeves accomplishes the nearly impossible feat of meshing our modern expectations of action movie realism with a very strong sense of atmosphere: Not since Tim Burton’s Batman films has Gotham City looked so nasty, a city straight out of our wildest imaginations or our darkest nightmares.

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

The character of Batman debuted in Detective Comics #27, first published in May 1939, when America’s metropolises were in the grip of the Art Deco design movement-particularly New York, on which Batman’s hometown is heavily based (“Gotham” has long been a nickname for New York City since the 1800s). The sweeping lines and glittering lights of Manhattan’s skyscrapers lent their bold geometry to the pages of Batman’s comics, and created a unique aesthetic that’s been tied to the character ever since. It’s not Batman unless we’re gliding past nighttime vistas lit by floodlights and guttering street lamps.

Because The Batman is a reboot not only of the character but of Warner Bros.’ depiction of their comic universe, sort of, the movie reintroduces us to Gotham City for the third time in 20 years. In its moody opening, below its phalanx of buildings arcing above the skyline, criminals scuttle around in mucky streets, stealing from bodegas with streaky windows, hiding in the shadows of rickety elevated train tracks, and passing through subway cars streaked with layers of grime an inch thick. It rains pretty much every single night, so characters are constantly wiping drips from their faces and splashing through puddles. Police cruisers look dusty and unused; every character, hero and villain alike, lives in a set straight out of Dark City or The Crow. There is one nightclub full of scary weirdos, and every public figure save for one politician (and one wealthy recluse) is a sniveling conniver in the pocket of someone even more villainous.It’s so gross. It’s so good. There’s a deliberate unreality to a lot of it, but its commitment to style never distracts or takes the audience out of the action. Rather, it enhances the more dramatic bits by backgrounding the lives of these characters with gothic architectural sets and vivid lighting cues that augment and amplify the strange dramas playing out in front of them. And now, whenever any character mutters darkly about the corruption running rampant in their city, I can’t help but agree that something really ought to be done about it.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.

Entertainment

Why the Shocking Twist in 'Bodies Bodies Bodies' Is So Killer

The A24 horror-comedy has a lot to say about how logged on we are today.

A24
A24
A24

This story contains spoilers about the ending of Bodies, Bodies, Bodies.Even if you’ve tried to game the TikTok algorithm to feed you videos from #fashiontok, #foodtok, or whatever else you might be interested in, when you open the app, you tend to be inundated with a whole lot of discourse. In many ways, it’s incredible how attuned young people are in knowing who they are and how comfortable they are having frank conversations. But in other ways, sometimes it can feel like quick-hit platforms have a tendency to deduce real issues or strip things of their meanings-whether that’s teens self-diagnosing themselves with mental illness, or people labelling musicians as “female or male manipulator artists” without ever listening to their music.

A24’s latest horror comedy Bodies Bodies Bodies (out now in theatres) about a group of 20-somethings partying during a hurricane that turns into a hunt for a killer is like a movie downloaded from the current millennial-Gen-Z cusp moment of the internet we’re in. When the trailer for the movie directed by Halina Reijn and written by Sarah DeLappe, based on a story from “Cat Person” author Kristen Roupenian, dropped earlier this year, it made that very clear. In just over a minute and a half, we hear the cast of cool girl breakouts yelling, “You’re always gaslighting me,” “you fucking trigger me,” “you’re so toxic,” and “you’re silencing me.” Even the movie’s tagline is, “This is not a safe space.”

Bodies Bodies Bodies is very much logged onto millennial/Gen Z social media-isms throughout, from lines hilariously pieced together by the Twitter zeitgeist to scenes featuring TikTok dances. The movie operates on a delectable kind of slasher-movie paranoia, making the audience just as unsure as the slumber party gone wrong with who is killing them off left and right. But given how much of a playful satire it is of contemporary youth culture, it ends up being a twist that feels all but inevitable, and couldn’t be more razor-blade sharp.

A24
A24
A24

Once the torrential downpour stops and the sun comes up, it seems as if Maria Bakalova‘s Bee is about to be our Bodies Bodies Bodies final girl, now that she’s realized how much her relationship with Sophia (Amandla Stenberg) is based on lies. As a test to see how easily Sophie can lie-and therefore deny killing all of her friends from midnight until dawn-Bee asks her if she cheated on her with Myha’la Herrold’s Jordan. It’s a fact that Bee already knows to be true, considering she came across a pair of panties in Sophie’s car that matched a bra she noticed in Jordan’s bag. When Sophie denies it, Bee tries to take her phone (which Jordan admitted would have texts about their recent hook-up on it), and the two start fighting outside in the remnants of the storm. Bee eventually pulls a phone out of the mud, and it looks like the WiFi and cell phone service that was gone all night is finally back. Thinking she’ll pull up the evidence she needs-and confirmation to get the hell out of there-she’s surprised when Sophie says, “That’s not my phone,” and even more surprised to see what’s on it.

It turns out that it belongs to David, Pete Davidson’s coked-out rich kid character whose parents’ house they’re partying at and was the first one to die in the movie. They know it’s David’s phone because it opens to a TikTok, soundtracked by the lockdown classic TikTok song “Bored In The House” by Curtis Roach and Tyga, that shows him waving around his dad’s decorative but very real sword (!) to try to open a champagne bottle (!), idiotically waving it towards himself, only to slice right into his own neck. As it turns out, nobody killed David-not an intruder, not Jordan, not Sophie, not Alice’s (Rachel Sennott) older boyfriend Greg (Lee Pace) she knew nothing about (except for the fact that he was a Libra moon), and not their friend Max (Conner O’Malley) who left early the night before. David accidentally killed himself, and hysteria is what killed everybody else. You could say that it’s almost predictable that it turns out to be a clout-chasing TikTok that led to the movie’s murderous spiral of events. Although, that would undercut what Reijn and DeLappe are trying to say with the darkly funny movie with an especially dark, funny twist. Like TikTok or Twitter, the movie is a constant feed of discourse, buzzwords, and blanket statements that snarkily laugh at and with its ensemble. There are many moments in particular that drive this home-like Alice trying to be sympathetic in talking about mental health, only to make the conversation about her, and David ridiculing his girlfriend Emma (Chase Sui Wonders) for getting all of her thoughts from Twitter after she says he “gaslights” her. On top of that, David picks up the sword and tries to go viral to begin with because his masculinity felt threatened by Greg, who did the trick in the first place.

While it would be downright terrifying if a party with people who are supposedly your best friends turned into a slasher flick, in Bodies Bodies Bodies, the horror isn’t a vengeful or heartless killer. Everybody may become a psychopath of sorts when they feel physically threatened or legitimately toxic name-calling and backstabbing ensues, but Bodies Bodies Bodies and its devilish twist is about the humour and horror in the devoid way we can use social media today more than anything else. Like Sophie and Bee’s terrified realization at the end, it makes you want to log off for awhile… right after you post a 100K-worthy tweet about it.

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Sadie Bell is the entertainment associate editor at Thrillist. She’s on Twitter and Instagram.

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