The Batman Is Dark, Real Dark—Or So It Wants Us to Think
Warning: This review includes spoilers about The Batman.
Now, it’s probably official. Batman can never again be fun, or have fun. He’s the gloomiest of superheroes , haunted by a traumatic past, doomed to skulk around a filthy, lawless Gotham that, at least in the somber vision of Matt Reeves’ The Batman, is an obvious metaphor for 2020s America. The Batman ’s America is a place where nutso fringe theorists fully armed with automatic weapons can gun down a Black woman mayoral candidate just because they don’t like the direction the country is going in. In this way, a movie based on a comic-book character will help us face our own darkness.
Or will it?
The semi-nihilistic yet vaguely hopeful vision of The Batman is what makes it like so many other superhero movies of the past 10 years or so, not what sets it apart. It does have some advantages over the others: Reeves is a relatively thoughtful, careful filmmaker, and the DC universe he’s working in may offer more freedom than the Marvel woodchipper that directors like Taika Waititi and Chlo é Zhao have endured, a kind of processing plant that presses their vision into a particle-board-like consistency with the other movies in the franchise.
The Batman is a moderately well-made film, with some appealing performances, most notably from its star, Robert Pattinson , and from its cryptically glamorous Catwoman, Zoë Kravitz . And it looks like a movie, which used to be something you didn’t even have to say: The Batman may be dark, literally—its doomy, underlit ambience comes courtesy of cinematographer Greig Fraser—but at least it’s pleasurably cinematic, a picture that creeps to the edges of the big screen with an operatic flourish. Reeves doesn’t just throw his ideas onto that screen: he’s attuned to how they hit, and if the movie, a bat-hair short of three hours long, features at least three too many endings, Reeves still keeps the story from falling into sluggishness. (I’m among a minority that believes his 2010 Let Me In is better—more bruising, and more poetic—than the 2008 Swedish film, Let the Right One In, it’s based on.)
The plot goes something like this: Gotham is in a bad way, a dirty, lawless metropolis on the verge of a mayoral race that at least offers some hope for change. Pattinson’s the Batman, so special he gets his own definite article, appears in the city as needed, which is often, summoned by that yellow tattoo in the night-clouded sky that’s never referred to as the Bat Signal, though we all know that’s what it is. (“We have a signal now, for when I’m needed,” he explains in a gravelly, whispered voice-over, as if this information weren’t already burned into our pop-culture data banks.) Early on, the incumbent mayor is murdered in a particularly grisly way (largely off-screen, at least) by a mouth breather in a creepy leather mask, his little piggy eyes peering through grimy eyeglasses; the murder weapon is some sort of ugly spadelike tool. It’s Halloween night, and the mayor’s young son, just back from trick-or-treating, is the one to find the body. (Insert the phrase “echo of Batman’s own past” here.) The killer, who will go on to commit more of these murders, likes to leave little billets-doux for the hero he knows will always show up. These notes are written in riddle form—“What does a liar do when he’s dead?”—that stump everyone but the dour, brainy Batman . Jeffrey Wright’s James Gordon stands by appreciatively, doing everything but muttering “Damn!” whenever his decorously masked friend and colleague solves one of these puzzles.
The criminal is the Riddler, played by Paul Dano . An unrecognizable Colin Farrell also shows up as Oswald Cobblepot, otherwise know as The Penguin, though there’s little that would delineate him as such. (Prudishly, Warner Bros. wouldn’t allow Farrell to brandish a cigar.) John Turturro appears as a corrupt mob boss with a link to Bruce Wayne’s dead father. Perhaps, Batman/Bruce Wayne thinks, his own father wasn’t the sterling citizen he’d believed him to be. He’s tortured by ominous doubts, as any modern Batman must be.
At a certain point, Kravitz’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman enters the picture, bringing with her a whiff of tough romance and sexual allure, a rarity in superhero films. (This is a movie that at least allows for the existence of the sexual impulse.) And her penchant for taking in strays prompts the movie’s best line, and perhaps its finest little throwaway scene. As Batman steps into her apartment, a trio of felines windmill around his feet. He waits one beat, then two, and says, “You got a lot of cats.” For a small moment, the gods of wit smile upon Gotham.
But it can’t last. The Batman emerges from a movie universe, now becoming ubiquitous, where a phony funereal worldview is the only thing that can confer depth. You could argue that Batman painted his bat cave black a long time ago, in the late 1980s, with the work of Frank Miller and Alan Moore. That was a time when comic-book writers and artists were still yearning for respectability; these people did some great work, but we now see that they were perhaps too influential.
Because now, almost all we ever get from comic-book franchise movies—even from the best of them, a category into which The Batman may fall—is a sort of appliquéd melancholia, such that darkness barely has meaning. From Thanos, with his jeweled glove of power and Earth-destroying vengeance, to Joker, the troubled trickster whose lifelong pain provides a convenient excuse for his murderous deeds, to The Batman ’s Riddler, a forlorn forever-orphan who feels betrayed by the system: in the most facile way, all of these characters wave evil in our faces like a smelly handkerchief, as if it were a scent we’d simply failed to pick up before.
The Batman, despite its virtues and pleasures—and despite the presence of Pattinson, who brings as much soul to the movie as an almost completely masked character can bring—falls into this trap. The movie’s Gotham is, as always, a semi-New York, but a New York that’s perpetually having its worst night: the streets are swept with bitter rain. Subway evildoers skulk about, looking for unsuspecting victims—it’s notable that the mark a group of these thugs seize upon is an Asian man, a grim reflection of recent events on New York’s real-life streets. A possible message lurking beneath the surface of The Batman is that Gotham—or America—is in its most sinister age. Ostensibly that makes The Batman a film that dares to face up to the worst of human nature.
But is packing some new bleak stuffing into an already established template really an act of reckoning? Batman is arguably the most brooding superhero, though it hasn’t always been that way. The idea of Batman being fun, or even having fun, is now beyond the scope of our pinched imagination. The goofy intentional innocence of Adam West as the drugged-via-orange-juice Caped Crusader, circa 1966, shaking a tail feather with a redheaded vixen on the dance floor, is now almost poignant. Three years after the assassination of JFK, just after the country stepped into a war many young Americans didn’t want, in a nation waging a civil rights struggle that was long overdue, West defied the bleak mood of the time by bringing a meme to life—the Batman dance, or “the Batusi”—that almost every person who has seen a GIF now knows. The Batman dance is silly—and inventive and wonderful—just as that series was.
But perhaps we feel there’s nothing left to invent. To discuss movies adapted from comic books in any meaningful way has become impossible. No matter what you say, your wings are pinned between the two posts of “You’re shallow—you only want fun ,” and “Come on, it’s just entertainment.” It’s an end game of infinity we can’t seem to win. And that’s the big bummer of The Batman.
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Review: Batman needs a renewal. ‘The Batman,’ starring Robert Pattinson, isn’t quite it
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When the title character first sheds his cape and cowl in “The Batman,” a moody, methodical and, finally, disappointing return to Gotham City, your initial glimpse of Bruce Wayne might come as a mild shock. Not because of the fine actor playing him — it’s Robert Pattinson , as if you didn’t know — but because of the heavy bruises darkening his pale face, as if he’d been wearing a mask beneath his mask. Bloody beatings are to be expected for a vigilante trawling Gotham’s lower depths by night, but these particular wounds might well have been inflicted from within. This Bruce Wayne doesn’t look like a playboy or a billionaire, let alone a hero; with his unkempt sidelocks and air of morning-after debasement, he’s more like an addict about to crash, or a young rock star gone to seed.
The director, Matt Reeves, who wrote the movie’s dense screenplay with Peter Craig, plays up these associations with an early snippet of Kurt Cobain singing “Something in the Way,” a hit of acoustic anguish that supplies one of the movie’s two recurring pieces of music. The other one — variations of which will soon seep into Michael Giacchino’s death march of a score — is “Ave Maria,” setting a funereal tone even before it pops up at an actual Gotham funeral. Murder is in the air, thanks to the Riddler (Paul Dano), a cross between Ted Kaczynski and Will Shortz who clearly has a thing for David Fincher movies, given the techniques he’s borrowed from the Zodiac Killer and the detail-oriented John Doe from “Seven.”
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The deadly sins being punished here are all sins of betrayal, committed against the people of Gotham by their ostensible enforcers of law and order. The Riddler’s first victim is the city’s mayor (Rupert Penry-Jones), a high-stakes target for a story that soon strands us in a labyrinth of legal, financial and political corruption. We are in a hard-edged, rain-pelted Gotham City that, absent either Tim Burton’s gothic eccentricity or Joel Schumacher’s neon excess, suggests a Manhattan from which bright lights and warm colors have been banished. (The often oppressively murky images were shot by Greig Fraser, a current Oscar nominee for “Dune.” )
Here it may be worth noting that “The Batman” runs almost three hours, though “runs” may not be the word; forgoing pop buoyancy in favor of psychological realism, it rumbles forward with a grim seriousness of purpose that some might well mistake for pomp and pretension. Those who took issue, in other words, with Christopher Nolan’s grave and thrilling “Dark Knight” trilogy (itself inspired by some of Batman’s bleaker comic book adventures, including Frank Miller’s seminal “The Dark Knight Returns”), will find plenty to object to here.
Their complaints merit some sympathy, but also a little closer inspection. The dourness of Nolan’s “Dark Knight” films has often been overstated, often to the neglect of their hurtling narrative velocity, impish wit and gorgeously enveloping images. Really, the problem isn’t that there are too many serious superhero movies or too many frivolous ones. (And after the pseudo-epic exertions of Zack Snyder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” who’s even to say where seriousness ends and silliness begins?) The problem is that there are too many of them, period, to the point where even a picture as artful and restrained as “The Batman” — by all appearances a meticulously crafted attempt to get a tarnished pop cultural phenomenon back on track — may struggle to justify its existence.
Reeves, to his credit, knows the pitfalls of franchise fatigue. As both his 2010 vampire-thriller remake “Let Me In” and his superb recent contributions to the “Planet of the Apes” series made clear, he has a gift for investing big-budget genre filmmaking with a human pulse, and for putting a fresh spin on well-worn material. And so “The Batman,” assuming our familiarity with Bruce Wayne’s inner and outer demons, tries hard to avoid reproducing the formulaic trappings of the origin story. As the movie begins, Batman has been on the vigilante beat for two years, and his low-growling voiceover approximates the wearily ambivalent tone of a ’70s noir: part hard-boiled sleuth, part Paul Schrader antihero.
This Batman calls himself “Vengeance,” though we are mercifully spared another ugly reenactment of the personal tragedy he’s avenging. But while the murders of Bruce’s billionaire parents are left offscreen, that tragedy reverberates insistently throughout a story that delights in turning individual trauma into collective malaise. To the degree that this expansive story coheres, it does so around a theme of lost kids: As Bruce confronts the truth about his late parents and their not uncomplicated legacy, Gotham itself takes on the quality of a scarred child, repeatedly betrayed and abandoned by those charged with its protection.
Few have been betrayed more cruelly than the Riddler, who, in keeping with this movie’s downbeat tenor, represents a far less flamboyant take on the character than, say, Jim Carrey’s . A more sadistic one, too: Clad in a military green mask and jacket that bring certain gun-loving anarchist groups to mind, this Riddler steps out of the shadows to maul faces, sever thumbs and set “Saw”-style traps for the city’s self-appointed elites. He wants to name, shame, game and maim. At every crime scene he leaves behind a cryptic note that basically reads “M r. Batman, I gave you all the clues,” initiating a Bat-and-mouse dynamic that forces the Caped Crusader to collaborate with not just his ally Lt. James Gordon (a fine Jeffrey Wright), but the rest of the Gotham police force.
The recurring image of Batman lingering in rooms with outwardly hostile cops — rather than vanishing into thin air, as is his wont — creates an intriguing tension even as it pushes the movie in the direction of an old-school detective procedural. Batman’s investigation plunges him headlong into the twisty, sometimes tedious gangland shenanigans of Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) and Oz, aka the Penguin, who’s played under layers of makeup by an unrecognizable Colin Farrell. Enough has been made of Farrell’s attention-grabbing transformation into an iconic Batman villain to make you wish that he’d been given something more interesting to do than just sneer, scowl and drive like a maniac. As villains go, he’s a nonstarter, though Farrell is nimble enough to hint at untapped possibilities; cast this Penguin in a buddy comedy with “House of Gucci’s” Jared Leto and I’d watch a few minutes.
There’s much more to the story — a missing girl, a couple of bombs, a ho-hum car chase, a big-bang climax — and a few impressive performances, especially from Reeves’ brilliant “Planet of the Apes” collaborator Andy Serkis, here playing Bruce’s loyal butler, Alfred, with a refreshing absence of motion-capture assistance. And things get livelier when Batman tentatively joins forces with a nightclub waitress, Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), who juggles her own mysterious agendas as she slinks her way around Falcone’s inner circle. This latest Batman-Catwoman flirtation has its expected pleasures, though it’s disappointing that actors as sexy as Pattinson and Kravitz aren’t allowed to do more than steal a few smooches on a Gotham rooftop. Like models in an unusually tame leather catalog, they’re all suited up with nowhere to go.
Kravitz has been given the outlines, if not quite the substance, of a compelling personal history. Her Catwoman is another of Gotham’s betrayed children, motivated by a desire for justice that sometimes bleeds into a lust for revenge; she exists to remind Batman of his own resolution never to take a human life, but also to stoke his own impulses toward violence. Purr-sonally, I’m #TeamCatwoman here; having recently seen “Kimi,” I can’t think of a movie that wouldn’t be improved by having Kravitz show up with a nail gun.
Batman’s pacifist high road is noble enough, but like so much in “The Batman,” it feels like a finger-wagging callback to an overly familiar moral quandary. What separates Batman from all the masked freaks he’s trying to bring down? How potent a symbol is he, and what exactly does he symbolize? These are questions that have to be made freshly compelling with every relaunch, and “The Batman” ponders them with a sincerity that soon bogs down in obviousness.
It’s a movie of alternately promising and frustrating half-measures, in which Reeves’ shrewd storytelling instincts and the usual franchise-filmmaking imperatives repeatedly fight to a draw. The tone of “The Batman” is often unpleasant in ways you’d expect from a serial killer yarn, but too often Reeves teases violence, only to cut abruptly and confusingly away from it; minus the shackles of a PG-13 rating, this movie might peer more persuasively — and courageously — into the darkness that it so insists upon. Here and there, too, the movie gestures toward real-world politics, especially as concerns race: Notably if somewhat half-heartedly, the supporting cast includes a Black female mayoral candidate (Jayme Lawson); a man of Asian descent (Akie Kotabe) who gets beat up on the subway; and a Latino cop (Gil Perez-Abraham) who helps Batman figure out a key piece of the Riddler’s latest puzzle.
In these and other moments, “The Batman” seems on the verge of critiquing its hero and the compromises of his own inestimable privilege, to expose some of this Bat’s figurative blind spots. But it stops far too short, and Pattinson, who played a supremely smug billionaire sociopath in David Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis,” isn’t given the chance to go similarly deep with this most iconic of one-percenters. Batman is used to getting upstaged, usually by his more colorful nemeses, but here he feels upstaged by the inertia of the filmmaking and an attempted renewal — a word that is pointedly repeated here — that lapses too often into retread. In Pattinson’s touching but underrealized performance, this Bruce Wayne is a little boy lost, a rage junkie and ultimately a chaotic force for good, trying to discover things about himself that the audience has long since figured out.
Rating: PG-13, for strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong language, and some suggestive material Running time: 2 hours, 56 minutes Playing: In general release March 4
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Justin Chang has been a film critic for the Los Angeles Times since 2016. He is the author of the book “FilmCraft: Editing” and serves as chair of the National Society of Film Critics and secretary of the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.
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‘The Batman’ review: Robert Pattinson swoops down in this very dark and long reboot
Imagine, if you will, the pitch meeting for “The Batman,” Matt Reeves’ reboot of the Caped Crusader franchise starring Robert Pattinson. “ Like ‘Joker ,’ ” says someone at a conference table, “but more depressing.” Someone else pipes up, “We could save money on lighting by just, you know, not lighting it at all.” And another joins in, “And what if we made it really, really long?”
Behold “The Batman,” which is all of these things: depressing, dark and endless. (I think it’s about seven hours long, to be precise? But I may have blacked out toward the end.) I don’t know about you, but this particular time in history does not seem like the moment for a movie that will leave you a) miserable and b) wondering why nobody in Gotham City seems to have heard of light bulbs. Your mileage may vary, but for me — who loved both the Tim Burton and the Christopher Nolan “Batman” universes — this one feels like an earnest but bloated misfire.
Pattinson, joining the mercifully sparse brotherhood of Superheroes Who Are Too Moody to Wash Their Hair, here plays a young, eerily pale and very intense Bruce Wayne. But this is no origin story: Bruce is already Gotham’s vigilante hero, lurking in the night and swooping down in his Batsuit to wreak vengeance on criminals. And his efforts are sorely needed; this version of Gotham City is a hellhole, drenched in constant sodden downpours (seriously, and I say this as a Seattleite, that is a lot of rain), night-lit in the grim brownish-yellow of tobacco stains, filled with roaming criminals who’ve taken makeup lessons from the Joker. (I kid. Somebody has to.)
Though Pattinson isn’t given the opportunity to bring much to the role other than an impressively chiseled jaw (important for a superhero whose upper face is frequently covered), Reeves has at least surrounded him with an impressive cast with which to table-set a franchise: Zoë Kravitz as slinky catburgler Selina Kyle; Paul Dano as the film’s chief villain, the serial killer Riddler; Colin Farrell, completely unrecognizable behind a faceful of prosthetics, as nightclub owner/gangster Oz, aka Penguin; John Turturro as Gotham crime kingpin Carmine Falcone; Jeffrey Wright as Gotham cop James Gordon; and Andy Serkis as faithful Wayne butler Albert. All of these performances are impeccably professional, some of them more so than others. Kravitz won’t make you forget Michelle Pfeiffer , but her Selina has an appropriately haunted quality; Dano has a few completely unhinged moments; Wright makes you believe, against all probability, that a smart cop would take advice from a random guy in a bat outfit.
With this array of talent, why is “The Batman” so blah? It’s partly the overwhelming darkness, both in mood and the film’s actual appearance (action sequences are so much less effective when they’re drenched in murk). And it’s also because any “Batman” needs to clear a very high bar to justify itself. Burton’s and Nolan’s versions worked because each brought their unique skill as a filmmaker: Burton’s wildly creative deco fantasy; Nolan’s more realistic, soulfully poignant tale of a man trapped by his own determination to make the world better. In Reeves’ film, the world is burning but we’re not given much reason to care — or, really, enough light to even see it.
With Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Jayme Lawson, Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell. Directed by Matt Reeves, from a screenplay by Reeves and Peter Craig, based on characters from DC. 175 minutes. Rated PG-13 for strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong language, and some suggestive material. Opens March 2 at multiple theaters.
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The Batman Review
Bruce wayne's beautiful nightmare..
The Batman hits theaters on March 4, 2022. Below is a spoiler-free review.
“Fear,” Bruce Wayne tells us in a gloomy voiceover early in The Batman, “is a tool.” He’s talking about how the presence of the Batman can be used to intimidate bad guys, but it’s also possible writer/director Matt Reeves took this to heart for his approach to rebooting the famous superhero. This is the scariest Batman yet. Right from the violent opening scene, the message is clear: this is not your mother’s Caped Crusader. This is a creeping, angry, white-knuckle-inducing psychological thriller with a heavy dose of crime noir – and believe it or not, Reeves absolutely pulls it off, achieving a grimly beautiful masterpiece.
The Batman stands on its own, but it’s still dripping with cinematic references. Among the movies I thought about while watching: Zodiac , Se7en , Chinatown, and Saw ! You know what I didn’t think too much about? Most of the previous live-action Batman movies. Its gritty realism is most similar to Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, but this is a refreshingly bold new cinematic take on the Dark Knight.
If anything, its grounded nature is a lot like 2019’s Joker . But the difference here is that the Joaquin Phoenix thriller didn’t really need the A-list DC villain’s name to tell its story of an impoverished man forgotten by society. The Batman, on the other hand, is still very much a Batman tale in a surprisingly loyal way. It pulls from and remixes various storylines from the comics in daring yet respectful fashion, all while being very different from what we’ve seen on the big screen up to this point.
For one thing, it’s not a Batman origin story. Reeves knows we know Thomas and Martha Wayne are dead, and he correctly assumes we don’t need to see them get gunned down yet again. Instead, we’re dropped right into Batman and Jim Gordon’s vigilante/detective partnership. It takes place late enough in Bruce Wayne’s story to not retread scenes we’ve already seen a million times, but early enough that he’s still got a lot of growing to do before he’s the nigh-flawless superhero. We don’t see the beginning, but we do see plenty of development, as well as some clever callouts and additions to the histories of several Gotham families.
On that note, Robert Pattinson is playing a much more vulnerable, human version of the orphaned billionaire than we’ve seen before. With a role so iconic, it would’ve been easy to crib – even accidentally – from the many actors who came before him, but Pattinson makes Bruce his own entirely. Gone is the convincing illusion of a charismatic playboy we’ve seen in past iterations. Here, we get a sad weirdo who’s both crippled and compelled by his unresolved trauma in a way that’s gripping to watch. This Bruce is a broken man, unable to hide his emotions even under the cowl. Pattinson’s performance, in turn, is crushingly painful, whether he’s in or out of the Batsuit.
But, believe it or not, Pattinson’s performance isn’t even the second most memorable of The Batman. Those honors go to Zoe Kravitz and Paul Dano as Selina Kyle/Catwoman and The Riddler, respectively. The former struck me as inspired (dare I say, purrrrfect?) casting from the get-go, but Kravitz’s layered portrayal of the catburglar clawed past even my high expectations. She’s got all the slinkiness and slyness you could hope for, but, like Pattinson’s Bruce, she’s also incredibly vulnerable, while selling an insatiable need for revenge. Pattinson may be the one screaming “ I am vengeance!,” but it’s Kravitz who simmers with a need for payback. Plus, the two actors’ chemistry is undeniable. Whether they’re trading fists or information, it’s all very hot.
As for Dano, his Riddler is easily the best live-action Batman villain since Heath Ledger’s Joker. This is a far, far, far cry from the previous most famous Riddler performance by Jim Carrey, with Reeves putting a modern, murderous spin on the wordsmith that’s heavily influenced by the real-world Zodiac Killer. Dano sinks into this unhinged yet genius killer with terrifying realism. Seriously, Dano managed to give me chills with a single eye movement in one scene. The best Batman villains are the ones who challenge at least two of the three of his mind, morals, and body, and this Riddler puts the first two to the test. Whenever Pattinson and Dano face off, it’s impossible to look away.
Colin Farrell and Jeffrey Wright, too, are formidable as The Penguin and Jim Gordon, respectively, with both responsible for a few very welcome moments of levity. Farrell is deeply unrecognizable (seriously, if I didn’t already know it was him, I would’ve never guessed) as the mobster, and seems to be having fun under all those prosthetics. Wright, meanwhile, has a nice buddy-cop dynamic with Pattinson, lending to some of the best campy (in a good way) detective noir moments. Andy Serkis’ Alfred Pennyworth has a different relationship with Pattinson: a paternal one that connects him to the Wayne family roots and packs an emotional punch when needed.
Who's your favorite Batman actor so far?
If that seems like a lot to stuff into one movie, well, The Batman does clock in at a hefty three hours, so it has the time! It mostly earns that bladder-testing runtime, although there are moments in the middle when I didn’t feel completely glued to the political mystery at its center. But when the story – and the action – revved up again, it felt like one of the Bat’s grappling hooks pierced me and yanked me back so hard that I didn’t even have time to complain.
The last hour makes all that build-up worth it with a few big, beautiful, brilliantly choreographed action sequences. This movie’s grounded take ups the stakes in the fight scenes, and when Batman throws or takes a hit, it hurts . Plus, the cityscape in which it all takes place is darkly gorgeous. If you’ve seen pretty much any of The Batman’s posters you should know the look you’re in for, which constantly bathes Gotham in a palette of black and red. Cinematographer Greig Fraser’s smart contrast of saturation and darkness keeps it from being monotonous, instead keeping us gripped in a Gotham that mirrors other major U.S. cities in many ways, but is still entirely its own. Michael Giacchino’s sweeping, dramatic score brings it all together, creating a few epic moments worthy of one of comic books’ most famous characters.
The Batman, again, is a standalone tale and works well as one, but make no mistake: it definitely leaves the door open for a sequel. Maybe that’s underselling it; it leaves a Batmobile-sized hole for a sequel. Luckily, it’s a dark, grimy, politically seedy world that I certainly wouldn’t mind getting swept up in again.
In This Article
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‘The Batman’: Bruce Wayne broods over both his identities in a stripped-down, rain-soaked superhero noir
Gritty and grounded gotham city story picks up just as the caped crusader is just beginning to calibrate his moral compass..
Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) is only two years into his crimefighting career and still seen as an outlaw in “The Batman.”
We’re calling “The Batman” a superhero movie because it’s another telling of the tale of one of the most iconic comic-book characters in American history — but in terms of tone and scope and storyline, Matt Reeves’ reboot of the ever-fruitful franchise is more of a film noir than a fable about fantastic flying creatures, more “Zodiac” and “Seven” than “Guardians of the Galaxy” or “Eternals.”
Warner Bros. presents a film directed by Matt Reeves and written by Reeves and Peter Craig. Rated PG-13 (for strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong language, and some suggestive material). Running time: 176 minutes. Opens Tuesday at local Imax theaters.
When the character of Batman made his debut in 1939, he was the cover subject of “Detective Comics,” as it was then known, and that’s what we’re getting here: a detective story. A gritty and grounded and relatively dark exploration into the troubled psyche of the young Bruce Wayne/Batman, who is early into his crime-fighting career when a mysterious, violent, devious and quite insane sociopath starts knocking off some of Gotham City’s most elite power brokers, all the while making a sick game out of it.
We’ve seen Batman when he was starting out (“Batman Begins”), Batman in the midst of his crime-fighting prime (“Batman Returns”) and Batman as a world-weary, battle-scarred, 45ish caped crusader (“Justice League”). In this iteration the dark knight (Robert Pattinson) is only two years into his career and is just beginning to calibrate his moral compass while battling the scum of Gotham City in the shadows and the rain. (In true film noir fashion, it’s almost always raining in “The Batman” and there’s almost always something troubling lurking in the steam and the mist and the dark of night.)
We pick up the story at a time when virtually everyone on the police force considers Batman to be an outlaw with a gimmick, the only exception being the earnest and capable Lt. Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), who infuriates his colleagues when he summons the Batman to crime scenes. (When a fully outfitted Batman arrives at a murder scene and starts picking up clues a la Colombo, it’s pretty great and also kinda funny.)
A sadistic serial killer is executing some of the most influential players in Gotham City, leaving behind cryptic and creepy messages addressed “To The Batman” — cards with strange symbols and markings, warnings such as “NO MORE LIES” and riddles such as, “What does a liar do when he’s dead?” (Reminiscent of elements in the aforementioned David Fincher films “Seven” and “Zodiac.”) Of course, Batman is the only one who can solve the riddles and parse the clues; I’ll bet he’d be good at Wordle.
Colin Farrell is virtually unrecognizable as Oswald Cobblepot, who will become Penguin.
Sporting a military-green getup that includes a disturbing mask that looks like it was made in the basement of a serial killer — which is probably the case — Paul Dano’s Riddler is a shadowy, elusive figure who doesn’t carry the all-out menace of, say, Heath Ledger’s Joker, but Dano specializes in playing unsettling outcasts, and he’s effective enough, especially in a scene when the Batman confronts him at Arkham State Hospital. We’re also introduced to one Oswald Cobblepot (a virtually unrecognizable Colin Farrell, having great fun hamming it up), who is pure corruption but still paddling his way up the crime ladder and hasn’t yet become Penguin, and the crime boss Carmine Falcone (the great John Turturro), who oozes menace. And let’s just say the obvious criminals aren’t the only criminals in Gotham City.
Zoe Kravitz is outstanding as Selina Kyle, who remains smart and confident and sexy and dangerous, but is less of a caricature than some previous versions of this character. There’s genuine chemistry between Pattinson and Kravitz as Selina becomes the Batman’s ad hoc partner in crime-fighting even as the romantic sparks fly. Give Zoe/Selina/Catwoman their own movie!
Zoe Kravitz’s take on Catwoman is less of a caricature than most.
As for Pattinson … he’s become one of the most interesting actors of his generation, and he perfectly captures the existential angst of Bruce Wayne, even as his youthful looks and his modified Johnny Depp-in-“Benny-and-Joon” hairstyle serve as reminders this man is still relatively callow and hasn’t fully established his identity, either as Bruce or Batman. (One character says to Bruce, “You really could be doing more for this city. Your family has a history of philanthropy … but you’re not doing anything.”) This Batman almost has a touch of “Dexter” in him, at one point proclaiming: “I’m vengeance.”
With Chicago providing multiple exterior shots for stunt sequences, and principal photography in London, and location sequences also in Liverpool, England, and Glasgow, Scotland, the Gotham City of “The Batman” still has a decidedly New York City vibe; there’s even a Gotham Square a la Times Square. The rain-soaked, golden-hued cinematography by Greig Fraser (“Rogue One,” “Dune”) is beautiful, but director Reeves favors a stripped-down, bare-bones approach to the narrative. Bruce Wayne’s lair actually looks like a cave, as it’s located underneath the city, in an old section of the Wayne Terminus Subway. Even the Bat Signal is a jagged, scrap metal device that shoots a rather murky image into the sky whenever Lt. Gordon attempts to summon the Batman. This is an urban-based Batman saga, and though the citizens of Gotham City have yet to fully appreciate it, they are lucky to have him patrolling their streets, their sewers and their skyline.
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Movie Review | 'The Dark Knight'
Showdown in Gotham Town
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By Manohla Dargis
- July 18, 2008
Dark as night and nearly as long, Christopher Nolan’s new Batman movie feels like a beginning and something of an end. Pitched at the divide between art and industry, poetry and entertainment, it goes darker and deeper than any Hollywood movie of its comic-book kind including “Batman Begins,” Mr. Nolan’s 2005 pleasurably moody resurrection of the series largely by embracing an ambivalence that at first glance might be mistaken for pessimism. But no work filled with such thrilling moments of pure cinema can be rightly branded pessimistic, even a postheroic superhero movie like “The Dark Knight.”
Apparently, truth, justice and the American way don’t cut it anymore. That may not fully explain why the last Superman took a nose dive (“Superman Returns,” if not for long), but I think it helps get at why, like other recent ambiguous American heroes, both supermen and super-spies, the new Batman soared. Talent played a considerable part in Mr. Nolan’s Bat restoration, naturally, as did his seriousness of purpose. He brought a gravitas to the superhero that wiped away the camp and kitsch that had shrouded Batman in cobwebs. It helped that Christian Bale, a reluctant smiler whose sharply planed face looks as if it had been carved with a chisel, slid into Bruce Wayne’s insouciance as easily as he did Batman’s suit.
The new Batman movie isn’t a radical overhaul like its predecessor, which is to be expected of a film with a large price tag (well north of $100 million) and major studio expectations (worldwide domination or bust). Instead, like other filmmakers who’ve successfully reworked genre staples, Mr. Nolan has found a way to make Batman relevant to his time meaning, to ours investing him with shadows that remind you of the character’s troubled beginning but without lingering mustiness. That’s nothing new, but what is surprising, actually startling, is that in “The Dark Knight,” which picks up the story after the first film ends, Mr. Nolan has turned Batman (again played by the sturdy, stoic Mr. Bale) into a villain’s sidekick.
That would be the Joker, of course, a demonic creation and three-ring circus of one wholly inhabited by Heath Ledger. Mr. Ledger died in January at age 28 from an accidental overdose, after principal photography ended, and his death might have cast a paralyzing pall over the film if the performance were not so alive. But his Joker is a creature of such ghastly life, and the performance is so visceral, creepy and insistently present that the characterization pulls you in almost at once. When the Joker enters one fray with a murderous flourish and that sawed-off smile, his morbid grin a mirror of the Black Dahlia’s ear-to-ear grimace, your nervous laughter will die in your throat.
A self-described agent of chaos, the Joker arrives in Gotham abruptly, as if he’d been hiding up someone’s sleeve. He quickly seizes control of the city’s crime syndicate and Batman’s attention with no rhyme and less reason. Mr. Ledger, his body tightly wound but limbs jangling, all but disappears under the character’s white mask and red leer. Licking and chewing his sloppy, smeared lips, his tongue darting in and out of his mouth like a jittery animal, he turns the Joker into a tease who taunts criminals (Eric Roberts’s bad guy, among them) and the police (Gary Oldman’s good cop), giggling while he-he-he (ha-ha-ha) tries to burn the world down. He isn’t fighting for anything or anyone. He isn’t a terrorist, just terrifying.
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Mr. Nolan is playing with fire here, but partly because he’s a showman. Even before the Joker goes wild, the director lets loose with some comic horror that owes something to Michael Mann’s “Heat,” something to Cirque de Soleil, and quickly sets a tense, coiled mood that he sustains for two fast-moving hours of freakish mischief, vigilante justice, philosophical asides and the usual trinkets and toys, before a final half-hour pileup of gunfire and explosions. This big-bang finish which includes a topsy-turvy image that poignantly suggests the world has been turned on its axis for good is sloppy, at times visually incoherent, yet touching. Mr. Nolan, you learn, likes to linger in the dark, but he doesn’t want to live there.
Though entranced by the Joker, Mr. Nolan, working from a script he wrote with his brother Jonathan Nolan, does make room for romance and tears and even an occasional (nonlethal) joke. There are several new characters, notably Harvey Dent (a charismatic Aaron Eckhart), a crusading district attorney and Bruce Wayne’s rival for the affection of his longtime friend, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal, a happy improvement over Katie Holmes). Like almost every other character in the film, Batman and Bruce included, Harvey and Rachel live and work in (literal) glass houses. The Gotham they inhabit is shinier and brighter than the antiqued dystopia of “Batman Begins”: theirs is the emblematic modern megalopolis (in truth, a cleverly disguised Chicago), soulless, anonymous, a city of distorting and shattering mirrors.
From certain angles, the city the Joker threatens looks like New York, but it would be reductive to read the film too directly through the prism of 9/11 and its aftermath. You may flash on that day when a building collapses here in a cloud of dust, or when firemen douse some flames, but those resemblances belong more rightly to our memories than to what we see unfolding on screen. Like any number of small- and big-screen thrillers, the film’s engagement with 9/11 is diffuse, more a matter of inference and ideas (chaos, fear, death) than of direct assertion. Still, that a spectacle like this even glances in that direction confirms that American movies have entered a new era of ambivalence when it comes to their heroes or maybe just superness.
In and out of his black carapace and on the restless move, Batman remains, perhaps not surprisingly then, a recessive, almost elusive figure. Part of this has to do with the costume, which has created complications for every actor who wears it. With his eyes dimmed and voice technologically obscured, Mr. Bale, who’s suited up from the start, doesn’t have access to an actor’s most expressive tools. (There are only so many ways to eyeball an enemy.) Mr. Nolan, having already told Batman’s origin story in the first film, initially doesn’t appear motivated to advance the character. Yet by giving him rivals in love and war, he has also shifted Batman’s demons from inside his head to the outside world.
That change in emphasis leaches the melodrama from Mr. Nolan’s original conception, but it gives the story tension and interest beyond one man’s personal struggle. This is a darker Batman, less obviously human, more strangely other. When he perches over Gotham on the edge of a skyscraper roof, he looks more like a gargoyle than a savior. There’s a touch of demon in his stealthy menace. During a crucial scene, one of the film’s saner characters asserts that this isn’t a time for heroes, the implication being that the moment belongs to villains and madmen. Which is why, when Batman takes flight in this film, his wings stretching across the sky like webbed hands, it’s as if he were trying to possess the world as much as save it.
In its grim intensity, “The Dark Knight” can feel closer to David Fincher’s “Zodiac” than Tim Burton’s playfully gothic “Batman,” which means it’s also closer to Bob Kane’s original comic and Frank Miller’s 1986 reinterpretation. That makes it heavy, at times almost pop-Wagnerian, but Mr. Ledger’s performance and the film’s visual beauty are transporting. (In Imax, it’s even more operatic.) No matter how cynical you feel about Hollywood, it is hard not to fall for a film that makes room for a shot of the Joker leaning out the window of a stolen police car and laughing into the wind, the city’s colored lights gleaming behind him like jewels. He’s just a clown in black velvet, but he’s also some kind of masterpiece.
“The Dark Knight” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Consistently violent but not bloody.
THE DARK KNIGHT
Opens on Friday nationwide.
Directed by Christopher Nolan; written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, based on a story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer; Batman character created by Bob Kane; Batman and other characters from the DC comic books; director of photography, Wally Pfister; edited by Lee Smith; music by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard; production designer, Nathan Crowley; produced by Charles Roven, Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan; released by Warner Brothers Pictures. Running time: 2 hours 32 minutes.
WITH: Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Michael Caine (Alfred), Heath Ledger (the Joker), Gary Oldman (James Gordon), Aaron Eckhart (Harvey Dent), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Rachel Dawes) and Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox).
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“The Batman,” Reviewed: Eh, It’s Fine
By Richard Brody
It’s cause for modest celebration that “ The Batman ” achieves, for much of its nearly three-hour running time, a baseline of artistry: it’s eminently sit-through-able. There’s a category of movie that used to be the Hollywood stock in trade, which a dear departed relative used to call “brain cleansers”—one kicks back, the time passes with some rooting interest, some excitement, some curiosity about what’s coming next. For its first two hours or so, “The Batman” largely fulfills the commitment to be engaging and clever; its deftly inventive director, Matt Reeves (who co-wrote the script with Peter Craig), conveys the impression of substance where it’s hardly to be found. The movie is good with an asterisk—an asterisk the size of the financial interests at stake in the franchise’s intellectual property. As free as Reeves may have been to make the film according to his lights, he displays an element of custodial, even fiduciary, responsibility. It may well win him favor with the studio, with the ticket-buying public, and with critics who calibrate their enthusiasm to box-office success, but it gets in the way of the kinds of transformative interpretations of the characters that would make the difference between a baseline movie and an authentically free and original one.
The Batman is a vigilante who works with the coöperation of the police, who project a bat-sign into the sky, with a bright light, as a call to him and a warning to evildoers who anticipate him swooping in. Yet, as he lands on a subway platform and lays low a gang of young miscreants, made up Joker-style, who are assaulting an Asian man, the victim is also struck with fear and pleads with the Batman not to hurt him. The Batman describes his uneasy role as an avenger—indeed, he says, as vengeance itself—in a voice-over that holds out hope that the superhero will be endowed with at least an average level of subjectivity and mental activity. No such luck: that voice-over might as well be a part of the explanatory press notes for all the insight it offers into the protagonist’s thoughts. Yet his haphazard thwarting of random street crime in the chaos of Gotham City gets sharply focussed on one criminal, the Riddler (Paul Dano), who, in the opening act of his crime spree, virtually summons him.
The Riddler gruesomely murders the mayor of Gotham and tapes to the victim’s body a greeting card for the Batman and other clues to his motives and to his next victim—to the conspiracy that he has discovered and the perpetrators he’s targeting. In taunting the Batman by dosing him with knowledge, the Riddler is also making him an unwilling but inextricable ally, both forcing him to join in the same fight and informing him of the underlying and overarching truth about Gotham, about the social order that the avenging masked man is dedicated to defending and preserving. The Riddler has learned that many of the city’s officials, particularly ones involved in law enforcement, have been on the take from gangsters (I’m avoiding spoilers here and throughout); decisions to prosecute are tainted by the self-dealing of politicians and police.
The Batman is drawn even further into the tangled conspiracy when he accidentally encounters another masked avenger, Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), who, as Selina Kyle, works in a night club run by a gangster named Oz, who is nicknamed the Penguin (Colin Farrell), and frequented by other criminals, such as a mobster named Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), and corrupt officials. When her roommate and lover, Annika Koslov—whom the Riddler linked to the conspiracy—vanishes, the Batman helps her to investigate, and she helps him to untangle the web of corruption that the Riddler has discerned and capture the Riddler himself. Meanwhile, the Batman is working closely with a police detective named Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), who, in collaborating in the pursuit of the Riddler, is playing the dangerous game of unmasking corrupt colleagues and superiors.
The reason for dwelling on these details is pleasure. The intricacy of the movie’s intertwined plots has a plain and simple efficiency that undergirds the onscreen actions like an architectural framework, and Reeves adorns that framework with a vigorous variety of visual twists and dramatic tempi. The opening scene, in which the Riddler spies on the mayor before doing him in, involves a telescope that Reeves (working with the cinematographer Greig Fraser) mimics with a telephoto lens, while, on the soundtrack, the masked Riddler wheezes with a huffing eeriness out of David Lynch. The best gizmo in the Batman’s bag of high-tech tricks is a pair of contact lenses that are also video cameras beaming their signal to the devices of his choice. The movie’s design also offers a handful of piquant touches, from the infinitesimal points of Catwoman’s mask-ears to the cable zip line that the Batman discharges for rapid rescues and escapes. (The Batmobile, however, is definitively outshone by the vintage black Corvette in which Bruce Wayne, out of disguise, shows up at a funeral.)
There’s a car chase that, if not especially original, at least conveys its obvious patterns in images of taut precision and culminates in the film’s money shot, which brings it to a rooting conclusion with a strikingly clever and simple twist of visual logic. There’s a fight scene in a dark room at night where the only light comes from bursts of gunfire; there’s a jolt of superheroic vulnerability when the Batman makes a midair misstep in his flight suit. In a movie deprived of humor, one moment of it bursts out with a gleeful surprise, as the gargle-voiced Penguin cuts loose with a rant attacking the Batman’s linguistic skills. That’s as good as it gets, though; the laundry list of moments that pop hangs on the framework as if to conceal its essential emptiness.
The crucial marker of the movie’s faux earnestness is visual darkness—the movie is set largely at night (explained in part by the Batman’s own nocturnal habits), which furnishes the bland metaphor, or cliché, for grim doings. The sleek foreground of elaborate yet functional design doesn’t reverberate with symbolic power; it has no loose ends for the free play of imagination. Its coherence is impressive, overwhelming—and deadening. The energy of directorial intention doesn’t reach offscreen—it implies nothing beyond the action. (It’s the kind of enticing visual beauty, conveying above all the realm of power, that Kogonada questions in “ After Yang .”)
The emptiness below the movie’s surfaces reflects the emptiness of the characters it depicts; they’re reduced to a handful of traits and a backstory, defined solely by their function in the plot. Even though the title character bears two identities and lives a double life constructed of careful and elaborate ruses, “The Batman” makes shockingly little of Bruce Wayne. Robert Pattinson’s performance provides the only hint of substance: in both personae, he maintains a stone face throughout. The utterly repressed expression that he lends them could suggest anything from self-discipline to existential anguish, though I see it as a superhuman effort not to burst out laughing at the simulation of seriousness, of any personality at all. The movie’s solid dramatic architecture is essentially uninhabited—“The Batman” is a cinematic house populated only by phantoms with no trace of a complex mental life.
The indifference to characters as sentient beings rather than pawns in a plot emerges in a twist that’s a long-standing marker of action-film superficiality: apocalyptic chaos. Again avoiding spoilers, the Riddler doesn’t only target individual high-level miscreants in Gotham but decides that the entire city deserves to go down with them. (The possibilities, with its Biblical implications, are endless—and remain untapped.) When his monstrous scheme is unleashed, crowd scenes conjure mass destruction as a plot point, the staggering loss of life as a generic and inchoate jumble. Extras, whether live or digitally created, are anonymous collateral damage in a city that “The Batman” presents only as a stage for the clash of its protagonists. The movie’s inability to imagine its superheroes and supervillains with any meaningful psychological identity is of a piece with the failure to imagine ordinary people with any degree of individuality. Nothing that distracts from suspense or excitement, no details of personality to get in the way of superficial identification with flattened-out heroes, nothing that suggests a world of possibilities beyond the sealed-off borders of the screen, is allowed to seep through the movie’s solid and opaque surfaces. Its triumph of superficial pleasure is chillingly triumphalist.
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The Batman review — Robert Pattinson struggles in slow-motion silliness
★★☆☆☆ The comedy highlight of 2014 animation The Lego Movie is when our caped crusader (voiced by Will Arnett) unleashes a staccato rock track that describes the insuperable clichés that have come to define the Batman character. “Darkness!” roars the first line. The second? “No parents!” Third? “Continued darkness!” And on it goes (“Super rich!”), like musical napalm, incinerating the Batman mythos and making the prospect of ever again embracing these ossified traits and tropes almost unthinkable.
The makers of The Batman appear not to have seen The Lego Movie . This is a film without a scintilla of irony, and one that might have been preserved in aspic (it certainly looks as though it’s shot through it) since the early 1990s. There’s Nirvana on
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The Batman review: 'A noirish pulp fantasy'
How gloomy can a Batman film possibly get? Back in the 1960s, the caped crusader's adventures embodied camp, underpants-over-tights silliness, but then Tim Burton showed that they could be gothic and moody, Christopher Nolan proved that they could be political and contemporary, and Zack Snyder went all-out apocalyptic . The Batman, directed and co-written by Matt Reeves, is the gloomiest of the lot. After all, it's got an extra "the" in the title – and, as the makers of The Wolverine and Joker will tell you, if you want to prove that your superhero movie is serious, adding or subtracting a "the" is the way to go.
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This is a film in which humour is strictly forbidden. There's so little colour that it might as well be in black and white. And in place of Neal Hefti's singalong "Batman" jingle, the music consists of Nirvana's Something in The Way, Schubert's Ave Maria, and a funereal four-note riff, by composer Michael Giacchino, which is reminiscent of both Jaws and Darth Vader.
This could be the best, most atmospheric cinematic interpretation of Gotham City so far – but it's not the most original
Don't expect any levity from Batman – sorry The Batman – either. Making another of his admirably bold acting choices, Robert Pattinson appears to be even more uncomfortable, exhausted and nauseous than he was in Twilight, his eyes half-closed and his voice a murmur, as if he is slowly recovering from a weekend of food poisoning. When Batman is snooping around Gotham's underworld with Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright, effectively playing Felix Leiter again, as he did in Daniel Craig's Bond films ), he looks as if he would rather be at home. And when he is at home as Bruce Wayne, he's a sullen, pallid recluse who doesn't even have a kind word for his scarred, limping butler Alfred (Andy Serkis). In his opening voiceover, Wayne says that "fear is a tool", but there's nothing very frightening about a crime-fighter who always seems as if he'd rather be under the duvet with a hot water bottle and a mug of cocoa.
Still, maybe that's what life in Gotham City does to you. Aside from some dodgy districts here and there, Gotham was a thriving metropolis in Nolan's Batman films, but here it is a dingy, desperate urban jungle, riddled with vice and corruption from its sleazy officials down to its thuggish street gangs. It's always raining, the sky is always grey, and even indoors the lamps are too feeble to dispel the shadows.
This could be the best, most atmospheric cinematic interpretation of Gotham City so far – you can certainly see why the place is in need of Batman's ministrations – but it's not the most original. The obvious inspiration is David Fincher's Se7en , another film set in an alternate reality where 100-watt bulbs haven't been invented. Batman's voiceover may echo Rorschach's diary from the Watchmen comics , and there are inevitable similarities to previous Bat-films, but The Batman borrows so much from Se7en that it barely qualifies as a superhero movie. It's more a sombre, low-key serial-killer mystery in which one of the detectives is in fancy dress for no particular reason.
The Riddler (Paul Dano) isn't a flamboyant goofball in a bowler hat and a bright green unitard, he's a bespectacled, raincoated sadist straight from the Saw franchise . The Penguin (Colin Farrell, unrecognisable under his prosthetic make-up) has yet to adopt his trademark monocle, top hat and umbrella, so he is more of a would-be Al Capone than a cackling supervillain. And Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), a tough, streetwise waitress with a sideline in burglary, is nothing like the purring theatrical seductresses played by Michelle Pfeiffer and Anne Hathaway. As for the plot, I'm not sure I followed all of it, but it's got something to do with the Riddler's vendetta against the great and the good of Gotham, and something to do with a drug sting that happened years earlier and involved a mafia boss called Carmine Falcone (John Turturro). In other words, we've come a long way from the days when Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr Freeze was turning Gotham City into a giant ice sculpture.
This is very much a low-stakes Batman tale, with no significant danger posed to Gotham City, let alone the rest of the world
It's safe to say that The Batman is not going to sell as many tickets as the crowd-pleasing Spider-Man: No Way Home . Most of the action is sluggish, the twists aren't exactly shocking, and the Riddler is nowhere near as terrifying or as ingenious as Heath Ledger's Joker was. But, in its own way, The Batman is still impressive. As grim as the Burton, Nolan and Snyder films were, Reeves and his team have fashioned their own distinctive and stylish variety of grimness, and they commit to it for three whole hours. Frankly, it's amazing that they got away with it.
Besides, Reeves' determinedly dour approach is strangely soothing. At a time when the standard superhero blockbuster features omnipotent aliens threatening the Earth, the Universe, and even the multiverse with obliteration, it's a relief to immerse yourself in a noirish pulp fantasy that's closer in scale and tone to an episode of a prestigious TV cop show. This is very much a low-stakes Batman tale, with no significant danger posed to Gotham City, let alone the rest of the world. All our hero has to do is solve some simple puzzles and beat up some muggers and nightclub bouncers, and so, despite the ominous atmosphere, you never have to worry that he might fail. You can just relax and let him get on with it.
The film does have a few glimmers of fun in the murk, too. Kravitz's spiky Catwoman and Farrell's boisterous Penguin are both lively enough to counterbalance Batman's melancholy; it's a shame they don't have more to do. There are some clever nods to the character's history, and the dialogue has some pithy lines about class privilege and the differences between a vigilante and a hero. The story also ends on a touchingly optimistic note, which is unusual for a Batman film. Who knows, maybe the next one won't be quite as gloomy. Pattinson might even crack a smile. But I wouldn't bet on it.
The Batman is released in cinemas on 4 March internationally
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Review: Robert Pattinson embodies a broody, brawny Dark Knight for a new era in 'The Batman'
There have been so many Batman films – and quite a few Batmen – since Christopher Nolan’s 2005 reboot “Batman Begins” that the new one is bound to drive some moviegoers, well, batty.
Director Matt Reeves’ ambitious and excellently crafted “The Batman” (★★★½ out of four; rated PG-13; in theaters and streaming on HBO Max ) more than justifies its existence as a world-building wonder that slathers a realistic grime across its Gotham City, a metropolis filled with familiar yet refreshing takes on its iconic coterie of heroes and villains. And at the center of it all is Robert Pattinson , the latest actor to don the famous cape and cowl , who brings a grungy, broody brawn to an emotionally conflicted Caped Crusader.
The character has long been known as the “world’s greatest detective” in comic books, and in that vein is where “The Batman” thrives – with a noir-style voiceover narration introduction by Pattinson – as the "Chinatown" of the Bat-movie canon.
Definitively ranked: All of the big-screen Batmen (including Robert Pattinson)
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This new Bruce Wayne is more two-fisted gumshoe than masked vigilante (though he certainly can whale on street criminals' heads if need be), but honestly, the job’s not going well at all: Batman is in his second year punching punks and solving crimes, though the crime has actually grown worse since he started.
A corrupt police department on the whole doesn’t love that he’s around, and piling on to the problems is a masked serial killer named the Riddler (Paul Dano) who is murdering Gotham power players and leaving cryptic cyphers and puzzles for Batman by name.
Bruce, a dark sort even when not in his Batsuit, goes down an investigative rabbit hole to uncover a city poisoned by good intentions turned bad and learns about his late parents’ involvement. What he mainly needs to figure out, though, is will Batman just be a symbol of vengeance or should he be something more?
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Reeves tries to do a lot over three expansive hours, and he mostly succeeds, filling out an expansive Gotham mythology that Batman and his colorful co-stars exist in naturally rather than overshadow. (As much as he packs in, Reeves also seeds intriguing aspects for sequels down the line.)
Bruce has allies in good cop/frequent partner Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), loyal butler Alfred (Andy Serkis) and the shadowy Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), a club waitress and cat burglar who grows close to Batman as they work together and find commonalities in their past traumas. Dano’s Riddler is a Zodiac Killer type with a penchant for punctuation who grows creepier as his story is revealed, while Colin Farrell fabulously embraces his inner Robert De Niro (and is delightfully unrecognizable under a ton of prosthetics) as the gangster Penguin.
The OG Batman: How Michael Keaton's 1989 blockbuster 'Batman' changed superhero movies forever
There’s an interconnectedness among the characters that really works, plus “The Batman” is undoubtedly just really cool. Pattinson plays Batman as an enigma slowly unlocked along with the film's central mystery – as Kravitz’s pre-Catwoman persona discovers, you dig him the more you get to know him. Also, the hero’s muscle-car Batmobile is the niftiest since Michael Keaton’s 1989 road monster, and Reeves’ movie is the best-scored comic book film since 2008’s “The Dark Knight.” A composer with the creativity to be this generation’s John Williams, Michael Giacchino constructs individual character themes and a genre-mashing piano-and-orchestra soundscape that are essential elements in making “The Batman” a triumph.
Reeves’ “The Batman” is doing its thing far outside the DC movie universe where Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Jason Momoa’s Aquaman hang out. That’s a good thing: Pattinson’s main man holds down a revamped Gotham that feels distinctively gritty with its blueprint of madness and mayhem, a place you would never want to live in but still would love to revisit as soon as possible.
'It was terrifying': 'The Batman' star Robert Pattinson embraces a superhero who's 'a mess'
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The Batman Reviews
They turned revealing an antagonist's presence to the audience without the victim's knowledge into a suspense-driven art. Here, Reeves taps directly into these tactics to phenomenal effect...
Full Review | Jan 9, 2023
This is the ultimate Batman movie.
Full Review | Original Score: 5/5 | Jan 6, 2023
Batman's superpower has always been that he's the smartest guy in the room. ... His title as the Dark Knight Detective has never been showcased on film as well as it was in The Batman.
It may take three hours for Bruce to learn this lesson, but it's an incredible three hours. It may be fun to watch Pattinson put on black make-up and strap into the Batsuit to fight some bad guys, but there's much more to this story than just that.
Full Review | Original Score: 9.8/10 | Dec 30, 2022
THE BATMAN exceeds my expectations and passes the bar of a reboot. It justifies its own existence with great storytelling, insights into humanity and human society, and powerful performances.
Full Review | Dec 28, 2022
“The Batman” reaches for an ingenious and compelling new way to tell a story about the thin lines between corruption, greed and nobility — but ever so limply and always just out of its grasp.
Full Review | Dec 6, 2022
Matt Reeves’ The Batman brings us closest to the essence of the Batman character than any film adapted from the DC comics have since Tim Burton’s inaugural Batman in 1989.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4 | Nov 23, 2022
The Batman is a brave, bold and brilliant new take on a familiar character and Reeves and Pattinson have done him proud.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Nov 13, 2022
Matt Reeves’ The Batman is a brutal, uncompromising vision that leaves its indelible mark in comic book film history.
Full Review | Original Score: 4.5/5 | Nov 5, 2022
The film casts long shadows with blacks and grays, but the consistent, bleeding flashes of red paint the most intense moments with jarring contrast.
Full Review | Original Score: A- | Sep 2, 2022
The Batman is the only comic book adaptation since The Dark Knight to come close to recreating that cinematic achievement, brilliantly blending entertainment with artistry.
Full Review | Original Score: 4.5/5 | Sep 1, 2022
Reeves, it should be noted, assembles a lot of other people’s ideas and themes into this mammoth package. The movie is a triumph of craft and design, but original it ain’t.
Full Review | Original Score: B+ | Aug 24, 2022
Reeves’ vision is fresh and innovative, building a young (but not brand new) version of the Bat world that is satisfying as a single film, while planting the seeds for a juggernaut franchise.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Aug 22, 2022
The Batman transcends an oversaturated genre and gives arguably the best portrayal of the caped crusader yet. Matt Reeves delivers a slow-burn detective noir with a terrifying villain and ever-rising tension. A rare film that I would call a masterpiece!
Full Review | Original Score: 5/5 | Aug 19, 2022
Writer-director Matt Reeves knows how to write a blockbuster with brains, and he knows how to film one with visual flare.
Full Review | Jul 21, 2022
The way that everything is spliced and shaken together, and the mood — and it's definitely a mood — makes this weighty, heavy, sublimely shot, excellently cast, always-engaging blockbuster feel new, and all things Batman with it.
Full Review | Jun 25, 2022
THE BATMAN shows that even the best intentions may inspire mayhem, cause heck this is Gotham.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4 | Jun 22, 2022
And even though at times the movie seems a little too male-centric, in times when this is almost prohibited, it felt good to feel those testosterone punches in such a quality, entertaining film. [Full review in Spanish]
Full Review | Jun 15, 2022
How many times can this story be told? Next time pray that the filmmakers aren’t this self-serious about their own vision and that the running time values your time outside of Gotham.
Full Review | Original Score: C+ | Jun 14, 2022
Lovers of action, fight sequences, digital effects, and mainstream fare may be driven to mental torture. [Full review in Spanish]
Full Review | Jun 14, 2022
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User 50 190 days ago
I will give three stars for this movie because of all are good acting especially the small boy and villan Paul Dano (rider),<br/>I watched lot of serious, but I feel bad this version, <br/>it not feel about batman movie, look like common man thriller movie. <br/>Not give priority to BATMAN. Even fight and intro everything I am not feel about heroism. <br/>We missing BATMAN bike ride and car race scenes also so.., I feel much sad.<br/>Look long and boring, Poor Character Development, Dark cinematography and it was good story line but its not required BATMAN. <br/>Climax is super and villan Paul Dano acting awesome.
sumone 3 324 days ago
Worst Batman ever...GC was better than him
Pradeep Madgaonkar 5218 340 days ago
Onkar Potdar 198 341 days ago
Kinsley kirkendoll 347 days ago, news - the batman.
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‘The Batman’ Review Roundup: An ‘Exhilarating,’ ‘Unforgettable’ and ‘Overlong’ Comic Book Film
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The review embargo for Matt Reeves ’ “ The Batman ” has lifted, bringing with it a handful of raves and several mixed takes on the director’s very long and very dark interpretation of the Caped Crusader. The Warner Bros. comic book tentpole is set during Batman’s second year as a masked crime fighter and follows the vigilante as he tries to capture the Riddler, who sends Gotham City into chaos by exposing the corruption of its leaders.
Robert Pattinson stars as Bruce Wayne/Batman in “The Batman” opposite Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Paul Dano as Edward Nashton/Riddler, Jeffrey Wright as James Gordon, John Turturro as Carmine Falcone, Peter Sarsgaard as Gil Colson, Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth and Colin Farrell as Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin.
One thing critics agree on when it comes to “The Batman” is that there has never been a comic book movie like it before. Pattinson teased as much earlier this month when he said the film’s opening scene left him shocked.
“I watched a rough cut of the movie by myself. And the first shot is so jarring from any other Batman movie that it’s just kind of a totally different pace,” Pattinson said in an interview . “It was what Matt was saying from the first meeting I had with him: ‘I want to do a ’70s noir detective story, like “The Conversation.”‘ And I kind of assumed that meant the mood board or something, the look of it. But from the first shot, it’s, ‘Oh, this actually is a detective story.”
Read some highlights of what critics are saying below.
Variety’s Peter Debruge:
In ways far more unsettling than most audiences might expect, “The Batman” channels the fears and frustrations of our current political climate, presenting a meaty, full-course crime saga that blends elements of the classic gangster film with cutting-edge commentary about challenges facing the modern world. It’s a hugely ambitious undertaking and one that’s strong enough to work even without Batman’s presence, not that it would have any reason to exist without him. But by incorporating the character and so many of the franchise’s trademarks — Catwoman (a slinky Zoë Kravitz), the Penguin (Colin Farrell, all but unrecognizable), loyal butler Alfred (Andy Serkis, fully analog) and an epic car chase involving the latest iteration of the Batmobile — Reeves electrifies the dense, ultra-dark proceedings with an added level of excitement that justifies the film’s relatively demanding running time.
Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri:
“The Batman” is dark, no doubt about it. Even darker than the already-dark Christopher Nolan-directed “Dark Knight” trilogy, whose success once set off several rounds of way-too-dark comic book adaptations and action spectacles. You might have thought Batman couldn’t get any darker, but you’d be wrong: Heath Ledger’s Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’ sewed a telephone into a guy’s abdomen in 2008 so that Paul Dano’s Riddler could then feed another guy’s abdomen to a cage full of rats in 2022. This is a Batman movie reimagined as a grisly serial killer film, only this time it’s not just the serial killer who looms in the shadows, watching his prey and waiting to pounce; the hero does, too. They could have called it ‘Zodiac$.’
Uproxx’s Mike Ryan:
Matt Reeves’s ‘The Batman,’ at least as far as superhero movies go, feels so old-fashioned that it has come all the way around to unique again. While watching ‘The Batman,’ it feels like it has more in common with gritty crime mysteries like ‘L.A. Confidential’ or ‘Se7en’ than, say, ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home.’ (A movie I like quite a bit, for the record.) ‘The Batman’ is a movie fully embracing its present and not looking forward to what everything might mean five movies down the line. At just under three hours in length, yes, it’s long, but it’s self-contained. And also rare for a Batman movie … Batman is actually the main character.
Rolling Stone’s David Fear:
Pattinson is an inspired choice to bring this haunted, emo-beast-mode version of the character to the screen, and while you can see him hitting certain beats that are now expected for the Caped Crusader — gotta growl them lines, gotta grimace a whole lot — there’s an undercurrent of pathos and vulnerability that he brings this moody-blues interpretation of Bruce/Batman. Even when he was the handsome face of a franchise juggernaut like ‘Twilight,’ the British actor specialized in portraying misfit souls…. His Batman is definitely a mood. He’s also a more moody, enraged, and volatile iteration of the DC Comics’ heavy hitter than previous incarnations, which — given that your competition includes Christian Bale and Ben Affleck — is no small feat.
Entertainment Weekly’s Leah Greenblatt:
Kravitz is feline and fiercely lovely, a girl with her own private pain and motivations; Dano feints and giggles, a simpering loon. (In a world where Heath Ledger’s Joker still exists on celluloid, alas, pretty much every kind of pulp villainy is bound to feel like pale imitation.) But it falls on Pattinson’s leather-cased Batman to be the hero we need, or deserve. With his doleful kohl-smudged eyes and trapezoidal jawline, he’s more like a tragic prince from Shakespeare; a lost soul bent like a bat out of hell on saving everyone but himself.
IndieWire’s David Ehrlich:
It was less than three years ago that Todd Phillips’ mid-budget but mega-successful “Joker” threateningly pointed toward a future in which superhero movies of all sizes would become so endemic to modern cinema that they no longer had to be superhero movies at all. With Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” — a sprawling, 176-minute latex procedural that often appears to have more in common with serial killer sagas like “Se7en” and “Zodiac” than it does anything in the Snyderverse or the MCU — that future has arrived with shuddering force, for better or worse. Mostly better.
Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson:
For the most part, Reeves’s approach is refreshing. The Gotham he’s created — out of bits of London and Chicago, with visual references to New York and other cities thrown in — is an aesthetic marvel. His amalgamated city churns with dangerous allure, a bracing mural of fluorescent orange and dusky purple. Reeves has populated this benighted place with a host of fine actors, among them Colin Farrell as the gangster known as the Penguin, Zoë Kravitz as a sultry and wounded Selina Kyle, Jeffrey Wright as principled cop Jim Gordon, Paul Dano as a dark-web Riddler, and a suavely sinister John Turturro as crime boss Carmine Falcone. The Batman has considered texture — it’s as pleasingly immersive as Nolan’s trilogy.
IGN’s Alex Stedman:
As for Dano, his Riddler is easily the best live-action Batman villain since Heath Ledger’s Joker. This is a far, far, far cry from the previous most famous Riddler performance by Jim Carrey, with Reeves putting a modern, murderous spin on the wordsmith that’s heavily influenced by the real-world Zodiac Killer. Dano sinks into this unhinged yet genius killer with terrifying realism. Seriously, Dano managed to give me chills with a single eye movement in one scene. The best Batman villains are the ones who challenge at least two of the three of his mind, morals, and body, and this Riddler puts the first two to the test. Whenever Pattinson and Dano face off, it’s impossible to look away.
The Playlist’s Robert Daniels:
Unforgettable images — the coned, fiery blue flames of the Batmobile, bodies thrashing, enveloped in shadows, the brailed scars crawling across Robert Pattinson’s muscled back — converge in Matt Reeves’ three-hour, noir-infused epic “The Batman.” Ever since Bob Kane and Bill Finger created him in 1939, the philanthropist playboy by day, Caped Crusader by night, has signified isolation, grief, trauma — vengeance. Over the decades, television and cinematic incarnations, projected through the personalities of the actors who’ve portrayed him, have amplified those traits through both campy and brooding means. But Pattinson’s Dark Knight, more vicious, more forlorn, and less worldly, hampered by his privilege rather than aided, is not only different from every version before him. Inspired and enthralling, this detective story veers far away from the current homogenous superhero landscape.
/Film’s Chris Evangelista:
Do we really need yet another “Batman” reboot? The answer, after watching Matt Reeves’ tremendous “The Batman,” is apparently a resounding yes. The story of the Dark Knight has been told and retold again so many times that you might think there’s nothing left to do with this character, and yet, Reeves and company have crafted a sprawling, ominous, dreamy epic; a mash-up of action-adventure, mystery, horror, noir, and even a little romance thrown in for good measure. There were multiple moments here where I had to stop and ask myself, “Wow, is this the best Batman movie?” It just might be.
The AV Club’s A.A. Dowd:
In ‘The Batman,’ Matt Reeves’ slick, overlong, majestically moody superhero spectacular, Robert Pattinson really puts the goth into Gotham City’s chief protector. His eyes slathered in mascara like Robert Smith (or The Crow, another nocturnal winged avenger), this version of the DC crime fighter zips around town on a motorcycle to the non-diegetic accompaniment of Nirvana’s album-closing downer “Something In The Way.” He also narrates the film in hushed voiceover that teeters, gargoyle-like, over the edge of self-parody. “They think I’m hiding in the shadows,” he whispers. “But I am the shadows.” These musings sound like diary entries — and it turns out that’s exactly what they are. At last: a Batman who journals!
CNN’s Brian Lowry:
While the seriousness is welcome, the level of darkness risks becoming oppressive in a manner that doesn’t leave much room for fun of any kind. If that’s hardly a negative for Batman-ologists, it threatens to blunt the film’s appeal among those who can’t identify the issue of Detective Comics in which he first appeared. Still, that’s a modest quibble compared to the main gripe that “The Batman” could easily lose 30 minutes without sacrificing much. Most of that flab comes during the final hour, which serves a purpose in terms of the character’s maturation but piles on at least one climax too many.
The Verge’s Charles Pulliam-Moore:
For every one of “The Batman’s” good ideas — like focusing on Batman and Gordon bonding over their shared fondness of actually doing detective work — there are at least two things holding it back. These include the fact that none of the Riddler’s riddles here are all that complicated, or that Pattinson and Wright don’t have all that much on-screen chemistry. In The Batman’s defense, the movie does want you to understand how profoundly lonely Bruce Wayne is and how difficult it is for him to relate to other people; the weird energy between him and Gordon may be a directorial choice. But even in Bruce’s more vulnerable moments with longtime Wayne family butler Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis), there’s an emotional inertness that feels intentional, but ultimately unsatisfying, given the intimacy the characters traditionally share.
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The Batman needed a harder reboot
Matt Reeves, Robert Pattinson, and a strong cast rely on execution for a familiar comic book movie
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Batman is back, and he is pissed as hell. The Batman , Matt Reeves’ moody reboot of the famous comic book hero, launches a new version of the Caped Crusader for the 2020s. Somewhere between the Snyderverse’ s failure to launch a solo franchise with Ben Affleck’s elder-statesman take, and the enduring appeal of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, there’s a lot of room for something new. Unfortunately, Reeves’ new take has a lot in common with the old takes.
The Batman is full of moments most Bat-fans will have seen before, and not that long ago. At its most exhausting, it restages moments from the Nolan trilogy: A mobster tells Bruce Wayne the truth about how the world works, Batman fights his way through a nightclub in a fury or through a hallway illuminated only by gunfire, footage of the film’s villain terrorizing their next victim is broadcast over the evening news. Almost all of the characters, apart from the Riddler, are recognizable from previous Batman movies. The new layers on display here are easily derived from what came before. There is nothing particularly bold about The Batman . Its strength is in its execution.
A rain-slick mystery in the mode of David Fincher’s Seven , The Batman is a methodical hunt for the Riddler (Paul Dano) after his grotesque murder of Gotham City’s incumbent mayor in the leadup to the city’s elections. Batman (Robert Pattinson) has been operating in Gotham for two years, and has established both a street rep that keeps common crooks scared and a rock-solid partnership with police Lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) that lets him in on crime scenes, even if most other cops hate it.
The case takes the pair on a tour through Gotham’s underworld, crossing paths with crime boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), striver Oz “The Penguin” Cobblepot (Colin Farrell), thief Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), and all of Gotham’s mobsters and elites, who have become codependent. Like its protagonist, The Batman is driven — while the hunt for the Riddler sprawls out in different directions, the film never deviates from it. Bruce Wayne rarely appears out of costume, wholly given to his mission and seeing little use for the life he was born into.
In building a story around the construction of Batman over his human alter ego or any people around him, The Batman becomes a movie of abstract ideas about cities, and where their denizens should place their faith when they know the game is rigged. These are compelling ideas to explore, particularly in this version of Gotham City — which is built to look like a dark-carnival rendition of 1970s and ’80s New York City transposed to the present day. Recognizable landmarks are given a grimy makeover, and theatrical gangs overrun the streets in a merging of fantasy and reality that ultimately adds up to a metaphor in search of a meaning.
If Batman is, as he repeatedly states, “vengeance,” then what is Gotham? The answer is pretty simple: It’s every city as portrayed by conservative commentators, a den of crime that needs Batman to clean it up, but maybe not the way he’s been doing it for the last couple years. Bruce Wayne’s arc is one where a young man who was molded by Gotham learns that perhaps it’s time for him to mold it in turn.
This also feels familiar: The arc of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was expressly about the idea that Batman was a necessary response, but also one with an expiration date. It’s about a guy who learns how to move from boogeyman to inspiration, and how the latter is a more effective vehicle for change.
The contours of how Reeves gets there is how he distinguishes The Batman . Like Heath Ledger’s Joker, the Riddler in this film is a cipher with a point to make: Gotham City’s vision of law and order is a lie fueled by corruption, and Batman’s journey to stop him, using the tools and means of his wealth, calls that wealth into question. In the world of The Batman , all money is dirty money, powering the ascent of dirty politicians and mobsters while also blinding the well-intentioned to the reality of their impact on the community. The tension between Batman and Catwoman does not just come from their positions on opposite sides of the law, but also Gotham City. He lives in a tower and sees the entire city, while she comes from the gutter and tells him he can’t see a damn thing.
The echoes of past Bat-films are made worse when the people telling the story are so good. Robert Pattinson is a great Batman, surly and serious, but not impenetrable. His Bruce is still open to learning, still capable of feeling, but isn’t invincible. He might not crack a smile in this film, but it’s conceivable that he could, once he achieves a better work-life balance. Zoë Kravitz also makes for a great Selina Kyle, even though the movie does little to establish Catwoman as a known presence the way it does Batman. As Batman’s de facto partner, Jeffrey Wright’s Jim Gordon is perhaps too similarly steely, a great movie cop, but one who could lean a bit more into the fact that he’s a Gotham City cop, where a guy named “The Riddler” leaves birthday cards behind for Batman.
The film’s take on the Riddler may be the movie’s most divisive aspect. Much like Batman, Paul Dano is masked for most of the movie, a character who’s more in line with Jigsaw from the Saw franchise than the quizmaster of the comics. He’s a cruel constructor of death traps, out to impart some kind of moral lesson that won’t be revealed until the movie’s end. Unfortunately, he looks quite silly, somehow requiring more suspension of disbelief than the guy in pointy ears trying to catch him.
Fortunately, The Batman ’s detective-story structure means he’s mostly an offscreen puppetmaster, and as ridiculous as he appears, everything else in The Batman looks incredible, as ambitiously staged fight scenes unfold in a city draped in shadows and streetlamps. The film is only hard to parse during one of its most ambitious setpieces, a car chase that attempts to give its pursuit the physicality of a fistfight, with close shots and weighty collisions. It’s a failure of ambition in a movie that mostly has none, because the cinematic vision of what Batman can be has become terribly narrow.
The pieces were there to do something different. Director Matt Reeves established himself as a surprising blockbuster director with his Planet of the Apes sequels, two films that turned a rote franchise revival into meaningful, bold show-stoppers. His cast is headed up by popular actors with outsider appeal, and more than a decade of dark and grim Batman stories inspired by the same handful of comics have primed audiences for something different.
Instead, The Batman is frustratingly safe, a movie full of potential for more and settling for less. It preaches to the choir, reinforcing the same ideas trodden over and over again across five movies, multiple video games, and every comic book in the mold of Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli’s Batman: Year One . If those are your Batman touchstones, the film may very well speak to you. If, on the other hand, you’re curious as to whether Batman can speak to a different audience, it might be time to pack up the signal. No one’s coming to save you.
The Batman premieres in theaters on Friday, March 4.
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The Batman review – Robert Pattinson’s emo hero elevates gloomy reboot
Matt Reeves’ film is spectacular and well-cast but an intriguing saga of corruption devolves into a tiresome third act
T hat definite article means it’s the genuine article. Adding “the” to Batman’s name has become a huge part of the brand identity, a sign of how elemental and atavistic this shadowy figure is supposed to be. You can imagine some growly voice saying “the Batman” – but not Tom Holland putting on a deep baritone to say he’s “the Spider-Man”, or Henry Cavill booming he’s “the Superman” (although maybe you could have Billy Joel stride into a dark Gotham City bar to raspingly confront “the Piano Man”).
Director and co-writer Matt Reeves has created a new Batman iteration in which Robert Pattinson reinvents billionaire Bruce Wayne as an elegantly wasted rock star recluse, willowy and dandyish in his black suit with tendrils of dark hair falling over his face; but Wayne magically trebles in bulk when he reappears in costume and mask as the Dark Knight, his whole being weaponised into a slab-like impassivity. And this of course is happening in the sepulchral vastness of Gotham City, the brutal and murky world which Christopher Nolan thrillingly pioneered with his Dark Knight trilogy and made indispensable for imagining Batman on screen.
Intriguingly at first, The Batman feels like a serial killer chiller such as Saw . For a time it promises a mystery plot relating to the theme of municipal corruption which is so important to the Batman franchise, and holds out hope of an unmasking with a satisfying narrative resolution. But not really. It is tremendously designed, visually spectacular with great set pieces and juddering, sternum-shivering impacts coming at you out of the darkness. There are unassumingly good performances from Jeffrey Wright and John Turturro , and Zoë Kravitz ’s superpower is charisma. But the film is overlong; the Riddler’s puzzles aren’t particularly ingenious or even important to the story and there’s a pretty feeble non-ending which sheepishly sidesteps The Batman’s existential crisis.
Gotham City’s political classes are complacently congratulating themselves on rooting out a major drug dealer, Sal Maroni. But the city is still drenched in crime and addiction to a new narcotic called “drops”, to which law enforcement is clearly turning a blind eye. Most exercised about this is the Riddler (Paul Dano), sporting a rubber gimp mask for his many social media appearances. He sets out to whack the corrupt Gotham establishment one by one, including Mayor Don Mitchell (Rupert Penry-Jones) and district attorney Gil Colson ( Peter Sarsgaard ), leaving quibbling questions for the Batman on Hallmark-type cards at the scene of each gruesome crime. So our antihero effectively joins forces with commissioner Gordon (Wright, lending his innate dignity and integrity to the role) to take down the Riddler, incidentally putting himself up against mob boss Carmine Falcone (Turturro) and his bloated sidekick Oswald “The Penguin” Cobblepot ( Colin Farrell ) who don’t like questions being asked about who is doing the corrupting.
But wait. The Riddler is obsessed above all with what he says is the most grotesquely crooked thing about Gotham City: the plutocrat Wayne family and Bruce’s late father who made fraud and crime the city’s foundation stone. The Riddler longs to kill Bruce Wayne. And the Batman is beginning to wonder … could the Riddler have a point?
The Batman has some people in his corner. Kravitz is stylish and assured as cat burglar Selina Kyle, or Catwoman, who has reasons of her own for detesting creepy Falcone. There is a nice sequence when Bruce gives Selina some surveillance contact lenses to wear before she sashays through Carmine’s club, making eye contact with the cringing regulars, while Wayne monitors it all on a screen.
Andy Serkis plays Wayne’s butler Alfred, a loyal plain-speaking fellow who has apparently done time in the “circus”: meaning the John Le Carré intelligence world, not the actual circus, although it’s confusing given the Cirque du Soleil stylings all the combatants are going in for.
But the ending is tiresome and shark-jumping in the extreme, with faux-apocalyptic scenes which work better in less solemn superhero adventures, and an exasperating non-revelation whose significance is teased for the next film. Inevitably, night falls on the latest Batman iteration with the cloudy sense that – of course – nothing has really been at stake. A classy turn from Pattinson, however, as the crime fighter with an injured soul.
- Robert Pattinson
- Superhero movies
- Matt Reeves
- Jeffrey Wright
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