The Batman Review
Posted by Batfleck Forever on
It’s been quite the journey over the past few years as a DC fan. First fighting for the Snyder Cut and finally getting it, then trying to convince WB to Restore The Snyderverse, all while they continue to ignore fans and make one baffling decision after enough. Let’s be honest. The DCEU is a mess and the future plans rumored for it don’t sound any better. In a lot of ways, it’s got to the point where I wish they would just start over. Get someone in with an actual plan like Kevin Feige, and rebuild the DC cinematic universe.
While it doesn’t seem like that’s about to happen anytime soon we do have a fresh start of sorts with Matt Reeves The Batman. Like 2019’s Joker, it exists within it’s own standalone universe, not connected to the DCEU. Of course that wasn’t always the case. The film started off as a solo Batman film for the DCEU that Ben Affleck was going to direct and star in. But for various reasons Ben couldn’t “crack the script” and so Matt Reeves came on as director. And then, after the disaster that was Josstice League, Ben stepped down from the role entirely.
Thus, Reeves decided to make the film about a younger Batman outside of the DCEU and he cast Robert Pattinson in the role. I had learned my lesson with Batfleck not to dismiss unlikely actors in the Batman role so I was open minded to the idea of Battinson. I respected Reeves past work and I really dug the trailers, especially the first one from DC Fandome that seemed to have a 90s grunge vibe to it. This felt like the closest we were going to get to a David Fincher Batman film (which I’ve been wanting for years).
Point is, I was eager to watch this film and even hoping it might lead to a backdoor reboot for the DC Universe.
So, what did I think of The Batman?
It was alright.
I mean, it wasn’t a bad film. It was well made. I enjoyed it. But it wasn’t the home run I was hoping for.
So why not? What were the problems I had with it? Well, for starters, it’s slow paced and a bit too long. Mind you, I wasn’t hating my life or anything, but the film didn’t need to be 3 hours long.
The bigger problem is I don’t think the film leaves much of an impression. I mean, it does have all sorts of things we fans have been wanting to see in a Batman film for a long time: a Year Two Batman, getting Bat / Cat right away, a film noir vibe with voice overs, Batman in the suit most of the movie, and a mystery to show the detective side of Batman. The thing is, it has all these elements, but doesn’t do any of them very well.
The serial killer case that Batman is trying to solve isn’t that interesting. The movie is more interested in what the Riddler’s plan is and who his next target is more than who he is. This keeps it from having the Seven / Zodiac Fincher-esque vibes I was hoping for. Instead, it felt like it kept repeating the same plot point over and over. Batman would solve a riddle, figure out the next target, arrive at the murder scene, solve another riddle, figure out the next target, you get the idea. I did like that they showed off Bruce’s intellect by having him solve each riddle almost instantly, but it became predictable and boring. It would have been a lot better to me if they had Batman outsmart the Riddler in a surprising way to show off how intelligent he is.
As for everyone in their roles, the casting was solid. Robert Pattinson is fine as Batman, but I didn’t feel like the film gave us a window into his character. I couldn’t relate to this Batman like past incarnations. Jeffrey Wright was a good Gordon and it was fun to see him and Batman working together for the first time since the Nolan films. Paul Dano and Colin Farrell deliver the strongest performances as the Riddler and Penguin respectively but I don’t think they were given a chance to really shine. No one was really. Zoe Kravitz did alright as Catwoman but she’s not topping my list of Catwomen (Anne Hathaway is still the best).
Bruce’s relationship with Alfred, played by Andy Serkis, feels oddly estranged here. There’s no sense of bond. When Alfred’s life is put in danger and he gives a long monologue to Bruce in the hospital I felt nothing because I have no context for their relationship. I guess that’s because this is Year Two but that feels like one of those story gaps the film just expects you to fill in – and wasn’t that one of the chief complaints about Batman v Superman? That we needed a solo Batman film before BvS to understand Affleck’s version of Batman? So why is that ok here? At least in BvS the classic relationships were recognizable. Here, emo Bruce tells Alfred “you’re not my father” and I was like “What? He did not just say that to Alfred.”
I did enjoy the films central theme but I felt like it came in way too late. In the beginning of the film Batman is shown to still be in the revenge stage of his journey, stating “I’m Vengeance” to a group of thugs. At the end of the film, one of Riddler’s henchmen says the exact same thing and thus Batman realizes he’s been setting a bad example and needs to become a symbol of hope for Gotham. It’s a good theme but I kind of wish it was sprinkled in throughout the film and built up in the climax. When Batman says “I’m Vengeance” at the beginning I literally just thought he was saying it to sound intimidating, not because he was actually still set on revenge.
That’s basically my repeating critique of this film. There are a lot of things I liked but almost all of them are brought down by in some way. They do the noir style voice overs, but it’s only at the beginning and the end rather than throughout like Rorschach in Watchmen. When they introduce the Batmobile I got hyped – I liked the muscle car design, the big jet flame burning in the back, it sounded badass – but that hype deflated when they had it stall out on him right as Penguin’s gang was getting away. The actual chase afterwards wasn’t that thrilling either. The Batmobile scenes in Batman Begins and BvS were way better directed.
The truth is, the movie really lacks any big get hype moments. You have the opening fight against the facepaint gang. The cool shot of Batman coming down the dark hallway to the flashes of gunfire that was spoiled in the trailer. And then the part where he drops in from the ceiling and fights the Riddler goons. That’s about it. There’s a nice hero shot of him leading people out of the water with a flare but it loses it’s impact if you think about it for more than a second – like, why couldn’t those people just walk out of the watery area themselves? It only works symbolically to represent Batman leading Gotham out of darkness. The whole third act felt tacked on, with Riddler’s plan being to bomb the sea wall and flood Gotham so everyone crowds inside a building where his cult followers can kill them. That felt like a studio demand to give the film the typical superhero movie ending.
So what are the positives? Well, the cinematography was good. I did like this version of Gotham. It’s not as grimey as Nolan’s, nor as gothic and vivid as the Burton/Schumacher one, it’s more tech noir, kind of Blade Runner-y, and I did like how the film felt like we got to just hang out in the city for a while, bumping into different characters along the way. The city itself feels like the most fleshed out character of all. There was a scene where Selina Kyle goes undercover with special contact lenses that capture video footage of what she sees and that was pretty tense – especially when Batman was urging her to converse with the underbelly of Gotham at the Iceberg Lounge. Another great scene was when it seemed like the Riddler knew that Bruce Wayne was Batman. The way Pattinson played that off, not allowing himself to look like he had been found out (but still appearing nervous) was very well done.
As far as the soundtrack goes, I thought Giacchino did a decent job with the score, especially the main theme – but I was let down by the lack of grungy atmosphere that the trailer seemed to promise. They literally only use that one Nirvana song the whole movie.
We get a tease towards the end of Barry Keoghan as the Joker in a dark prison cell. It was dimly lit but it looked like they used similar prosthetics as Penguin to give him a face that looked closer to the comic book incarnation. It reminded me of Mickey Rourke as Marv in Sin City – or the gangsters in the 90s Dick Tracy movie (this movie made me realize how good a Robert Rodriguez Batman film would be). That kind of take on the Joker has a lot of potential in my opinion. In fact, I’m getting to the point where I’d like to see a return of the more fantastical and comic booky Batman films over the more grounded and realistic ones.
So yea, there you have it, The Batman. Certainly watchable, but it doesn’t rank high on my list of favorite Batman films. There just wasn’t enough for me to get real invested. Perhaps I’m just not that interested in seeing Year Two Batman coming so close off of a fully established Year Twenty Batman fighting with gods in BvS and Justice League. I might come to appreciate Battinson more in future future films as he grows into the character. I’d definitely be willing to watch the sequels and the two spinoff shows they have planned. Despite my issues, there’s a lot they can work with here, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they pull off a Dark Knight situation with a huge jump in quality on the next one.
Matt Reeve’s The Batman is well made and his Gotham is an interesting place to visit, but the films story, characters, and action lack the exciting energy and personality we’ve seen in past Batman films.