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The Batman Review

March 4, 2022 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
The Batman Image Credit: Jonathan Olley/DC Comics
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The Batman Review  

Directed By: Matt Reeves
Written By: Matt Reeves and Peter Craig; Based on the DC comics and characters created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger
Runtime: 175 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated PG-13 for strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong language, and some suggestive material

Robert Pattinson – Bruce Wayne / Batman
Zoë Kravitz – Selina Kyle / Catwoman
Jeffrey Wright – Lt. James Gordon
Colin Farrell – Oz / The Penguin
Paul Dano – The Riddler
John Turturro – Carmine Falcone
Andy Serkis – Alfred Pennyworth
Peter Sarsgaard – District Attorney Gil Colson
Jayme Lawson – Bella Reál
Alex Ferns – Commissioner Pete Savage
Con O’Neill – Chief Mackenzie Bock
Gil Perez-Abraham – Officer Martinez
Rupert Penry-Jones – Mayor Don Mitchell, Jr.
Luke Roberts – Thomas Wayne
Stella Stocker – Martha Wayne

DC Comics’ Caped Crusader finally returns to the big screen in the new solo outing, The Batman. Matt Reeves takes over directing duties for the new installment, with Robert Pattinson donning the cape and cowl for this ambitious cinematic take. The Batman features some great pieces that do not come together as a cohesive whole. Pure cinematic artistry is on full display from director Matt Reeves, but the overall execution does not meet Reeves’ incredible ambition.

The Batman is decent, well-shot and watchable. The film has some exceptional qualities. Its biggest issues are a bloated, unrefined script and a misguided final act. With a near three-hour runtime, Batman’s Dark Knight comes off as rather de-fanged and ineffectual.

Pattinson is undoubtedly an apt choice as Batman. If the script managed to nail the third act, this could have been the greatest live-action take on the character ever made. At the start of the film, Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne has been on the job as Gotham City’s new guardian for just about two years. Batman is new at the game. Most of the police still do not trust him. The public fears Batman just as much as hoodlums and thugs. Even Bruce questions whether the city is beyond saving and if his actions truly make a difference.

Bruce is teetering on the edge of oblivion. His identity as Bruce Wayne is all but gone. His alter-ego as Batman threatens to swallow him whole. He can barely even muster enough patience to handle his obligations for Wayne Enterprises. Bruce Wayne’s loss of identity and his embrace of the Batman persona are where Pattinson’s performance excels.

Pattinson and Reeves depict that raw, Year One style essence of the Dark Knight in ways that Batman Begins did not. Bruce is angry at the world and the city. The wounds of his parents’ deaths are still fresh. He has not yet sharpened his anger and rage into a finely edged blade. This Batman is still inexperienced, and his inexperience and quickness to anger hinder Batman the most.

Gotham City is under siege by a masked madman who calls himself The Riddler (Paul Dano). At first, The Riddler targets Gotham’s powerful and elite, exposing all their dirty skeletons for the world to see. The Riddler exposes secrets that threaten an already decadent, declining city to rip itself to pieces. Batman and his lone ally in the GCPD, Lt. James Gordon (Wright), do their best to achieve some sort of truth and justice in a city on the brink of utter collapse.

In his quest to uncover The Riddler’s whereabouts, Batman forms an unlikely alliance with Selina Kyle, a cat burglar who moonlights as a waitress at the Iceberg Lounge: Gotham City’s mob den for head honcho Carmine Falcone (Turturro) and The Penguin (Farrell). Zoë Kravitz is tremendous in this film as the new Catwoman. The relationship between Batman and Catwoman is rather touching, and the film beautifully captures their classic dynamic in a way that has never truly been depicted before onscreen. The Catwoman and Batman relationship is also one of the most interesting, complex ones in the film.

The Batman errs in an overwritten, overwrought script co-written by Reeves and Peter Craig. It layers one too many mysteries and conflicts on top of each other. At times, it loses focus of The Riddler subplot while exploring the mob’s hold over Gotham City. Colin Farrell puts in an amazing performance as an oily, charismatic mobster version of The Penguin. John Turturro’s Carmine Falcone is outstanding, and they serve as much more compelling adversaries to The Batman than Paul Dano’s Riddler.

Once The Batman begins unwrapping the big reveals, the narrative declines rather than hitting a crescendo. The major plot twists are rather underwhelming. It is a misstep to portray Batman as inept. The ultimate message is made too late and leaves little impact. The Batman treads familiar ground in that respect and does so with less success.

Reeves’ direction does have its finer points. The film’s neo-noir visual style is splendid. Gotham City is dark and dank. It is a living, amorphous creature that has become a wild and feral animal due to punishment, abuse and neglect, just like Bruce Wayne as Batman. Gotham shows signs of an older, ancient world clashing with a more modern city that fell into utter disrepair.

The action scenes are well shot and put together. The signature action beats are not slashed to hell in editing and look real, brutal and raw. Imagine letting the camera show what Batman can do in a fight. It is a strong representation of Batman’s physical prowess and gadgetry. The fights juxtapose Bruce’s inexperience along with his rage which threatens to overtake his sanity.

Once the film reaches its final act, it starts to wear out its welcome. The extended length turns into a murky mess. This is where The Batman attempts way too much too soon. The narrative becomes an overstuffed, bloated carcass. The impact of major events leaves a jaded, cynical impression that veers away from The Dark Knight.

Overall, The Batman has its strong points but fails to ascend to the cinematic highpoints of previous Bat-cinema. The definitive cinematic take on Batman might never materialize. It could emerge someday, but this is not it.

The final score: review Good
The 411
The Batman succeeds in certain areas, such as a peak performance by Robert Pattinson, great visual direction and a neo-noir style by Matt Reeves and a fairly strong supporting cast. However, a bloated, overwrought script tends to hinder what likely should've been a tighter, leaner crime thriller. Before The Batman, the best motion picture version of Gotham's dark, watchful protector was Bruce Timm and Paul Dini's Batman: The Animated Series. After The Batman, the best motion picture version of the character remains Batman: The Animated Series.