Saturday, 5 March 2022

The Batman (Movie Review)


It is no secret that The Batman was my most anticipated movie heading into 2022. Following in the footsteps of the 2019 film, Joker, this latest iteration of the Caped Crusader was intended as another standalone DC project, existing outside of the DCEU and divorced from everything that came before it. And from the time that the very first trailers dropped, it was clear that director Matt Reeves had a vision for the film that was steeped in film noir sensibilities. But does all that style translate into a worthwhile movie or is this yet another case of style over substance?

The movie finds a world-weary Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattison) in his second year as the masked vigilante known as Batman. But this is Batman as we've never seen him before on film, a hard-boiled detective that isn't afraid to crack skulls to get answers. He has formed an uneasy alliance with the Gotham PD, through police commissioner, James Gordon (Geoffrey Wright). Their relationship becomes even more strained though when a serial killer known as the Riddler (Paul Dano) starts adorning his victims with personal messages addressed to Batman. But as they race against time to catch the criminal mastermind before he claims more victims, they uncover a trail of corruption threatening to shake the very foundations of the crime-ridden city.

My expectations were always going to be sky-high going into a movie like The Batman. After all, we've had to endure a more than 5-month delay following production troubles during the height of the coronavirus outbreak. And in all that additional time, my anticipation had only continued to grow, spurred on by solid trailer after solid trailer. So the movie certainly felt like it had a lot to live up to. This was not only promising to be a fresh take on a truly beloved DC icon, it was also coming in the wake of the high bar already set by the excellent Dark Knight trilogy. Even the DCEU had already shown us what a world-weary Batman would look like. So it was always going to be a question of whether or not this new film will be able to hit that bar, or at the very least, justify its existence.

Well, I'm pleased to say that the movie definitely didn't disappoint, at least going by the experience I had during my initial viewing. Notice I'd said initial viewing because quite frankly, this is one of those films that simply demands to be seen more than once to fully appreciate. At almost 3 hours in length, the movie is packed with so much detail and interconnected story threads that it often teetered on the edge of becoming overwhelming. That said, I did appreciate that all of it was well-paced and the movie never started to lose any steam or feel like a slog. Most of that is due to Matt Reeve's deft handling of the script, which remained captivating from the opening monologue up until the credits started to roll.

Speaking of monologue, we do indeed have to touch on Robert Pattison's portrayal of both Bruce Wayne and Batman. The seasoned actor continues to prove his acting chops beyond his early Harry Potter and Twilight days, giving us what is easily one of the most grounded versions of Bruce Wayne and Batman we've gotten in live-action. It was impressive the amount of emotion he was able to convey with very little dialogue, as we could still feel all the pain and conflict he was going through in every single scene. All that emotion and overall broodiness might come across as excessive for some though, but I felt it worked in the context of the story the movie was trying to tell.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't say something about Michael Giacchino's score for the film, which was every bit as rousing as one would expect from a film of this scope. But I think where the film shines the brightest is in its visuals. And no, I don't mean that ironically, as the decision to set most of the film at nighttime certainly plays a role in how the city of Gotham was perceived. Its griminess is almost palpable, like a cesspool that is on the very edge of imploding. The actors are also constantly draped in shadows, with plenty of silhouettes and shots that looked like they could have been ripped straight off the pages of a graphic novel. The film is definitely a looker and one that deserves to be seen on the biggest (and hopefully brightest) screen available.

The Batman might not be the DC hero's best cinematic outing to date, but it certainly ranks as one of his most ambitious. It captures a side of the "World's Greatest Detective" that is often neglected in film while peeling back layers of his character that offer more insight into his dual personas and the toll one takes on the other. Most importantly, the film makes yet another case for why comic book movies that exist outside of established cinematic universes need to be greenlit more often. Because that is where true creativity has the freedom to blossom. And yes, I realize that another shared universe is already being planned around this new film. But it was still refreshing to see Matt Reeves take a clean break from everything that came before to craft something truly visionary.

5 comments:

  1. It does look like a decent Batman movie and I probably will see it eventually when it hits streaming. I think you're right that it is sometimes better when a movie isn't burdened by being part of a "cinematic universe." I always think the first Deadpool movie was good because Fox had no faith in it and so wasn't trying to jam in a bunch of crossovers. A lot of that turns out to be unnecessary baggage. There have been plenty of movies where they desperately want to set up a bunch of sequels and crossovers and whatnot and it winds up diluting the first movie so much that it fails and all those sequels and crossovers never happen.

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    1. That's right, Deadpool is another great example of a solid standalone movie. Studios are able to achieve so much more when they just focus on telling singular stories without having to cater for potential crossovers and sequels like you said.

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  2. And I will be watching it again the moment it streams! Excellent film and worth it on the big screen.

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    1. Same here. Glad you enjoyed the movie as well.

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