‘The Batman’ adds flair to iconic franchise
Colin Capece | Tuesday, March 15, 2022
One of the qualms moviegoers always seem to have about Batman movies is that they’re so darn stuck up. We get it DC: it’s somehow always nighttime and raining in run-down Gotham City, and our favorite nocturnal hero always has to say something overzealous like “I am vengeance!” in his low, gravelly voice before he beats the snot out of some poor schmuck who hopped the subway gate. Now don’t get it twisted: it would certainly be out of place if the caped crusader had the bad boy wit of Tony Stark or the nice guy charm of Peter Parker. But a sprinkle of reality here or there would certainly be welcomed by both hardcore and casual fans.
Enter Matt Reeve’s “The Batman,” and DC’s really got something cooking. The first iteration of this classic comic-book superhero tale since Christopher Nolan closed the book on his epochal trilogy 10 years ago brings an augmented vibe, adding new elements that are a welcome surprise, but also retaining familiar ones that make Batman who he is.
The new-look Batman starts with the portrayal of Gotham City itself. Reeves takes it a step further than even Nolan in bringing Gotham’s utterly deplorable institutional corruption into the light. I didn’t think I could witness a city descend into more lawlessness than Philadelphia after the Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2018, but Gotham in this movie makes the Cradle of Liberty look like a Sunday stroll in the park. The director lets the audience know from the outset that transgressions cut to the heart of the city’s power structure, and there is nothing anyone — not even Batman — can do about it. The Riddler, played by Paul Dano, is the perfect villain for this film because he’s really no villain at all. Previous Batman adversaries hoped to fold Gotham in on itself, but the city in “The Batman” has already done that. Instead, The Riddler wants to cleanse Gotham of its fraudulent officials one by one, even if he has a dastardly way of going about it.
Robert Pattinson is the most relatable Bruce Wayne in the franchise because the audience finally gets to witness a more vulnerable side of his story. Wayne is never shown yucking it up with Gotham’s elite at galas or hosting lavish events at his manor. Instead he rides home on his motorcycle after a night of crime fighting with “Something In The Way” by Nirvana playing in the background. Wiping the grime from his face, he looks beaten down, dejected and disillusioned. Who wouldn’t be after trying to save a city that doesn’t deserve to be saved? When he ventures out to a cop’s funeral, Wayne doesn’t smile or wave for the cameras, but instead keeps his head down hoping to just blend in with the crowd. In every sense, Wayne appears to just want to do what’s right. The combination of The Riddler’s valid intentions and Pattinson’s down-to-earth characterization make it difficult to know who to root for at times, certainly a change of pace from previous Batman films.
With a nearly three-hour-long run time, some may be wondering how to stay invested without a traditional good guy-bad guy storyline, but this movie has enough of the traditional Batman ingredients to make the time fly by. The Riddler’s trail of clues he leaves at each crime scene was convoluted enough to keep me wondering what was coming next (although that’s not saying much from a former associate sports editor, but you get the point). There are the typical skull-cracking fight scenes and an absurdly cool car chase that give the adrenaline junkies their fix. And not to mention a pair of dazzling performances by supporting characters Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz). The last good cop in Gotham is extremely convincing as the hero’s morally upstanding sidekick, and Catwoman’s own family history pushes the protagonist to authentically question himself even more.
Adding some new wrinkles in “The Batman” without deviating too much from where it came from has served DC well. When the credits rolled, I realized I had thought long and hard while simultaneously being thoroughly entertained, exactly what a Batman movie should be.
Title: The Batman
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Paul Dano, Zoe Kravitz
Director: Matt Reeves
If You Like: The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises
Shamrocks: 4 ½ out of 5