He’s an emo, reclusive, and disturbed man who is more Tim Burton’s Batman than the actual Tim Burton’s Batman.
THE BATMAN is a movie I approached with some trepidation because while I am a die-hard caped crusader fan, I even watched the Keaton movie as the date movie I proposed to my wife during, I had some issues for this one. It was a movie made without Ben Affleck, it was yet another “darker and grittier” reboot, and Robert Pattison was an unknown quality despite (and perhaps because of) his most famous role as Edward Cullen.
So, what did I think of The Batman? Overall, my impression is incredibly positive. Pattison chose to do a non-traditional version of Bruce Wayne that reminded me of the Crow than Batman but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad choice. He’s an emo, reclusive, and disturbed man who is more Tim Burton’s Batman than the actual Tim Burton’s Batman. Admittedly, it does kind of make the humorous plot hole of, “Who would I think is Batman in Gotham City?” “I dunno, the obviously unhinged billionaire who looks like a vampire and acts like a serial killer.”
The movie is perhaps a bit too long at three hours but this is one of those rare films that I will say benefits from fully realizing its vision. It feels more like a miniseries rather than a movie and that’s not an insult. We get to experience a Gotham City that feels genuinely dirty, sleazy, and impoverished to the point that it needs a Batman. It has a strong 1970s New York vibe and yet manages to incorporate topical subjects like internet-based conspiracy theories.
The Batman is more or less a companion piece to the Joker and I really think they should get a crossover with Waukeen Phoenix. This is effectively the same city that draws on a lot of the same sources with Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, and the more modern Seven to create a superhero movie that feels instead like an arthouse crime piece. If that’s what you’re looking for with your Batman, then that’s definitely what you’re going to get here. Those looking for a lighter-hearted MCU-esque take on the subject will be disappointed. This is darker than the Nolan Batman movies by a significant degree and closer to the Burton Batman without the cartoonish elements.
Part of the benefit for such a long movie is that we get to incorporate Catwoman, the Penguin, and the Riddler rather than focus on just one of Batman’s rogues. It’s always been possible to do this as we see with Batman Forever but the difference here is we get to incorporate them well. They’re not even the sole villains as there’s a decent-sized role for Carmine Falcone as well. Given I’m a huge fan of The Long Halloween, I always enjoy his incorporation into the Batman mythos and he serves as a nice antagonist for Selina Kyle.
Speaking of Selina Kyle, Zoe Kravitz is one of my all-time favorite actresses and I absolutely love her in everything she’s in. She even made The Crimes of Grindelwald tolerable for me. Here, she’s a very humanized down-to-Earth Catwoman and I absolutely want to see more of her. Indeed, I would go so far to say that she’s the first Catwoman I actually felt a romantic connection between Batman with. One I could believe in. She’s not quite Catwoman yet but is certainly on the way to becoming her.
Much has been made of Colin Farell’s Penguin and he really does look like he stepped out of a classic Denny O’Neil comic book. The character doesn’t get to do much but his slimeliness, corruption, and lack of threat in places reminded me of the one from the comic book. I’ve heard they’re making a Penguin television series on HBO and I’d definitely watch it. He’s also part of one of the best car chases I’ve seen on camera.
The Riddler’s use in this movie is heavily inspired by the Zodiac killer, John Doe from Seven, and quite a bit of Jigsaw. Some viewers have mentioned that he also seems to be incorporating a bit of Qanon but people allergic to politics in their views can be reassured it’s only surface-deep the way the Joker and Antifa was in Joker. The movie doesn’t spell out his origin but it’s pretty easy to figure out how he ties to the central mystery as well. In that respect, he’s more of a Hush and Riddler hybrid but without Thomas Elliot’s suckitude.
I normally favor a Riddler who is not terrifying and more of an anti-villain but this version works extremely well. By the time they finally catch up to the Riddler, they find he’s…a guy who looks like an accountant. It’s very effective and does a great job establishing that he’s someone who also has learned the lesson about theatricality and superstition that Batman has.
One element I really enjoyed about this movie is also the fact the movie is not afraid to interrogate who the Batman is and how effective he is. Bruce Wayne does his best to terrify criminals in order to make it so they don’t commit crimes but he ends up inspiring people who don’t have nearly his level of restraint or just think it’s cool. “Escalation” as hinted by the Nolan Batman films but directly addressed here. The movie asks how much Bruce Wayne could do as a philanthropist and this version hasn’t yet decided to be both the punching fist as well as helping hand.
Do I have some complaints? A few minor ones. As stated, the movie is written more like a television series and I feel like they could have tightened it up by about thirty minutes and incorporated details into the sequel. If your movie is three hours long, you frankly have two decent-sized movies already and maybe we should get back to that. The Batman also absorbs inhuman amounts of punishment that kind of hurt my suspension of disbelief in places. Unless the Batsuit is made of vibranium, it shouldn’t absorb that much in the way of gunfire after all. Finally, the movie is literally too dark in places and could have been brightened so we could appreciate what’s on display. But these don’t really detract from my enjoyment factor.