REVIEW: Robert Pattinson the latest to try his hand as ‘The Batman’ in dark, violent new superhero movie
SALT LAKE CITY — As big and culturally invasive as Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have become over the last decade, you could argue that only Batman from the DC Comics universe has managed to sustain a similar level of popularity and consistent box office draw. Yet, despite making appearances in the short-lived Justice League series of DCEU films from Zack Snyder, it’s been almost 10 years since the character has had his own movie to star in.
There’s no origin story to wade through this time as The Batman tosses you right into the action. Someone has murdered Gotham City’s mayor in his own home. The killer left behind a card addressed “To The Batman” and so young police Lt. Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) invites the mysterious vigilante to the scene where the two discover the card contains a cryptic clue.
Soon, the killer begins targeting others in Gotham’s elite with a series of creatively sadistic attacks, each time leaving behind a riddle in envelopes addressed to the Batman that begin to expose long-buried city secrets. While investigating, Batman encounters such characters as cat burglar Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), underground club owner Oswald Cobblepot (an unrecognizable Colin Farrell), crime boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), and eventually, the man behind the riddles himself (Paul Dano).
To preserve the story for those who want to avoid spoilers, that’s as far as I’ll go. But it may help going in to understand that this version of Batman is still establishing himself and questioning what effect he’s actually having on crime in Gotham City. He’s been patrolling the streets for only two years and though he does strike fear into the hearts of criminals, he also has almost no one he trusts—really just Gordon and Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred Pennyworth (played this time by Andy Serkis).
THINGS I LIKED
For me, the strength of this movie was in the cast. I thought Pattinson as Batman worked really well. His choices in voice, movements and patient demeanor in long, unbroken camera shots fit the film-noir aesthetic and vibe that Reeves seemed to be going for. I wasn’t as sold on his portrayal of Bruce Wayne, though.
Jeffrey Wright’s voice was every bit as solid as his acting ability, and at least we were able to hear and understand the things Jim Gordon said when he growl/whispered much of his dialogue.
Kravitz brought a cool confidence to her role as Selina/Catwoman. Her attempts to find a missing friend while pursuing a personal agenda bring her across Batman’s path multiple times and there’s a decent amount of chemistry between the two, even if I wasn’t completely convinced based on the story that the two would have a romantic connection.
John Turturro is well-suited as the oily criminal Carmine Falcone, who Batman discovers has surprising connections to other characters in the film.
Paul Dano as the main villain, the Riddler, is frighteningly psychotic. Gone are the neon green bodysuits and goofy antics of Jim Carrey’s version from Batman Forever. Instead, Dano plays a survival-mask wearing, revenge-seeking and pitiless man who is as disturbed as he his clever. The scene where Batman finally comes face to face with him is one of the best in the movie.
I thought that Reeves and Craig tossed in a couple of interesting story twists, and I liked seeing Batman–who’s sometimes called “the World’s Greatest Detective”–doing some actual detective work in the movie. It’s a good re-connection to the character’s history since Batman made his debut in a book called “Detective Comics” back in 1939.
The biggest warning for The Batman is it’s nearly three-hour run time (2 hr 56 mins). There were no post-credits scenes at the screening I attended, so that could shave at least 10 minutes off at the end since you don’t have to wait through them, but I also thought the movie was about to end multiple times, then suddenly there was ANOTHER scene.
The movie is rated PG-13 for strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong language, and some suggestive material. This one isn’t really a family-friendly film, though I thought Reeves (most famous before now for the recent Planet of the Apes franchise) used restraint in what he showed on screen. But there isn’t much of what younger kids will understand or appreciate, and Dano’s breathy intensity and depravity as Riddler could be a bit much for those under age 12 or 13.
Finally, there was little to no humor, levity or anything much beyond dark, gritty realism in this movie. There are many heavy, emotional beats and much of the action takes place at night. This focus on realism, the noir style and even the length will no doubt make some Batman fans happy. But I think it could be off-putting to the casual moviegoer. Some of the dark, growly dialogue was also difficult to understand.
It’s nice to have another Batman movie in theaters for people to enjoy. I personally didn’t *love* The Batman, but I didn’t hate it either. The casting was good enough to overcome some of the things I didn’t enjoy–like Pattinson’s version of Bruce Wayne–and I appreciated the attention to detail Reeves put into the film.
But honestly, I kind of missed the campiness and light fun that I think a good comic book movie should have at least a little bit of. This Batman is all work and no play, and I think it’s a little bit worse off as a result.
Final rating: TWO out of FOUR stars
WHERE TO WATCH
Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth does a weekly “What To Watch” segment for the KSL 5 Today morning news show and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on KSLTV.com.
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