Film Review: The Batman
Director: Matt Reeves
DC Films and 6th & Idaho Motion Picture Company
In Theaters 03.04
Riddle me this: Why do we need yet another big-screen take on Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s iconic servant of justice with the cape and cowl? We don’t. But DC and Warner Media do, and thus we have The Batman, the latest and, for better or worse, most audacious take on the material on the big screen.
The Batman stars Robert Pattinson as the titular hero, as well as his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, and the film begins with the vigilante already having established his presence as a crime fighting figure in Gotham City. The Batman is brought in by Lt. Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright, No Time To Die) to consult on a grisly homicide case where clues have been left behind in the form of riddles—a calling card. The killer, who calls himself The Riddler (Paul Dano, There Will Be Blood, 12 Years A Slave) is clearly following an intricate plan and taunting the Batman by leaving notes addressed directly to him. These notes lead our brooding anti-hero to the heart of Gotham’s seedy underworld and into a vast mystery that has him investigating The Penguin (Colin Farrell), hatchet man for mob boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro, Barton Fink, Quiz Show). It also introduces him to Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz, Mad Max: Fury Road), a resourceful and alluring cat burglar who has an agenda of her own.
I’ve struggled with getting psyched for The Batman despite the fact that its director and co-writer, Matt Reeves, took a visionary approach to the Planet of the Apes that ranks among my all-time favorite film series. Everything I’d seen leading up to the release left me questioning how The Batman was going to step out of the shadow of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. The good news is that Reeves has made a movie that stands apart from any other big-screen version as a pitch-back film noir mystery. “Battinson” and Wright make for a great buddy cop duo in what is really a detective thriller, and The Batman plays like an homage to David Fincher and many black-and-white, hard-boiled detective stories, complete with voiceover narration from The Batman. It’s an intriguing take on the story, but the three-hour runtime and leisurely pace is downright plodding at times, and The Batman is surprisingly short on action most of the way. Reeves is far more interested in providing twists, turns and chills than excitement, and the first two hours of the film may be hard to enjoy for people expecting a superhero movie as they tend to be made now.
Pattinson makes a great Batman—though Reeves’ vision makes for a distant, emo Bruce Wayne—and Kravitz delivers what may be the most overall satisfying take on Catwoman to date. Farrell steals the movie in a magnificently entertaining performance under heavy makeup. The most riveting work comes from Turturro. This version of the mob boss, Falcone, is even more unsettling than Dano’s psychotic serial killer, and it’s a reminder that when he’s on, Turturro is second to none.
The Batman works nicely as a singular and very specific interpretation that borders on being a gimmick, but it is a legitimate version of the story that brings out some elements that haven’t been fully explored before. Still, I find myself feeling skeptical that the public at large is going to be interested in this iteration in the long term. This singular take on the legend is daring and intriguing enough to have a special place in the filmography of the character. While I’ll buy the Bluray, I probably won’t be seeing it a second time in theaters, which would be a first for me for a Batman film. As a streaming series, I could see The Batman having the wings for a franchise, but as a big-screen event, three hours was more than enough, and I didn’t leave the movie feeling any desire to see a sequel.
It’s very hard to predict what exactly DC fans want these days—I personally thoroughly hated the pretentious and derivative Joker—and I can’t picture Reeves’ unique interpretation gaining a similar traction to Nolan’s trilogy. Put simply, I admired The Batman more than I enjoyed it. While it’s bound to have a very devoted following, I predict a polarizing reaction that puts critics, fanboys and the general public all in different camps with a lot of mixed feelings all across the board. – Patrick Gibbs
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