I'm worried about watching The Batman on HBO Max — here's why

Robert Pattinson as Batman and Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman in the poster for The Batman
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

I get that there are reasons why people want to watch The Batman on HBO Max at home. Convenience is never to be overlooked, for example. And you don't need to buy a ticket — your $10 to $15 per month HBO Max membership covers the cost. Plus, the Covid-19 pandemic is still going on, so some people have good reason to steer clear of a crowded movie theater. 

On top of that, having sat in a theater for the entirety of the film, to see how well The Batman post-credits scene would set up the potential The Batman 2, I can confirm this isn't just a very long movie (it comes in at around 3 hours). It also feels like a very long movie, with seemingly multiple ending points, like we're watching Lord of the Rings: Return of The King again. At home, The Batman can become a three-part miniseries that's a lot more easily managed.

But even with all of that? Having seen The Batman in theaters, I'm a bit worried how it will look at home on HBO Max — and that's no fault of HBO Max's.

The Batman is a Dark Knight that's too dark

As much as I love the fact that The Batman feels like the creative vision of one very avid Batman fan (director Matt Reeves), it also suffers for possibly the same reason. Visually, The Batman has a color palette and aesthetic that almost edges toward antagonistic against its the audience. When there is color, such as the flames in the already-iconic upside-down point-of-view shot from the Penguin's turned-over car? That color pops.


Take the below image, an official production photo straight from Warner Bros. Pictures. While HBO Max's HDR and Dolby Vision support mean that one of the best OLED TVs could help improve the contrast in images and elevate black tones to a pure, inky level, not everyone has Dolby Vision and HDR. Many people, I'm guessing, will see shots like this on their screen and think "I can't see sh*t."


(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures & © DC Comics)

I think a lot about my parents' television set a 33-inch HiSense flatscreen that looks modern, mounted to their wall, but is very much not-modern. It doesn't have Dolby Vision or HDR, and I know the downfalls of this aging TV (which they don't want to replace) because we've been rewatching the Marvel movies in order over dinner. And throughout these sessions, my mom has often levied the same complaint: "why does it have to be so dark?"

So, while I sat in an Alamo Drafthouse theater, watching the 500 shades of gray and black that director Matt Reeves' Gotham was depicted in, I kept thinking "mom's gonna hate this."

This makes me think back to the Game of Thrones episode titled "The Long Night," an episode so visually dark that people complained left right and center (almost as much as the overall reaction to the final season). Those with modern TVs, or those who know how to turn up the brightness on their sets, may be more well equipped. 

The Batman's darkness is the point

But, depending on if Warner Bros. re-grades the color for home or not (and I sort of assume they won't), The Batman may also require a little effort on the part of everyone at home. This may be aging me a bit, but there was a time when people turned off the lights in their living room to set the mood for The X-Files. And I honestly bet that The Batman will look best if you try and replicate the theater-going experience at home, turning your living room into a black box of sorts. 

That, I believe, is how the below scenes where Batman is spending time with James Gordon and Selina Kyle, will look the best.

The Batman, an ode to classic Batman comics with both the look and voice-over, is a movie that isn't eager to please. It's made for fans of the source material first, and new audiences second. 

I fall somewhere in between the two audiences, so I sat there in the theater conflicted. I appreciated the intent behind the film, but I also found that the very dark aesthetic almost gave me a headache. From the radial blur, where only the center of many scenes was in focus, and many elements were out of focus, to the torrential downpour of rainy scenes, The Batman is a movie that made many stylistic decisions. I just hope this all doesn't get in the way of anyone who wants to enjoy Matt Reeves' Gotham at home.

And, yes, it's not a bad thing that The Batman may push some to finally upgrade their TVs. I just hope it doesn't come to that.

In other streaming news, we've got the Peaky Blinders season 6 Netflix release date for those in the states, and all the info on how to watch Peaky Blinders season 6 episode 3 online around the world, too. Plus, the Better Call Saul season 5 Netflix release date has been confirmed — giving fans two weeks to re-watch it before season 6 debuts.

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Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.