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
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
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