“When the Riddler, a sadistic serial killer, begins murdering key political figures in Gotham, Batman is forced to investigate the city’s hidden corruption and question his family’s involvement.” Director: Matt […]
“When the Riddler, a sadistic serial killer, begins murdering key political figures in Gotham, Batman is forced to investigate the city’s hidden corruption and question his family’s involvement.”
Here we are, The Batman has finally arrived.
Bruce Wayne is in his second year as The Batman (Robert Pattinson). He is trying to rid the city of Gotham through fear and his own relentless form of vengeance. The path he is following is altered when The Riddler (Paul Dano) begins murdering key political figures in cruel, sadistic, public ways. Batman teams up with Lt. James Gordon (Jeffery Wright) and Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz) to try and take down the serial killer. In the process they uncover the depths of the depravity within Gotham’s government and public works. Uncomfortable and unseen truths are discovered about the foundational parts of the sinking city, including Martha and Thomas Wayne. The Batman is trying to resurrect and save his city while honoring his family legacy, but emerging variables make the entire detective story as emotional as it is physical.
I want to thank Matt Reeves and everyone involved with The Batman for creating a different and honestly well-made comic book movie. You could go through every scene in the movie and pinpoint the inspirations for Reeves in creating a story that is not what people have come to expect from superhero movies in recent years. The Batman is grimy. it is grueling. It is beautiful in its messiness. The city of Gotham is actually graffitied and the lowest points of the city do make hell seem like an okay place.
At the of the The Batman, it is an awakening experience to realize that you actually watched a movie, and not a comic-book cookie cutter adventure. Reeves took a comic book story but made a crisp, well-made movie that is worthy of critical praise. Reeves is not worried about crowd pops or filling the glasses of the thirsty and blind mob. There are no crowd-cheering scenes in The Batman, and that is so god-damn-fucking-refreshing. To all the hordes of comic-book fans crowd-surfing to meaningless easter eggs and inconsequential dustings, take this version of The Batman like a dose of much needed medicine.
The Batman looks stunning. It is utterly unique in its approach to Batman and to a super hero story. Director Matt Reeves and his entire crew set out to make something different, and the surpassed all expectations.
Listening and reading various interviews about the process of making The Batman, it was fascinating to hear that Reeves and cinematographer Greig Fraser purposely chose cameras with less quality and less sharpness to make the movie grimier. The Batman is going after a 1970s cop thriller vibe where you highlight the messiness instead of the glamorous. The lens in which the audience sees the depravity comes in many different ways, sometimes including POV shots from the eyes of sleazing characters. There are massive Rear Window (1954) vibes. Spying on your neighbors and trying to figure out a mystery that is bigger than anyone would suspect.
Visually, in very literal ways, this version of Gotham City is the most New York City compared to any others. The largest example of this? Gotham Square Garden is in The Batman, and it has the exact same font and style as the mecca, Madison Square Garden. Surprisingly, the movie version of MSG is cleaner than the real life version…and has less construction.
The most visually striking portion of The Batman comes with the reveal of The Batmobile. Reeves, Fraser and Pattinson look like they were having an absolute blast milking it for everything it is worth. It is introduced like the car is a rabid dog hiding in the shadows. We hear it, then we see part of it, and only with due time and anticipation do you see if jump from its metaphorical cage and accelerate into the light. The introduction of The Batmobile continues with a thrilling car chase that is shot all practically with phenomenal angles and unique perceptions. This is where you can see the emphasis on making this movie as sloppy as possible in the best way. We see water splashed onto the camera and the sharp curves feel propulsive.
The car chase is so good that it has the comic book-esq part of the movie, but you don’t care at all because you are hitting the gas and breaking all the speed limits with the adrenalin pumping through your eyeballs. Steve McQueen is proud wherever he is.
In terms of visuals, I think I have a new favorite (or up and coming favorite) cinematographers. Greig Fraser shows his chops in The Batman, but he has built up to this moment with a cohort of projects that are respected. Ever heard of the movie Dune (2021). Yea, he is nominated for an Oscar for that, and guess what, he is probably going to win it. Fraser was also nominated for an Oscar in 2017 for Lion (2016). Looking at his filmography, this man also did Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) which is easily the best of the newer Stars Wars movie. There is Zero Dark Thirty (2012), Killing Them Softly (2012), Foxcatcher (2014) and Vice (2018), all of which are critically praised. In TV, Fraser returned to Star Wars with The Mandalorian. He directed the pilot and two other episodes in season one. Fraser is excelling at life right now.
The Batman story is heavily inspired by many different media, but none more so than the 1987 comic Batman: Year One. Throw in a dabble of Batman: The Long Halloween, and you have the ingredients for a gruesome and grounded Batman. These two comics set the tone for the story that Reeves is telling, but the now entrenched successful director also stole a remarkable amount from different visual media. Bare me with me, there are a lot:
- Batman: Arkham video games – The feeling of Gotham and city being constantly wet and surrounded by water. Also this movie’s version of the Riddler is reminiscent of Anarchy in the game
- Batman: The Animated Series – Breaking the mold
- Blade Runner (1982) – The detective voiceover and apocalyptic feel
- Bullitt (1968) – A love affair with a car
- Chinatown (1974) – You can try and save someone or a town, but sometimes the city is covered in too much germ to erase
- The Dark Knight Trilogy – Batman’s growth into a new perception of his purpose, and mob mentality from The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008) and Paul Dano’s The Riddler
- Dirty Harry (1971) – A man of few words chasing a serial killer holding a city hostage
- The French Connection (1971) – Emphasis on dirty train and subway settings, plus the inspiration for a car chase
- Joker (2019) – People are terrible, and it’s just how you choose to live with it
- Rear Window (1954) – POV shots galore, sometimes through binoculars
- Saw (2004) – If you have The Batman, then you get this
- Se7en (1995) – Dark grimy city, making people pay for sins, reveal of the face of the bad guy nearer the end of the movie
- Zodiac (2007) – Who is the bad guy and ciphers
This version of the Batman’s story is compelling because it is the grittiest of those made before it. The city of Gotham actually looks like a dump and it need someone’s to save it. The caped crusader steps up to the mantle in an attempt to rid the city of its villainy, and you need someone who is willing to strap on the boots and throw on the cowl.
Pattinson is the perfect combination with Reeves for The Batman. Reeves is not interested in making it personal to the fans, rather he wanted to make it personal to himself and the character. Pattinson had his experience with one of the most crowd-pleasing but dismal franchise in the Twilight movies, and if you saw any of his press tours for those movies, it is easy to see that he didn’t particularly enjoy his time. The Batman is Pattinson’s first possible major franchise money-maker since the turn of the 2010s, and he is going to make up for all his lost time.
The Batman has a younger batman, and Pattinson wears the cape with exceptional confidence and skill. Pulling off a “My Chemical Romance” grunge/emo look, Pattinson spends 85 percent of the story as The Batman, and very few scenes as Bruce Wayne. In all other Batman stories, there is a nearly 50-50 split between the two personas. The different ethos allows people to analyze the actor and his ability to swap between the two settings. In this The Batman, Pattinson may have called Tom Hardy to learn how to act with a face covering. There are many glares. sneers, and cheekbone flares, all of which are great. What is most remarkable to me is how slow The Batman movies in a crowd when he is analyzing a crime scene. He is taking his time, and the effortless flowing prodding charisma put forth by Pattison acting against others is stand out.
Here is my personal hot take. Zoë Kravitz and Selina Kyle are the worst part of this movie. Cue the pitchforks.
Within the world of The Batman, Kravitz sticks out like a sore thumb. She is wearing the thigh high boots and demanding attention with stunning outfits and colorful, changing wigs. She is the foil to Bruce Wayne in that she does not flow through a crowd, rather she has the crowd form around her. While Batman weaves his way through traffic at a crime scene, the path opens up for Selina Kyle at the Iceberg lounge.
With all that being said, The part written for Kyle does a disservice too Kravitz. She has more expository work to do in The Batman more than anyone else, and her moments of vulnerability are not quiet and inner like Batman, but rather loud and wrenching. For example, the scene atop the under-construction building where she tells Batman why Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) is so important to her. It is over written and it is over acted. Kravitz has a presence when she is on the screen, but she spends more time talking rather than marinating in it.
The relationship between Selina and Batman is a story point, and one that does not come off as strong as one would hope. It stems from the type of chemistry. There is no denying that these two want to bang. Straight up, they want to fuck. This relationship is supposed to be an eye-opening one for Batman. It is supposed to be a point of growth. However, I see Batman in this version of the tale as an impulsive guy quick to act once he knows what he needs to know. The idea of lust and a quick urge are not foreign concepts from the quick to anger or vengeance he has originally based his persona one. In order to feel more satisfaction with the growth of Batman and in theory Bruce Wayne, I would have like a more romantic and sensitive growth. Rather than them being thrown in the air and landing on top of each other, why not a subtle touch of the hands or a hand dragging along the lower back for an extra half a second.
This is where I am going to create enemies. I liked the portrayal of Selina Kyle done by Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises (2012) more than this one by Zoë Kravitz. There is no denying that Kravitz has a more distinguished look than Hathaway, but the way that the character of Selina evolves the character of Bruce Wayne and Batman is more impactful at the end of Nolan’s trilogy than the end of this particular story. I would like to see Kravitz’s Kyle come back into the story, assuming this becomes a tentpole franchise, and with time the relationship may change to be more impactful for the character of Bruce Wayne/Batman.
Paul Dano as The Riddler is a fantastic casting decision. This screenplay put a different twist on the character, and made him a lot more of a malevolent villain compared to recent iterations. There is also a modern aspect with him using a small sect of social media and going after people in power. You can draw very taught strings to the current QAnon community hellbent on making a different no matter what. Dano’s rendition is reminiscent of Jigsaw of the Saw franchise and Anarchy from the Arkham video games.
Dano plays the character like a hurt child and like a petulant baby who doesn’t get what he wants. Does he have gripes against the Gotham system? Absolutely. It is a different type of manic than Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight.. You can make a direct comparison with the video exposes sent to the public. It is impossible not to think of that overarching umbrella. His different take on the crazy really stemmed when he took off his mask. The interrogation scene was both immensely fun. This is what Dano trained for, and the twist with the possible massive reveal was really strong writing and acting combining for a fun moment. We see Dano unmasked in two different locations, and each time it is crazed mania combined with youthful tantrum throwing.
Pattinson, Kravtiz and Dano are headlining parts in The Batman, but the sub-characters are filled with immense depth and talent. Jeffrey Wright is a veteran presence as Lt. James Gordon. He benefits a lot the lack of exposition in the screenplay; no need to explain why Gordon and Batman have a relationship. It works, it’s fluid and we are here for the ride. Colin Farrell is undistinguishable as Oz/The Penguin, and the transformation is fun to see in action. Overall his character does feel like a bit of temporary stay that will become permanent in the upcoming TV series on HBO Max. John Turturro is throwing heaters as Carmine Falcone and he really did chew up the scene more than i would have thought. Same goes for Peter Sarsgaard as DA Gil Colson who you can feeling the sweat coming off of his pores. Also let’s get Andy Serkis a mention, but his portrayal of Alfred is the most forgettable from recent Batman centric movies.
A major part of any superhero movie is the score that accompanies the hero, and the music imbedded throughout The Batman is memorable. Composed by Michael Giacchino, the score is propulsive, but it’s impact is taken from inspiration. Now all music is a play upon itself, but I dare you to listen to the score of The Batman and not think of HBO’s Westworld and the slower portion of John Williams’ The Imperial March. I am a massive fan of both of these musical pieces, so putting them together is addicting to my ears. However, in terms of originality, it has to lose a bit of powerful steam.
I should note that Giacchino is on the midst of a massive composer run. He did Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), and is falling it up with Jurassic World Dominion (2022), Disney’s Lightyear (2022) and Marvel’s Thor: Love And Thunder (2022). He has four movies coming out this year, all of which will be number one in the box office at some point.
So let’s get to some nitpicks. The Batman is not a perfect movie.
- The love connection between Selina Kyle and Batman. I get that it is necessary in a way, but writing it differently would have had a more profound effect on the possibly character change of The Batman.
- So Gotham is surrounded by water, huh? Who knew? Supposedly the antagonist did, but that is not illuminated to the audience. It comes as a bit of a shock to the system.
- The Batman suffers from the Lord Of The Rings: Return of The King (2003) syndrome. There are five endings to this movie. Not all of them are necessary, and some of the endings take away from the grounded nature that took up the first two and a half hours. They could have cut 20 minutes off the tail end, and an action packed finale is not needed in a detective story, but I understand that symbolism that went into the final climax. (Not the final ending, there are still a couple of those after what I am talking about). This movie does not carry the tension to its full length like David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007).
- Andy Serkis is really administered a disservice with the lack of respect he gets on the screen. Not a lot of time, not a lot of memorable scenes. This may change with more movies, but as for this one, it left me a bit cold. This may stem from the fact that there was not a lot of Bruce Wayne in this story.
- Imagine if we didn’t get as much footage of the Riddler that we did in the trailer? Leave it with a bit more of an air of mystery like Se7en (1995).
- The ending of The Batman suffered a bit from the comic book ending trope where action takes the forefront rather than a more subtle ending. It ends with a big bang, and while it really well made and entertaining, it is not a top tier memorable moment.
Now we come to the end, where theorizing and predicting the future is fun. If you are able to stay awake and attentive through the six endings of The Batman, there is a certain voice and inflection that will perk up your ears. Barry Keoghan plays an unseen Akrham Prisoner, but you do hear him, and that is all that really matters.
I have one theory that I haven’t seen anywhere and that I have not spelled out to many, so let’s see how wrong I am. Near the end of The Batman, the caped crusader must reinvigorate himself from being hurt. He pulls out a bit of green medicine, injects himself with it, and then goes on a furious rampage against a henchman. With the medical juice being green, and the hulk-like reaction to the injection, I believe that this pump-up serum is the same that powers the classic Batman villain Bane. In The Dark Night Rises, Bane says he is born in the darkness. What if he was born by Batman himself?
Don’t wait too long to see The Batman. Don’t theorize about it. Take time and go see it in theaters. Matt Reeves steers this massive ship in the right direction and Pattinson is there to great people at the port of box office success. It ranks as one of the best Batman movies ever, and is an upper-echelon super-hero movie in general. It took a big swing and did not miss. Do your best to see The Batman and let it punch you in the gut and leave your breathless.
STANKO RATING: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)
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