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Movie Review: 'The Batman' is Another Fresh Take on the Famed D.C Crimefighter

by Sean Patrick 5 months ago in movie
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Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson are a winning combination of director and star in The Batman.

Moody, atmospheric, and with a bloody red aesthetic, Matt Reeves’ The Batman doesn’t completely reinvent the Caped Crusader but it does give the legend a fresh coat of paint. Starring Robert Pattinson as a whole new, younger and more dynamic Batman/Bruce Wayne, The Batman focuses on creating a dense and engaging murder mystery plot in which The Riddler isn’t a comic figure but a desperate loner inspired to try and improve the cesspool that is Gotham City by any means necessary.

The Batman opens with a grisly and violent murder. The Mayor of Gotham City is home alone on Halloween night, his wife and child are out trick or treating. The Mayor is involved in a fight for his political life in the latest election. This will not be a problem for him much longer as hiding in the shadows is a masked assailant with a deathly agenda. The Riddler (Paul Dano) is out to prove he can get to anyone at any time and he has begun his murderous rampage at the very top of Gotham’s corrupt elite.

In the universe of The Batman, the relationship between Batman and Police Lt Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) is already well established. Gordon has already installed the Bat signal and Gordon risks his job to get Batman into the crime scene inside the Mayor’s mansion. Gordon wants Batman there because The Riddler appears to want him there. The Riddler has left clues specifically for Batman, cyphers inside riddles inside greeting cards.

The Riddler is working his way through a list of corrupt Gotham City leaders that leads back to the Gotham City mob, headed up by Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) and his right hand, Oz aka The Penguin (Colin Farrell). One of them has orchestrated the corruption in Gotham City that has led to The Riddler’s roaring rampage of revenge. While investigating the mob connection to the murder of the Mayor, Batman meets a cat burglar named Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz) who has her own unique connection to the mob and the murder of the Mayor.

What unfolds is a tangled but never too murky corruption and murder plot that leads back to Bruce Wayne who may or may not be one of the people on The Riddler’s revenge list. But, does The Riddler know that Bruce Wayne is also Batman? You will need to see The Batman to find out about that terrific plot point. The Batman is exceptional in how it doles out important information, withholding big reveals to just the right moment and building to multiple crescendos across its nearly 3 hour run time.

Director Matt Reeves takes inspiration from younger comic book versions of the Caped Crusader for his The Batman. Nods to the work of Frank Miller, Bruce Timm and the other movie takes on Bruce Wayne and Batman are there in The Batman but they don’t make up the whole of The Batman. Instead, Director Reeves smartly focuses on plotting, crafting a dense and ingenious murder mystery with elements of true crime stories crossed with comic book imagery. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to Superhero movies but The Batman does cut its own path.

Playing what some have glibly dubbed ‘Emo-Batman,’ Robert Pattinson brings a soul sick sadness to his Bruce Wayne and Batman. Like previous versions of the character, he is deeply scarred by the loss of his parents but he has further depths to plumb that will be revealed in the course of this story and Pattinson’s moody and hermit-like character is well positioned to take this character to new emotional levels. That doesn’t mean that this version of Batman is mopey, he’s as physical and exciting as previous versions of the character. Rather, he just happens to wear more of his emotions on his sleeve than any previous take on the character.

It’s a welcome update to this character and the Batman mythos to see the character succeed and struggle in equal measure. We get to see a young Batman who makes mistakes, learns valuable lessons, and grows over the course of the story. He may already be The Batman when we meet him but he’s far from a fully grown man and The Riddler’s plot will take him on a most unexpected emotional journey in the course of this plot.

The supporting cast gives Pattinson more than enough room to move in the character. Veterans Jeffrey Wright and Colin Farrell give life and depth to the well known characters of Commissioner Gordon and The Penguin but the standout, for me, is John Turturro’s gangster, Carmine Falcone. Turturro’s cool, pragmatic kingpin is the lynchpin of The Batman and he’s just the right actor for the role.

Then there is the final standout member of this ensemble, Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman. A great deal is riding on the chemistry between Pattinson and Kravitz and I am happy to report that the two have a strong spark. The two are allies who keep each other at a modest distance. The interests of Batman and Catwoman happen to align here but it’s not hard to imagine the two going toe to toe with each other if their interests did not align. The pair have desire and empathy for each other, and Selina appears to be a fundamentally decent person but Kravitz gives her Catwoman an edge of menace that could tip over into full villainy with just the right spark. That makes for an exciting and combustible chemistry.

The Batman is very cool. It’s a well made, intricately plotted and deeply involving thriller, action movie, and superhero franchise flick. I highly recommend you see it for yourself when The Batman opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, March 4th, 2022.

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About the author

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for Everyone's a Critic Movie Review Podcast. I am a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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