Titans’ season 3 take on Bruce Wayne is unlike every Batman movie so far
One of the most frustrating aspects of Titans, the HBO Max drama based on DC Comics’ Teen Titans, is its slow transformation into a Batman story in everything but the name. Its third season even takes place in Gotham City, via adapted interpretations of the Batman stories. A death in the family and Under the hood, in which Jason Todd, the second Robin, dies and is resurrected much later as the violent vigilante Red Hood. Titans‘pivoting towards Batman’s cannon isn’t that bad, though. Although it’s frustrating Titans worked so hard to fit a Batman-less Batman story into his Teen Titans tale, he didn’t choose to tell that story without Bruce Wayne. And Titans has the strangest, most enjoyable vision of Bruce Wayne we could ever have live.
In Titans, Bruce Wayne is played by Iain Glen, best known for his portrayal of Jorah Mormont on HBO’s Game Of Thrones. Glen is one of the oldest men ever to take on the role of Bruce Wayne, who is typically played by men in their early to mid-30s. (Robert Pattinson, the last Batman, is 35. Glen is 60.) Like Ben Affleck’s version of the character, Glen’s Bruce Wayne is a grizzled man, with the toll his war on crime has taken on him. mind and body. Unlike Affleck, however, Glen’s Bruce isn’t an angry barrel-chested murderer. This Bruce is skinny, nervous and a little offbeat. It’s a performance that prompts viewers to wonder what his Batman must be like: does he meet as strangely as his Bruce? Or does he choose to play a very different Bruce than the man he is in Batsuit?
And Titans has a Batsuit, which appears primarily in a nightmarish alternate reality where Dick Grayson is tormented by the sight of a Batman turned murderous. In these scenes, which all take place in the first season, before Glen’s casting, Batman is played by stuntmen Alain Moussi and Max Sevaria in quick and brutal fight scenes that offer only fleeting glimpses of the hero, without none of his face exposed. By the time Glen joins the series in Season 2, the series is over with Batman (for now) and is all about Bruce.
This Bruce is still fighting crime, but ever since Titans is largely the story of his adopted sons Dick Grayson and Jason Todd, he only appears on this show in disguise, as a dysfunctional father figure. Sometimes it is an illusion evoked by their subconscious when they are in the grip of doubt. At other times, the former mentor is actually present, in scenes where he encourages his former wards. But with every appearance he’s tinged with an air of failure, the idea being that if he’d done a better job, Dick wouldn’t have left town and Jason wouldn’t be so unsuited. This Bruce sucks, in a way immediately felt by characters who are actively going through or witnessing the repercussions of a life under his tutelage.
Glen plays Bruce with the edgy sobriety of a former drug addict – at least in scenes where the character is meant to be real and present. Other scenes call for a Bruce delusion, and in these, Glen is unpredictable: sometimes mean, sometimes ironic, and sometimes downright awkward. He is Bruce Wayne as received by the young men he shattered in his relentless efforts to build them – not the stoic legend of comics and movies, but a broken man who can’t help but rub everyone the wrong way.
It is a daring choice, both for Titans‘writers, and in Glen’s performance. Most face off against an older Bruce Wayne – of Batman beyond To Batman vs. Superman – are not afraid to show that Batman has lost his way. But the creators normally want to point out that Batman is still costs, although Bruce Wayne has lost sight of some things. The Bruce of Titans is not particularly cool. He hardly seems to have any good ideas, what if Titans takes place on an Earth where he works with the Justice League, they would probably all think he was an illusory fanatic. But while Batman is superfluous for Titans, Bruce is essential. Bruce Wayne built a found family that was miserable. So with this poor example at hand, can two former Robins build a successful one? The series seems to focus on watching them try it out.