David J. Pedersen's Blog of All Things
One of my favorite things about Batman in comics is that every artist has a slightly different take. Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams defined Batman’s look for ages, while Frank Miller painted Batman as an older and beastly grim figure. The same can be said for the movies. Michael Keaton’s Batman had all the gadgets, while Christian Bale was a monster. Director Matt Reeves gave us a very different take. I didn’t love the movie, but I’m glad Warner Bros. made it and this is why.
Spoiler Free Review
In this version, Batman has been wearing the cape and cowl for only two years. He’s out for vengeance and makes that clear during a vicious fight scene in the beginning. When The Riddler begins murdering officials, Batman’s young detective skills are challenged as he hunts down the killer and uncovers truths about the city and his family.
The movie is 2 hours and 56 minutes long. At 2 hours and 50 minutes, I pleaded to the gods of filmmaking that they don’t make a director’s cut. There’s a lot that could have been cut, maybe even the entire Catwoman storyline, but that wouldn’t have sped up the pace. It’s meant to be a thoughtful detective mystery.
Pattinson wasn’t an obvious choice for Batman, but it’s my understanding that he is a better actor than we saw in Twilight. (You didn’t see Twilight? I did, and I’ll never forgive my wife for tricking me into watching that, “cool vampire movie.”) Unfortunately, the script didn’t play to his strengths. Actors should shine when its time to play Bruce Wayne, but Wayne’s small part was angsty and he was hard to like. He did fine as Batman. It’s hard to act behind the cape and cowl. He did a lot of thoughtful staring that I always took as retrospection.
Jeffrey Wright was a solid choice as Lt. James Gordon. While I question the necessity of Catwoman’s role, Zoe Kravitz played the part well. Paul Dano was horrifying as The Riddler. I thought Colin Farrell was an odd choice for The Penguin, but he did an amazing job. Even though you know it’s him behind the heavy makeup, you won’t believe it.
Cinematography and Score
The cinematography was beautiful, with wide shots that let you take everything in and close ups that added to the intensity. I hate films that hide poorly choreographed fight scenes with distracting camera shots. I didn’t have that problem with The Batman, even during scenes where the rain was so heavy I wanted to cover my eyes.
Michael Giacchino is a fantastic composer, and his heavily brooding score does an amazing job of drawing you in. I’ve already added this to my writing music playlist.
The theme that young Batman learns to be more than a vehicle of vengeance was lost to a convoluted plot too thick with characters that aren’t well developed.
I give The Batman 6/10. A beautifully shot film with an amazing score and good acting that goes long with an interweaving story, all driven by a weak plot. Go see it for a unique take on superhero movies. Drink lots of caffeine. Don’t bring young kids.
There was a lot to love in this film. Every shot was a postcard, and the music was sublime. Despite the poor reveal that drove the Riddler to kill, I liked the overall theme. The Batman started out on a path of vengeance after the murder of his parents. As the city’s hero, there are consequences to these actions. Big ones. At the end, he realizes that there has to be a better way. I liked this theme a lot, especially his speech at the end, but I think this message got lost on the journey. (Yeah, I know I’ve said all this, but consider it padding for anyone who doesn’t want spoilers.)
Batman: Year Two
The batsuit in this film was one of my favorites, but they should have saved it for the second movie. In one scene, he dives off a building and basically flies into a bridge. He miscalculated, like a young Batman might. I winced every time he bounced off of something and found it jarring that he had already recovered by the next scene. This would have worked if he had a crappier batsuit and complained about needing better armor while Alfred was taping him back together.
His injuries were inconsistent plot devices. In some scenes he could walk through a bullet storm like Superman, but then a shotgun blast knocks him out. It didn’t make a lot of sense.
What are you looking at?
I mentioned he did a lot of staring. It was too much. In several scenes, he stared at a young boy who lost his parents. I get that he was reflecting on the loss of his own parents, but it was borderline creepy. I would have tapped out if he licked his lips just once.
The Bat and The Cat
Batman and Catwoman have always had a thing. Originally, he was both tempted, and torn since she was a villain. In the comics, she’s become less of a villain and they married. This has played well in films like Batman Returns. The chemistry between Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman and Michael Keaton’s Batman made everyone run out and buy mistletoe.
In The Batman, Catwoman was more of a plot device than a love interest, and that’s how they acted. It was like watching a bad date that you hope will end soon, but it doesn’t. At one point she blames Gotham’s downfall on rich, white men – and then later asks him to run off with her. Sure, she didn’t know he was billionaire Bruce Wayne, but he’s white enough to make snow look tan. (Me too, Pattinson, me too.)
What will happen in The Batman 2
Maybe The Joker was a tease, but I thought a better hint of things to come happened when Batman injected himself with something. I’m sure many thought it was adrenaline, but it made me think of the drug that fuels Bane’s strength. Batman used it in the comics, he got addicted like it was heroine, and getting off it was rough. That story would fit in well with Reeves Batman.
Huge Spoiler Alert
The Riddler won. I hated that because they didn’t do enough to explain why. The World’s Greatest Detective never got ahead of the mystery, and the result was cataclysmic. It was a rough lesson for young Batman to learn he should strive to be more than vengeance. That he should be a symbol. Reminding us of that theme throughout the film would have done wonders.
It was brave and bold to make a 3 hour Batman noir detective film. We need more superhero movies like this that push the superhero genre. There are a lot of reasons to see it and I remain hopeful for the next installment.