Over the weekend, I saw the mew film “The Batman.” Usually I see super hero type movies with my daughter, but she’s a Marvel girl and wasn’t along for the ride this time. Sorry, Tessa fans, but my review will be solo this time. She’ll be back soon enough, I’m sure.
Speaking of Marvel, yes, I am a Marvel movie guy. While I had hopes for the DCEU, it has mostly been a failure, though I have enjoyed some of their movies, and most of them have had at least a few good points. “The Batman” however, doesn’t seem to be connected to the larger universe and, to the best of my knowledge, will be a stand alone movie trilogy so we should be all right there.
Anyway, on to the review. Much has been said about its dark, gritty tone and violence, which is fair and accurate. It’s quite dark and quite violent. It’s also surprisingly swear-y. There were rumors early on that this was to be an R rated movie but somebody came to their senses. After all, there are toys to sell, though I wouldn’t necessarily advise anyone under 11 or 12 seeing this movie without parental accompaniment. I found it to be less of a superhero movie though, and more of a crime/detective movie (and a very good one at that) so in this case the hard PG-13 does make some sense.
Sure, Batman has all his gadgets, and the Batcave, and Alfred, and all that we have come to expect of him through the years of movie treatments. In more recent years, much of the focus has been on Batman’s tortured soul, but the origins of the character focused heavily on his detective work when catching the bad guys as well. While this has been a constant in the comics, the movies have all seemed to focus more on the dark, brooding hero than the mind of the man. This movie takes steps towards fixing that and it is a welcome change.
The cast is mostly excellent. Zoe Kravitz is a terrific Catwoman, and Paul Dano’s Riddler gives us a grounded, slightly sympathetic, and unique take on a character that, for me, is all too often ignored for a certain clown prince of crime, and when he does appear, isn’t taken as seriously as he should be. This movie fixes that, too. Andy Serkis is an interesting choice for Alfred, making him seem like more grizzled a man who has been through it with the Wayne family. Peter Sarsgaard, John Turturro, and Jeffrey Wright all turn in note perfect performances as well. Also, HOLY CRAP, THAT’S COLIN FERREL AS PENGUIN? I HAD NO IDEA!!!
Which brings us to Robert Pattinson as The Batman. I must say that I have seen very little of his work (though he was excellent in the artsy drama/fantasy/horror film “The Lighthouse”) so I didn’t know what to expect from him in this role. I think he was really good while in costume, but I’m not sure about his portrayal of Bruce Wayne. It seems like he just didn’t have a sense of how to play the character without the cowl, and chose to go with the dark, brooding, angsty portrayal that is, frankly, becoming cliché. Also, something about his take just read as petulance to me. Perhaps this was a choice made so that we can see growth in his character throughout the inevitable sequels to come, which is an idea I would be on board with.
One of the more enjoyable parts of this movie for me was the way director Matt Reeves was able to pull together elements of multiple film styles into a cohesive whole. We have the obvious super hero genre mixed with a gritty crime drama, noir, and even a tip of the hat to the Saw franchise, mixed with a touch of “V For Vendetta”. Any one of those elements could have gone wrong and brought the whole movie down, but it worked really well.
The other thing that struck me was the parallels to what is actually going on in our society, not only through political corruption but also in the fringe groups that have begun to spring up throughout the country. I actually wondered for a moment if I was in the theater with anyone from one of those groups. If so, did they see themselves in the film, and did they feel they were accurately portrayed? Did they see those particular characters as misunderstood heroes or as villains? I like when a movie makes me think about, and question the world around me, while still entertaining me.
Clearly, I really enjoyed this film, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its flaws. Apart from Pattinson’s “Emo Batman” I have already discussed, there were a few things that didn’t quite sit well. For example, on at least one occasion, the audience was a step ahead of Batman and Jim Gordon in figuring out what Riddler’s next step would be. Perhaps this was by design, but it bugged me a little. There were also a few times when Batman’s vehicles seemed to appear out of nowhere. The Batmobile, cool as it is, was just sitting there waiting to be used in one scene, when Batman had come to the location another way. How did it get there? Also, toward the end he snuck up on Selina Kyle, then took off on his pre-parked Bat cycle right behind them, which meant he would have had to drive it there. Yet she didn’t hear it? Really?
Also, note to all super hero movies (Marvel included): enough with the multiple endings already. This thing wrapped up like three times before it was over. One ending is enough. I don’t mind the occasional fake out, but it’s getting old. Do better.
So to wrap it all up, apart from some small complaints I recommend “The Batman” not only to comic book and super hero fans, but to fans of crime dramas or detective stories as well. I give this one 4.5 Daves.