‘The Batman’ – Darker than black, somehow

By Sean Cabot


“The Batman” is a difficult movie to discuss. There have been so many iterations of

the character that any attempts to leave one’s mark on him will inevitably attract

the most outspoken kinds of critics. For better or worse.


Personally, Matt Reeves’ take on the character doesn’t break new thematic or

aesthetic ground for Batman cinema, and part of me wishes that it made more effort

to do so. But while novelty can provide an immediate sense of elation, it’s important

to sort it out from a Glm’s actual qualities.


And with all those qualities in consideration, “The Batman” is still a very satisfying

interpretation.


The film follows Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) early in his career as Batman. He

is pitted against the Riddler (Paul Dano), a serial killer who is targeting Gotham’s

elite and exposing their corruption.


Bruce is aided in this endeavor by detective James Gordon (Jeffery Wright) and cat

burglar Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), the latter of whom has her own grievances with

Riddler’s targets.


Stylistically the film draws from comic storylines like “The Long Halloween,” and

directors like David Fincher. It’s quite dark, not just in terms of tone, but in its

aesthetic, even compared to Tim Burton, Christopher Nolan, or Zack Snyder’s work

on the character.


That’s not to say it looks bad though – there are a lot of impressive shots on display.

But what I found most interesting about the Glm were the characters, their arcs, and

the themes they build to.


The performances are quite reserved – save for an unrecognizable Colin Farrell as

the Penguin, and if not for a few standout moments they would probably have been

far too reticent to land properly. Thankfully, they all end up in a good place,

particularly Pattinson, Wright, and Dano.


This is most visible in the film’s lead. Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne is a recluse with little

interest in running his family’s business – seemingly more interested in using the

criminals he fights as an outlet for his rage.


The film almost feels like it’s acknowledging the position that Batman as a rich idiot

who makes no effort toward improving the state of Gotham City outside of

vigilantism. Given that this idea can be debunked simply by reading almost any

“Batman” comic, I was a bit wary of its presence, but the way Reeves handles it is

actually rather intriguing.


The ultimate thematic statement of the movie is that Batman, for all his inner

darkness, should be a symbol of hope rather than a lone avenger. Despite popular

misunderstandings to the contrary, this is actually very much in line with many

beloved interpretations of the character throughout his rich history.


It evokes Darwyn Cooke’s “The New Frontier,” wherein Batman remarks that he’s

changed his costume because he intends to “scare criminals, not children.” For the

most part, this is a great angle to take.


That being said, the film isn’t all-great all the time – the pacing is quite odd, partially

due to a long runtime. And while there’s some surprisingly well-written levity, the

film’s self-serious tenebrosity borders on excessive.


And just personally speaking, after “The Lego Batman Movie,” made the importance

of Bat-Family members like Robin or Batgirl its thesis statement, I’d like to see a

live-action movie acknowledge not just them, but some of the more obscure

members like Kate Kane.


While there is a Batgirl movie coming out later this year, I’d have preferred that

Cassandra Cain were the main character instead of Barbara Gordon. But alas, I’m

still suffering for the mistakes of “Birds of Prey.”


Thankfully, Pattinson has expressed interest in featuring Robin in future films, and

I’m excited at the prospect.


Ultimately, while “The Batman” hasn’t usurped “Batman Beyond: Return of the

Joker,” as my favorite Batman film, it’s nonetheless a solid translation of the

character to screen, and its optimism for the character is very much welcome.


B+, a twilight tour-de-force

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