Movie Review – The Batman
Review by Ray Schillaci
Warner Brothers/DC step away from the Zack Snyder universe and join the grim realism of 2019’s Joker with The Batman. That’s not to say that anyone in the film brings to the table an Oscar-worthy performance, as Joaquin Phoenix did. But, co-writer/director Matt Reeves who wowed us with the last two Planet of the Apes movies, continues his streak of reinvention with a Batman that we have never seen before, bringing the caped crusader to his actual roots as a detective. This is also thanks to co-writer Peter Craig (The Town, Top Gun: Maverick). That’s right, Batman was originally introduced in Detective Comics back in 1939 and was never intended to be a campy romp as the ’60s TV show and what the late Joel Schumacher gave us with the painful Batman Forever and Batman & Robin.
Reeves gives us a very realistic Gotham: run-down, crime ridden with splashes of neon accentuating the slime of the city. We are also set in a time where it is only the second year Bruce Wayne has been a fierce fighter of crime. He’s not infallible. He makes mistakes, gets hurt and questions his existence. He’s also so obsessed with righting the wrongs of Gotham, he has no time to be a playboy or run Wayne Enterprises. He’s on cruise control, his only high being beating the hell out of the criminal element without killing them.
On Halloween night the mayor of Gotham is brutally murdered and the serial killer has left a riddle. The mayor will not be the first victim of illustrious Gothamites to fall thanks to the Riddler, an illusive killer that purposely leaves a trail of riddles for the Batman. The masked vigilante works with Lt. James Gordon of Gotham City Police Department (GCPD), and many in the department disapprove. Soon Gordon and the Batman discover a (literal) thumb drive that reveals pictures of the mayor coming out of a notorious nightclub with a girl that has gone missing. Digging deeper they discover Gotham is worse than anyone can imagine.
It turns out many of Gotham’s finest frequent the Iceberg Lounge run by a low life gangster, the Penguin. That odd looking fat man answers to only one, the top mobster of Gotham, Carmine Falcone. In the mix is a slinky server, Selina Kyle, who happens to be the missing girl’s roommate. She will go on the hunt for her friend and this Catwoman will do anything to bring down anyone that may harm her friend and even go toe-to-toe with the Batman.
The players are set and the deadly game begins without costumes or prosthetics making people look like their name. That’s right, the Penguin is not waddling around with little penguins chasing after him. Selina is not draped in black leather or form fitting rubber suit, surrounded by felines. The Riddler is not decked out in green with a big question mark. All of these people are grounded in an ugly reality. The Batman is the only one that wears a cowl, his suit streamlined and the outfit is for intimidation only.
He, Gordon and Alfred, Wayne’s butler, are the only ones trying to unravel the mystery before it turns any deadlier. Whether or not the writers were inspired by David Fincher’s Se7en and Zodiac or Leigh Whannell & James Wan’s Saw or even Robert Towne’s Chinatown, it does not matter, the mystery and the kills add to the grittiness of the whole dark affair. We see Bruce Wayne go through a complete character arc and that’s what makes Matt Reeves’ The Batman all the more special. A nearly three hour movie has never gone so fast and it doesn’t rely on tons of action to keep our attention.
Even the opening is unlike any other DC movie and the music is not a bombastic superhero theme. It’s more of a mood piece that you would find in a good film noir. Reeves avoided the bizarreness of Tim Burton and the theatrics of Christopher Nolan. He’s given us the Batman from comics and graphic novels that so many have yearned for.
Robert Pattinson plays Bruce Wayne and the Batman with a dark moodiness and it’s a relief to get a Batman that doesn’t sound like he’s gargling a toad. It’s easy to see why criminals fear him and the police of Gotham are leery of him. Batman declares that he is vengeance, but does not resort to an armed response as did Zack Snyder’s Batman did, slaughtering any in his way. This Bruce Wayne/Batman has a conscience and he struggles with his human side. He also remains loyal to Lt. Gordon, well played with honor by Jeffrey Wright. He also keeps Selina Kyle at a distance since she appears to waver as to who’s side she is on.
Zoë Kravitz could not be a better Catwoman/Selina Kyle. She is desperate, cautious and can be deadly. She is every bit as real and dangerous as Paul Dano as the Riddler or John Turturro as Carmine Falcone. As unhinged as Dano is, Turturro plays it even more unsettling. Perhaps the only player in the pack that does not come off as realistic is Colin Farrell in a fat suit and under a ton of makeup. His Penguin feels more like something out of Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy.
Matt Reeves’ The Batman has plenty of surprises in store. There’s not just one big reveal, there are several. This new iteration of Batman is a rousing welcome for comic book and graphic novel fans and should be seen on the big screen with plenty of concessions from the snack bar to prepare for the nearly three hour presentation. Add to that commercials and trailers, and you have one helluva movie marathon and an exciting time at the movies.
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Directed by: Matt Reeves
Release Date: March 4, 2022
Run Time: 176 Minutes
Country: United States
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures