It’s the Twilight of the Bat – in a good way. Robert Pattinson has grown a bit as an actor and become the third Batman on the big screen in a decade.
We know how that came to be. Matt Reeves sold Warner Bros. on how he would approach The Batman and they decided to wait and change course with the character; then cleaving the DCEU into a camp for the Snyderverse continuity they decided to keep, and one strictly for Reeves to play around and expand his vision of the Dark Knight.
This came at the cost of more Batfleck and what might have been an excellent movie that went deeper into Arkham while he fought Deathstroke in a life-or-death struggle of revenge. On paper, that is a premise I’m sorry I missed out on but when I look over at The Batman as it is I’m pleased with the results and its grasp of the source material.
The Riddler (Paul Dano) is bringing Gotham to its knees by killing its most powerful elites, starting with the Mayor. He gets the attention of Batman (Robert Pattinson) whom he’s writing to in the first place and that leads the conflicted hero down a path of riddles and mayhem to uncover Gotham’s hidden corruption Riddler seeks to expose.
Digging deeper, Batman meets Selina (Zoe Kravitz), a waitress at a waterfront club, the Iceberg Lounge, operated by The Penguin (Colin Farrell), and Carmine Falcone (John Turturro). Protecting another girl at the club, Selina has her own ax to grind with Gotham’s finest and well-to-do, so she doesn’t mind seeing them all pay.
And they will dearly – with the rest of Gotham – when Riddler’s whole plan comes to fruition.
There’s a temptation to compare The Batman to the Nolan films and some view it as nothing more than a continuation of their tone and school of thought. I honestly disagree and feel that Reeves delivers on his promise of showing us a different side of Gotham and a different kind of Batman.
The city is seedier than before, looking up and down every bit like the dump no one should want to live in – as if The Narrows from Batman Begins overtook the whole town like weeds and rotted it from the inside out. Yeah, it needs saving but anyone who tries has to be insane or stupid. (Our title hero is a bit of both but I’ll get to that.)
Gotham here is definitely out of the David Fincher playbook with its interiors most resembling the apartments and slums of his thriller Se7en. However, I don’t consider The Batman a full-blown horror movie – although most horrors are thrillers when you boil them down.
The elements are there especially when Riddler stalks and slays his victims, but they are grafted on to serve a grounded story. You won’t get the feeling Battinson is going to square off with Freddy, Jason, or zombies.
But he does display some of their tendencies. His walk is slow and methodical like a Jason or Michael Myers and each step hits with an echo as he comes out of the shadows, which could be anywhere.
Right from the start, it’s made clear Bruce hides in plain sight among the people and that Batman is a specter hanging over criminals. It’s only year two in his mission but he already strikes fear in them. When the signal hits the sky gangs and armed robbers scramble once they peer down a dark alley thinking he’s going to jump out.
That helps make Pattinson a darkly unalloyed take on Batman. As his alter ego, there is a very thin line between masks – which is something talked about in other movies but they never quite explored the way Reeves dives into it. Bruce Wayne is as dour and reclusive as Pattinson has said, and at times he comes across as deeply disturbed.
In his most tortured moments, he’s focused so much on the mission that his intensity is on par with Rorschach more than Kurt Cobain. Understand that Pattinson channels his inner emo goth kid but manages to keep himself in line with the material that is more reminiscent of The Crow and Watchmen than something ridiculous like Spider-Man 3 or a Crow sequel.
Although I say “Ugly”, this is not a point where I discuss what is bad about The Batman. Quite to the contrary, I can’t think of anything I really dislike or that took me out of the proceedings.
I hear people picking at the running time and Pattinson’s noir narration but Reeves didn’t overplay his hand terribly in either respect.
Where I was afraid he would underdeliver was in the detective angle. Filmmakers often say they’ll do one thing and miss the mark. Reeves doesn’t fall into that trap and keeps the twisted mystery interesting while also showing us how new, even callow, his Batman is to crime-fighting – often to his detriment.
I’m not ready to call The Batman the best film in the franchise but a sigh of relief can be breathed with Matt Reeves in charge.
I know that sounds weird when he is a J.J. Abrams guy and Abrams messed up Star Wars and Trek and is about to dig his claws into Justice League Dark and Superman.
But Reeves’s Batman world doesn’t look as bad as any of that and I’ll declare it is off to a good start. I’m interested in seeing where it goes, particularly after some fairly compelling seeds were sowed.
- I liked our new Batman.
- Riddler is scary good (literally).
- Carmine Falcone is a bigger part of the movie than advertised and John Turturro is so good he deserves Best Supporting consideration.
- Colin Farrell’s Penguin is a unique interpretation that leaves little to be desired.
- Batman makes rookie mistakes that are more stupid than a sign of less experience.