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The Batman (A Movie Review)

The Batman


Starring Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell, Jayme Lawson, Barry Keoghan, Alex Ferns, Rupert Penry-Jones, Jay Lycurgo, Gil Perez-Abraham, Amber Sienna, Elena Saurel, Iana Saliuk, Todd Boyce, Charlie Carver, Max Carver, Con O’Neill and Joseph Balderrama.

Screenplay by Matt Reeves & Peter Craig.

Directed by Matt Reeves.

Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. 176 minutes. Rated R.

The character of Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in May of 1939. Over the years since, even though the series has revolved around crime, the whole “detective” and mystery aspects of the character have been downplayed for action.

The Batman works – a lot better than many people may have expected – because it returns the character to that root aspect. It is not all about the action and the depravity of Gotham City – although those things are very much in evidence. And thank heaven they did not revisit yet again the Batman origin story of Bruce witnessing his parents shot to death by muggers.

However, for the first two hours of the overly long but otherwise mostly extremely entertaining The Batman boils things down to the film noir basics of the film and character. For much of the film it actually does show the Black Knight doing some detecting. He is chasing down a mad serial killer (The Riddler is certainly more menacing here than he was in the old Frank Gorshin and Jim Carrey days) who is very publicly executing some of Gotham City’s most famous residents and streaming the murders on the dark web.

These parts are much more interesting than the last hour or so, when it settles into a much more standard cliched comic book movie vibe and goes on and on much longer than needed. Honestly, much of the last hour could have been left on the cutting room floor and The Batman would have been an even more entertaining film.

Which is not to say it isn’t still very well-done as is, just that after the fairly intriguing unique take on a character which has been revisited over and over again in pop culture, it all slips back into the expected comic blockbuster stuff. (Robert Pattinson is the sixth famous actor to play Batman in a major motion picture just in the last 33 years, and that isn’t even touching on the TV shows, the animated series, the Lego movies and the video game Batmen.)

Pattinson is just fine despite the doubts raised from his hotly debated casting in the role of the Caped Crusader. Still, honestly, he does not really bring anything to the character that many other actors could have as well. And the alter-ego character of Bruce Wayne, who is honestly mostly ignored in the film anyway, is played at the same close-to-the-vest numbed remove as the inscrutable Batman. Which is actually a shame, because while I realize I am in a minority with this opinion, I have always found Bruce Wayne a much more interesting part of the character than his Batman alter-ego.

However, Batman was always much less intriguing than his villains, and there is a rogue’s gallery of classic baddies (and even misunderstood anti-heroes) here. These include The Riddler, The Penguin, Catwoman and even a brief cameo appearance by another fan favorite villain.

As stated above, Paul Dano gives a deranged darkness to the character of the Riddler. (Even his costume has changed from the traditional olive green and purple to pitch black and off white.) An unrecognizable Colin Farrell plays the Penguin, under tons of makeup, but still capturing the character’s mobster vehemence. And Catwoman, as played by Zoe Kravitz, is actually something of a good-guy character here, an avenging angel who is not above breaking the law, but mostly seems to be working for good.

The Batman is receiving a lower-key rollout than many of the DC films, which is a shame because it is arguably the best Batman film since The Dark Knight. Give it a chance. You may be shocked to find out that there are still some surprises left in the old bat yet.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: March 1, 2022.

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