“The Batman” – powerful performances, punch-drunk plot

Before hitting the multiplex, please consider the health risks involved with participating in group gatherings at this time. Take very good care of yourselves – I wanna see you on the other side.

“I wish I could say I’m making a difference. But I don’t know.”

Story: After his parents were brutally murdered, young Bruce Wayne became mentally iffy a man with a purpose; to fight crime. But during his second year as a caped crusader, he tangles with a villain who’s sure Batman understands him, and looks for a missing woman with ties to a criminal underworld Bruce only thinks he knows.

Genre I’d put it in: Superhero Noir
Release Date: 2022
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Based on the bat-guy from comics, TV, film, and basically everything.

Gotta say: I’ve been a fan of the bat guy for decades now. My favorite graphic? The Long Halloween. No, not The Killing Joke – I don’t like how they fridge Barbara Gordon in that one. And I’ll be taking no questions about that at this time. Or ever. 

Still, with this Noir-esque cinematic look at Detective Comics-era Batman mixed with a bit of Alan Moore’s Batman: Year One, there’s a lot to love – like the performances and outrageously amazing set design. There’s a lot to be meh about as well, like the muddy plot that seems to go everywhere and nowhere at once, and the over-dark cinematography that seems to want to convey depth but instead had me squinting way too damn much. I don’t like squinting. I’ve got enough wrinkles, thank you very much.

Let’s dig into the positives first, shall we? Damn, Robert Pattinson understood the assignment. His Bruce/Bat is a man possessed; one who has shut down every other corner of his life in order to make sure nobody has to go through what he suffered through. Cracks of feeling – like those moments he spends with Arthur or Selena Kyle – are carefully spackled over with heavy duty mental cement. If he doesn’t care, he won’t lose anyone he cares about. Pattinson shows a Bruce Wayne that’s damaged by his past, and broken by the rules he chooses to live by. He’s the closest thing to post-80s comic book/graphic novel Batman I’ve ever seen on screen. And it’s fantastic.

That same love goes out to Paul Dano and Zoë Kravitz as Edward Nashton/The Riddler and Selena Kyle/Catwoman, respectively. Dano’s Riddler is all kinds of messed up, thanks to his upbringing…and thinks Batman will understand his twisted form of justice. Y’all, Dano’s soliloquy toward the end of the film? Genius. Brilliant. I could watch that on loop. It’s chilling and heartbreaking, with a touch of dramatic irony that makes it absolutely delicious. I know awards don’t tend to look at blockbuster films, but Dano should get a supporting tap. Just saying. Now, with Kravitz’s Kyle? She seems to be his polar opposite; put together, supportive of those close to her, and though her upbringing wasn’t great, she seems to have risen above it as best she could. Which makes her an interesting mirror to Dano’s Riddler and Pattinson’s Batman. Add in that Kravitz plays Kyle as a no-nonsense gal who’s just working with the skill set given to her, instead of laying on the femme fatale, and that’s a character I want to see more of. Special shout-outs to John Turturro as an elegantly menacing Carmine Falcone, and Jeffrey Wright as a beaten-down but hopeful James Gordon, years before he’ll see Commissioner.

There’s also the sheer perfection of the FX makeup – Colin Farrell, is that you as a menacing yet toady Penguin? – and the “yeah I can see those outfits as believable in the real world” costuming, and it’s a beautiful film to look at. And as I mentioned before, that set design/art direction is flawless. Gotham is gritty, with a touch of art deco gone to rot in every locale. This is a city in crisis, and as Batman is an origin story for most of these characters, Gotham is at its lowest. And that’s palpable. I just wish the cinematography was a bit brighter, or at least more vivid. There are too many moments where action amps up, but I barely registered it, as I was too busy trying to figure out why the lights went out. Darkness has its uses – think of the way Michael Meyers suddenly loomed into view behind Laurie Strode in the original Halloween – but the way it’s used here felt like artistic choices gone wrong. I can’t wait until this hits streaming, so I can pop my TV onto dynamic and actually see what I missed. I might be more into those scenes. But now, I can say they seemed cool, but I can’t know for sure. I did enjoy the Fast & Furious: Batman Drift scenes though. That’s a damn nice car.

One thing I do know for sure; damn this film is long as hell. Almost three hours, and honey I felt every bit of it. The plot structure was odd, and many times I thought the film was over by the way the scene was playing out. Yep folks, we’re looking at another Return of the King multi-ending. Hooray. Perhaps Reeves tried to jam too much into this film; we’ve got Penguin, Riddler, and Catwoman intros, as well as a missing woman, murders that might be linked to organized crime, Bruce Wayne trying to balance his IRL with his Bat-life (and failing, but that’s to be expected), and how Batman is seen by the general public (spoiler: he’s thought of as “a freak”). That’s a lot to cover, and the idea that we viewers know the basics bears a great deal of the expositional weight. Which is cool I guess, but that doesn’t stop this Batman from feeling like a Frankenstein’s monster of story ideas stitched together by darkness and blood. Which I’m typically here for, but as this isn’t a horror film, I expected coherency. Especially when we’re given such richly nuanced performances, and a gorgeous world to play in. Here’s hoping the next one will find its footing, now that all the howdy-do’s are dispensed with.

#Protip: Fans of Batman’s rogues gallery may notice that this film’s Penguin is missing his trademark cee-gar. But that’s on purpose y’all. Don’t smoke, kids, m’kay?

About Denise

Professional nerd. Lover of licorice.
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