The Batman: The BRWC Review. By Alif Majeed.
Batman has always been a character who would be high on many actors’ bucket lists as far as comic book characters go. The duality of the character makes the character too much of an opportunity to pass up despite the baggage it comes with. How the directors choose to portray him has also led to the general acceptance of the character. With Bale and his intense portrayal getting wide acclaim and Clooney and his bat nipples, not so much. So after the mixed response to beast mode batman from the DCEU, credit goes to Matt Reeves and Robert Pattison, and their Kurt Cobain-tinted depiction of the character. The Batman, it is safe to say, is a worthy successor to the Nolan movies, that deserves a trilogy on its own.
Batman is freed here from the constraints of having to go toe to toe with the other heroes of the DC Universe. This helps them bring back the character to his lone-wolf roots. At its heart, Batman has always been a brilliant detective, a fact that was never exploited to his full potential well before. By playing the movie as a detective noir, he tips the hat to the halcyon days of the genre in the 40s. Reeves plays well by the noir rules while adding plenty of nuances of his own. The parallels are pretty obvious. With the lead detective going down a rabbit hole with the men that help him (Gordon and Alfred), leading to the mysterious femme fatale (Catwoman), powerful crime bosses with weird fetishes (Falcone), and the odd men that surround them (Penguin and the Riddler). All tied together by a larger conspiracy afoot and dollops of daddy issues.
It also avoids the origin story route, a move that worked wonders for Spider-Man. This is a Batman who no longer has to be in the shadows and the cops now have an open though a tense relationship with him. Knowing aware that he is the necessary “freak”.
He also gets a voiceover a la Rorschach from Watchmen, and the parallels to that character do not just stop at that. You can almost feel the glee with which Pattison dispatches the thugs who have the misfortune of getting in his crosshairs. Fear is a tool, he says at one point, and he uses it to tremendous effect here. Pattison does not take a long while to make the role his own, and he is the bleeding heart of the movie as it should be instead of letting the rogues usurp his thunder. Jeffrey Wright and Andy Serkis also provide the well-needed moral support that keeps Bruce Wayne sane, although Alfred appears a retread of what came before.
Credit also needs to be given for the choice of the villain. As a character, the manic energy of Jim Carrey as the Riddler is hard to forget, which was showboating at its extreme. Paul Dano, having been pigeonholed into often playing weaklings, has used that slight physicality to great use and creates a brutal monster. His big reveal moment is as creepy as you expect and makes you squirm. I am not a huge fan of the new riddler costume, though, but Dano keeps the focus on the man behind the mask.
The blazing chemistry between Zoë Kravitz and Pattison is also a highlight. This is a broken woman, but Kravitz gives her the dignity the character deserves. The way she keeps calling Batman “Vengeance” is endearing and you hope to see more of the character in the sequels. But the one person who is having the most fun here is Colin Farrell. The last time he went method in a comic book movie, we got (shudders) Daredevil. He is still going the method route here, but without being shackled by the constraints of being a leading man anymore. He is a far mature actor, and the character gets some genuine fun moments in the movie.
Greig Fraser and Michael Giacchino, handling cinematography and score, also deserve all the accolades that will come their way. Gotham here looks like a city running on fumes and the lack of hope that Batman promises shows on the screen in all its glory. The orangish and black hues add to the strange nourish glow that Gotham needed.
The action, though a lot less than you hope for, is still effective. Matt Reeves built a reputation for staging action well in his Planet of the Apes movies and he builds on that here. Especially the interval chase scene and the climactic battle. One of the major drawbacks of the Nolan trilogy was the clunky hand-to-hand combat. There is nothing clunky here, as the punches are visceral and brutal.
While it was an exhilarating movie, there are some issues here. Despite not being bogged down with telling a labored origin story, Matt reeves still could not avoid the temptation to pad up the movie to a near 3 hours. It also has some of the major issues in many of the best noirs. Some subplots often get redundant and sometimes serve as pointless red herrings. It also doesn’t help that The Riddler goes missing for long periods of time, which is a little jarring.
It doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of the Dark Knight, though it is the best first movie among all the series that came before it. Despite the weight of its long-running time and some unwanted subplots, The Batman offers plenty to celebrate as one of the best versions of the character.
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