“The Batman” is finally here, and it’s a doozy. Ominous, moody, and violent, the highly anticipated DCEU film from director Matt Reeves is a very dark crime drama, not a traditional family-friendly superhero movie. It’s bleak and challenging in a way that will test (and possibly anger and / or delight) audiences. If you’re a casual DC Comics fan, you’ll appreciate this warning before buying a ticket: this most likely isn’t the Batman you’re expecting. But damn if it isn’t absolutely terrific.
After a sadistic serial killer (Paul Dano) leaves behind a trail of cryptic clues along with a body count of key political figures, Batman (Robert Pattinson) dives into the seedy underworld of Gotham City to bring those responsible to justice. He aids James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) in investigating the crime scenes, solving complex riddles in a matter of seconds, and showing the local police force why he’s often called the world’s greatest detective.
But Batman isn’t exactly an honorable defender of law and order. He’s a flawed man, a superhero without superpowers who feeds off a need for revenge. This masked vigilante version of Batman is more frightening than reassuring, especially when he is forced to question his own family’s involvement in the city’s long-buried corruption.
The film itself is very complex, especially in its narrative content. Heavy adult themes (like corruption, abuse of power, and what justice really means) add a level of intensity and ominous sophistication to this crime noir drama. Batman is supposed to be one of the good guys, fighting crime and helping the residents of Gotham City. But at what point does his thirst for vengeance make him part of the problem instead of part of the solution?
Not only does this film not portray the more heroic side of Batman, it also doesn’t feature the confident, well-heeled playboy version of Bruce Wayne. In this version of the story, Bruce is a reclusive billionaire who likes to don his costume and work over bad guys in fits of rage. Only towards the end does Batman get any glimmer of hope and redemption.
The film travels to some really dark places (so much so that I wish it was rated R instead of PG-13, as to remove all MPA limitations), and is extremely violent (but not bloody). There are fist fights and gun play and car chases that bring bursts of grand scale action, lending a more conventional superhero movie feel to what’s essentially a detective story. This thing is harsh and intense and, it should go without saying at this point, NOT for kids.
The film packed with a talent-heavy cast that includes smaller supporting roles for Peter Sarsgaard, John Turturro, and Andy Serkis, and an unrecognizable Colin Farrell (as the Penguin, Oswald Cobblepot) who is buried beneath a mountain of makeup that has him looking like an ailing Joe Pesci. Zoë Kravitz is strong as Selina Kyle, and she has a smoldering chemistry with Pattinson that’s absolutely electrifying.
While Pattinson is undeniably one of the more accomplished and capable actors working today, I still don’t like him cast as Bruce Wayne / Batman. He’s just not a great fit for the role, and there are only a few moments in this film that almost convince me otherwise. He isn’t terrible, but this casting choice is also the weakest link. The strongest? That would be Dano as the Riddler, in a performance that is downright terrifying. His take on the character is the stuff of nightmares, as he creates a truly spine-chilling psychopath.
The biggest hurdle faced by “The Batman” isn’t its extremely bleak tone, but its too-epic story. There’s just way too much here plot-wise, and co-screenwriters Reeves and Peter Craig could’ve condensed the story to shorten the arduous 2 hour and 56 minute runtime. It’s challenging to sit with that level of darkness for so long, and it is a lot to take in one film. Those with the most stamina will be rewarded with an unforgettable, if unsettling, take on one of the most popular DC Comics characters.
By: Louisa Moore / SCREEN ZEALOTS
[SPOILERS] I walked out of the theatre unsure of what to make of this. I enjoyed it but I wasn't blown away like I was after some former Batman films.
It does feel different than any Batman movie we've had before which is overall a good thing in this world of recycled superhero movies. I had read some criticisms of Nolan's trilogy that Batman did not partake in enough detective work, but that aspect of the character is back, largely thanks to The Riddler being the main antagonist, who may I add, until he tries to make Bruce explode and then floods the city, does almost nothing evil in this. His only targets are the corrupt.
Colin Farrell as The Penguin steals some scenes but it looks like he will have a bigger role than he got in this in the sequel/HBO TV series. When he yelled something like "no one steals my money" it made my hairs rise - Very convincing. The ending seems to also hint to The Joker being in the follow up. This is an issue I have with the Superman films. There are countless villains in the comics, yet we get the same couple portrayed movie after movie.
While he was fine as Batman, I didn't love Robert Pattinson in either role. He doesn't have the look and some of the acting wasn't spot on in my opinion as Bruce. Where in the past Bruce has been a playboy or more confident and a different personality altogether, there was little difference between Bruce/Batman. The Bruce/Alfred relationship was weird. He didn't seem respected by Bruce. The "You're not my father" line is something a child would say. It didn't fit. And Alfred got what he deserved for opening mail addressed to someone else. Just joking.
The ending felt a bit anticlimactic just because The Riddler was already in prison. You don't want cookie-cutter movies, but generally the main villain being fought or captured is the climax where here it wasn't.
The action scenes were fairly good. The car chase with the b-tec batmobile was one of the highlights. The villains must have never learnt to take head shots though. Batman gets shot a load of times but his armoured suit protects his torso. If they aimed higher it would be a short film.
I was pleased that we didn't have 30 minutes of origin story. That was a fear of mine going in but there is little to no time wasted explaining this with us seeing Batman in his second year of 'The Gotham Project'. One odd part for me was after Batman is nearly blown up and escapes from the GPC, the next time he is with a bunch of cops it's like nothing happened. Was a scene cut? Did I miss something explaining this? If not, this is a huge plothole.
The "no killing rule" version of Batman is back, yet he pounds criminals' heads in multiple times. If by some miracle they weren't dead, they would definitely be a vegetable for the rest of their life. This is the issue I have with people who have had a problem with his portrayal in films like Dawn of Justice. Maybe he doesn't shoot them with bullets, but he always kills people in the films with the way he fights. Lastly, it has been mentioned and I think the 'woke' aspect/lack of equality is a minor issue and one that wasn't needed.
They're some of my quick thoughts. An enjoyable movie and one I've looked forward to seeing for years, but it just lacked something for me. 3.5-4/5.