Warning: Spoilers for The Batman ahead.
The Batman is a brutal, atmospheric, aggressively moody superhero movie that deserves all the high praise it gets. Writer-director Matt Reeves respects every Batman movie that came before, as well as carving a fresh noir detective story with a villain drawing parallels to the Zodiac Killer.
But The Batman forgot one thing: a satisfying ending.
The ending featured Batman taking out multiple armed thugs. It featured Batman slow-motion dropping out of the sky into a pool of water that splashed up around him in a cool, Zack Snyder-inspired moving portrait.
The ending of The Batman created another opportunity for the exhilarating Darth Vader's Imperial March-style theme music to crash over our ears. It saw Zoe Kravitz's grounded version of Catwoman and Batman finally become partners as they fought for their lives.
The problem: Their lives were never really in any danger. There was zero sense of peril. Once the Riddler was out of the picture, locked up in jail, it came down to his internet friends to assassinate newly elected Mayor Bella Reál. Yet by the time Batman arrived to prevent this from happening, she'd already been shot.
It wasn't fatal -- she pretty quickly found the strength to wade through a lagoon of filthy water -- but her survival is just another reason why The Batman's ending suffered from low stakes.
The other reason: Gotham City had already been flooded by Riddler's bombs. Batman could only help by rescuing civilians from drowning in the deluge. Batman didn't know Catwoman would be at the mayor's address, so he wasn't racing to her rescue either.
The only stakes: Batman preventing further damage.
One pivotal moment stands out from the meek final showdown: Riddler's Trump era-inspired incel-style follower claiming that he's also "vengeance," mimicking Batman's catchphrase. It taught Batman that he should be driven by different values, specifically the power to endure and the strength to fight. An allegory for the political climate in the US, The Batman, via Bruce's final voiceover, wants people, in Gotham and elsewhere, to be able to believe in politicians and institutions again.
The Batman is the shadows until the end, when he holds a literal and metaphorical beacon of light to banish the darkness and lead everyone to safety.
It was an earnest end to a movie about a serial killer, corrupt cops and the tainted Wayne legacy.
It probably works for some, providing a glimmer of hope at the end of a dark, three-hour odyssey. Batman's failures subvert the usual last-second wins superheroes normally achieve. This hero entered an impossible final battle mid-avalanche.
At the same time, the tame, overstretched ending broke the magic trick. The crime mystery, steeped in sheets of rain, popping with chilling moments right out of a horror movie, lost its nerve. The hypnotic, slow-burning spell washed away.
Obligatory teases for the future, including a certain Joker, drew attention away from the chapter that had just unfolded. Two more Battinson movies are reportedly to come, yet The Batman already feels like a trilogy-ender, one that fails to justify its Avengers: Endgame-level runtime.
The ending of The Batman should have hurt Batman. Instead, his god-armor turned bullets into pretty sparks. Gotham lives on, even damper, and relatively unharmed.