• Zach Youngs

Movie Review: The Batman

The Batman is a film about, well... Batman. In this iteration, Bruce Wayne has been doing his caped crusader schtick for about two years. When an odd and high profile murder occurs, Bruce learns this is an elevated level of crime he hasn't encountered before. It turns out to be a man calling himself The Riddler and vowing to expose the lies of Gotham's past. Bruce digs into the depths of Gotham's underworld to root out the corruption and uncover the secrets of his own family's involvement in the city's current woes. The film stars Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Colin Farrell, Paul Dano, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, and John Turturro. The film is written by Matt Reeves and Peter Craig and directed by Reeves.

I will start out writing that this Batman is super goth. He's that guy at your high school you always saw scribbling incoherently into a notebook, wearing black, and having hair that always looks wet and covers at least one eye almost completely. He utters a missive common of these types of angsty characters, "you're not my dad," to Alfred, his body man, not butler .It made me chuckle with delight. This Bruce Wayne is the broodiest of brooders and while that was incredibly enjoyable for me, I know it's not for every one. Yet, it fits the character so well as he is in a sort of arrested development. He's never gotten over the murder of his parents (a scene thankfully absent from this film) and is constantly stuck in his pitying grief.

The Batman wallows in a darkness of tone and lighting that is actually satisfying. Director Matt Reeves likes the complicated, likes a shot to give a great deal of visual information, so when shots are in the dark, when things seem too poorly lit, that is to give Batman the shadows in which to roam in. Cinematographer Greig Fraser, in concert with Reeves, develops the world into one of shadow, but not one that prevents viewers from getting what they need to from every scene. In the careful, slow burn of an opening, we see the current mayor of the city as he paces his home, which is bathed in darkness except for a television glowing intermittently in front of him. As he paces, suddenly there's a figure in the glow of the screen. The scene builds from there as the shadowy figure makes his move.

There is a spectacular play of light and darkness throughout the film as Batman suspects in his log, that he's had to become a "nocturnal animal." It's odd to see him brought into the light, but some of the best scenes are when Batman is involved in the actual police work of solving these Riddler crimes. He walks into crime scenes with Lt. Gordon and he's seen at work attempting to help D.A. Colson. He's a Batman that wants to work in tandem with those in the system in order to find out what he can do for them that they can't.

Though, what no Batman film can seem to do is to create a truly compelling love story. While there is some chemistry between our bat and cat, the transactional nature of their relationship mixed with the walls they have between them is dull. I like their partnership, their banter, but their relationship seems like a stretch. It would have helped had Selina had a beefier role with more depth in her personality. Which is not to say Zoë Kravitz isn't wonderful. I loved the walk she developed and the way she moved as Selina, it was just not matched with something more interesting to say or do.

Also, when you have two actors stealing every single scene, it's hard to beef up another when they're so compelling. I didn't know what to expect from a completely unrecognizable Colin Farrell as The Penguin, but he delivers on every level. From the menacing scars all over his face, to the imposing figure he cuts, to the way he calls everybody sweetheart in that old school gangster way. It's a joy to watch him devour the screen. The same can be said of Paul Dano whose Riddler is unhinged, uncontrollable, and utterly compelling to watch. He has the startling costume that looks as uncomfortable as it makes you feel, mixed with his natural, banal features out of the costume that keep you on edge.

The Batman, like most superhero features won't be for everyone. It won't even be for every Batman fan, but if you choose to skip it, you're missing out on an otherwise compelling detective/serial killer cat and mouse story that grips you and makes your heart pound. It mixes in those fabulous elements of a neo-noir and a horror thriller. If nothing else, Michael Giacchino's score is one for the ages, with its dizzying mix of Western genre pastiche and old school Bernard Hermann tension. The Batman is a film that everyone will be talking about, for good or ill, and one worth the effort to see on the biggest, loudest screen possible.

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