The Batman – Spoiler Review

“The Dark Knight,” a film that is widely considered to be not only the greatest comic book movie of all time, but one of the greatest films in general, is a high bar to surpass. I think the bar of what a Batman film should be has been raised. Director Matt Reeves makes “The Batman” as gritty, bleak, realistic, and faithful to the comics that can be showed on the screen. Don’t go in expecting action sequence after action sequence in the films three-hour runtime. It’s a slow burn detective story reminiscent of the detective comics, showing the more accurate side of the caped crusader. It takes shades of David Fincher movies like “Seven” and “Zodiac,” 1970’s films like “Chinatown” and “The French Connection,” and to top it all off, two iconic Batman comic storylines: “Batman: Year One” and “Batman: The Long Halloween.” This is a film that was perfectly constructed for what I want to see in a movie about one of, if not, my favorite characters in literature – The Batman.

The detective aspect of the character is something I’d always hoped but never expected they would focus solely on in a Batman movie. He’s literally originated from the title of the world’s greatest detective, yet studios feel the need to believe Batman is all about taking down bank robbers and a rogues gallery full of villains dressed in silly costumes. I hope Matt Reeves can make as many Batman movies as he pleases without any sort of interference, connection to a larger franchise, any of that. Robert Pattinson is my new favorite Batman, but I also couldn’t tell you who my favorite was beforehand. The “Batman” films in the past have never realized (since Ben Affleck’s iteration) that Batman is the face, whereas Bruce Wayne is the mask. Then again, Affleck being a great Wayne, didn’t come across as a good Batman to me. It’s hard to capture the duality of the prince of Gotham and the Dark Knight, but Pattinson brings the best of both worlds, creating the purest portrayal of Batman we’ve seen in live action. He gives such a detached performance as someone who’s been broken by the darkness the city of Gotham emanates. The emotionally broken private investigator that he is in this film shows how intertwined the lives these two identities of him truly are. I loved how he narrated parts of the film, it felt much like the comics to me, and also his stature within the shadows of Gotham. The way he moves towards his prey shows how much trouble that anyone he crosses paths with is in.

“The Batman” exhibits some of the genres – not only comic book but mystery as well – strongest storytelling and I genuinely believe this should get an Oscar nomination at the very least for Best Adapted Screenplay (along with many other accolades). The audience is just as much along for the ride of solving this mystery as the characters are because it’s not so hard to where everything needs to be spoon-fed explained, nor is it ridiculously easy and you’re five steps ahead of everyone. That’s all thanks to the fantastic writing given to The Riddler, and of course the incredibly terrifying performance by Paul Dano. Dano’s been a name that’s floated around for over a decade, but he’s never become that A-list actor that he should be. I think this is it. He’s no Jim Carrey, but this version of The Riddler – more in line with the Zodiac killer or Jigsaw from the “Saw” franchise – is that of which I prefer. Right off the bat in how the opening scene is shot and how it plays out, you can tell how dark this film is going to be, and having seen it I can say that it’s a borderline R-rating. I really liked how they modernized The Riddler in that he purposely gets caught only for his online followers to finish the job in the final act at the Mayoral-elects statement in the arena. When you finally see how this story pieces itself together it’s something special. The Riddler spends the entire film trying to expose – and murder – the “dirty” individuals with high rank in Gotham city, only for those who support him to also show their true side of vengeance. Even though he’s locked up in Arkham by the end of the film, he still won in uncovering the cesspool of Gotham’s personality. At this point, it may be impossible to beat Heath Ledger’s Joker as the greatest on-screen Batman villain, but The Riddler is definitely a close number two.

Michelle Pfeiffer is still the best Catwoman, but her more campy version would not fit at all into this movie. Most of the emotional core of the film is put into Zoë Kravitz’s performance, and this works as an amazing origin story for Selina Kyle. It’s still Batman’s movie, but she has so much capability here to hold her own opposite characters like The Riddler, The Penguin (Colin Farrell), and Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) too. She has a great fighting style and a perfect femme fatale physicality. It was very easy that an orphan growing up in the slums of crime central would act exactly the way she does. They don’t push it to the max in the first film, but there’s definitely some sort of tension present between her and Batman; they both had such good interactions and chemistry with one another.

I still manage to have myself convinced that whoever is playing The Penguin is not Colin Farrell. The makeup team did an absolutely flawless job; I have no notes. Take Jared Leto in “House of Gucci” just last year for example – it was wild makeup, but you could still faintly see Jared Leto through the Paolo Gucci performance. I do not see Colin Farrell anywhere. That said, whenever Oswald Cobblepot is on-screen, it’s like a breath of fresh air. He’s more of the comedic relief, and that’s definitely needed for an audience that has trouble sitting through a slow burn movie. I hope to see a lot more of the underworld syndicates of Gotham, as well as the Iceberg Lounge, just give me the HBO Max Penguin show immediately.

The whole supporting cast is terrific, there were just a few members that didn’t have as large of a role as I’d hoped. Jeffrey Wright’s Jim Gordon is currently neck-and-neck with Gary Oldman’s for who I believe is better. More accurate, I have to say Wright’s. The partnership dynamic Gordon typically has with Batman is much more visible here than ever before. They learn to trust each other – Gordon even telling Batman he’s the one person he trusts. He’s a very relatable character in his lesser authority position, as he’s not yet commissioner. That’s another thing, don’t be commissioner of the Gotham city police department if you’re not Jim Gordon because you’re bound to die. Andy Serkis had minimal screen time as Alfred, but his father figure role over Bruce was strikingly shown through the scene in the hospital after The Riddler unintentionally blew him up in Wayne’s apartment. I thought we were in for an Alfred death in the first movie as soon as he opened the package addressed “for Bruce Wayne’s eyes only.” I wasn’t so sure either about John Turturro – more known for comedic roles – being cast as Gotham’s most powerful mob boss, Carmine Falcone, but he did a terrific job. His death scene felt like it was ripped straight from a comic panel, too. Lastly, Peter Sarsgaard had all but three scenes and he gave it his all in making me want to see him live, but alas.

It’s a mystery, so of course there are plenty of big reveals to behold, but I think the ones that stood out most were those that weren’t part of the “A” storyline. One being the backstory of Bruce Wayne’s parents. Everyone knows that Thomas and Martha Wayne were shot in an alleyway shortly after walking out early of a theater. What people don’t know is who killed them. It’s always supposed to be a faceless man, maybe someone who was hired to do it, or maybe someone who was just looking for money because “crime.” I’m not too keen on the non ambiguity in this situation because it’s made more than clear that Carmine Falcone had Thomas killed shortly after he “did him a solid” to help his chances at becoming Mayor of Gotham. Along the lines of that, it’s said that Martha Wayne was a former patient at Arkham Asylum – this becoming public back then is what led to the whole situation of Wayne’s parents dying. I liked how they tried something new and didn’t just give us the same ol’ same ol’, but I wish we saw more flashbacks than having everything told to us through a news broadcast. The final reveal, which is more of a tease, is my favorite. It’s simple and gets right to the point: Barry Keoghan’s casting as The Joker. All I can say is I cannot wait for future sequels and teacups between supervillains in a much more modern and realistic environment.

Every film about Batman has had the opportunity to create their own version of Gotham and no one live action interpretation has felt exactly like another. What Matt Reeves builds defies interesting and captures a mood of an absolutely dead city that I’ve never seen put to film before. Michael Giacchino gives his best score ever, that I could listen to on repeat any day. The sound design and set design is immaculate. Greg Fraser’s cinematography is brilliant – there’s one prolonged scene set in daylight in this three-hour film, that’s how dead Gotham is. The constant darkness and rain is a character of its own, showing how dirty the city is, and the flood is Riddler’s way of cleaning Gotham. However, we did just enter this city so I wished they’d explore it a little longer before sticking it under water. 

While not a lot, the action scenes are exposed just the right amount. No hand-to-hand combat quite rivals the reaction I had to the very first trailer, but it’s still cool seeing Batman beat people up. Batman emerges from the shadows and basically weaponizes them to his advantage. The bat signal is very much not only a call, but a warning…for them. I have no reason to criticize the action because the film itself isn’t at all focused or concerned with that as it’s first priority. It’s plot-centric and only includes action when it is necessary in the story, and story is what should always come first. The car chase present in the trailer is where it’s all at. I’ve never seen a vehicle introduction look and feel so epic that it gives me goosebumps. This is the superior Batmobile.

If this was a one and done film, I’d have no problem with that. However, there is that one loose end leaving the door open for more fiendish foes to come. Watching this movie unfold makes me wonder why the DCEU has had to go through such rough times the way it has since Zack Snyder made “Man of Steel. Not everything needs to be part of a larger franchise. Many of the actors in the film give career-defining performances; Robert Pattinson especially. He is no longer “Twilight” boy. The three-hour length is felt – it starts slow and ends as epic as can be – but that’s something I love about it. If that’s not your thing, I couldn’t even tell you what I’d cut, you need to see it for yourself. Letting scenes simmer as “The Batman” does added to my experience with a brisk pacing that feels like reading a comic book issue. I hate overusing the word, but this is a masterpiece.  

Final Grade: A+

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