When I was younger, I always loved it when someone would ask me what my favorite superhero; (actually, I kind of wish people still asked me that today as an adult) and my answer would always be the same: Batman. Ever since I first saw Tim Burton’s original “Batman” film and then subsequently “Batman: the animated series,” he had easily become my most idolized superhero for many, many years. Flash forward to the future after the birth of the MCU and the release of one too many different Batman incarnations and now Ion Man fills my number one hero slot and Batman has become a literal revolving wall of jokes, memes, and random actors with no signs of consistency showing up anytime soon. This latest incarnation from “Apes” director Matt Reeves is known as “The Batman;” hoping that 6th time is the Batman charm.
Taking us back to early in Batman’s crime-fighting career, Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) is devoting every waking hour and minute of his dual life to striking down the forces of evil corrupting Gotham inside and out. Things become messy and mysterious when the serial killer, the Riddler (Paul Dano) starts murdering high political figures; leaving cryptic riddles connecting to the inner workings of the Mafia as well as Wayne’s own deceased parents. Investigating the likes of Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz), Penguin (Colin Farrell), and Carmine Falcone (John Tuturro), Batman must uncover the truth connecting all these faces and events together and save the city before the Riddler brings it to its knees.
Despite this being the 6th cinematic crack at the caped crusader, one thing I cannot deny is that it’s clear that Reeves and Pattison were really trying to deliver something truly different compared to previous Batman films. “The Batman” removes much of the fantastical and science fiction-related elements of the past in place for a darker, far grizzlier, and grittier take that pushes the boundaries of how edgy and violent the Dark Knight can become. Gone are the bat sonic emitters and colorful costumes; grinding this character into an even more reality-based environment than even Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. This is a Batman who is still struggling to make a name for himself and is so busy burying himself deep into the shadows, he doesn’t even care about existing as Bruce Wayne or holding back when putting criminals in their place.
Any reservations I had about “Twilight” star Pattinson donning the cape and cowl went out the window the first moment I saw him step out of the shadow to take down a gang of painted face thugs. He brings a cold, broken sense of detached intensity that truly separates him from his cinematic predecessors; hardly ever relying on a lame joke or a witty smirk to tarnish his frightful façade. Reeves’ take on Gotham makes the city ugly and grimier in ways we’ve never seen before and it creates an atmosphere that feels like it’s a character in and of itself. Jeffery Wright and Andy Serkis serve their roles as James Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth respectively. Nothing to surpass previous incarnations but hardly a blemish on their marks either.
Sadly, while the film boasts an impressive assortment of quality actors playing their villains, all 3 of them suffer from one flaw or another that prevents them from stealing the show as most past villains have. Our signature villain Riddler is unfortunately by far the worst offender. His iconic costume and intellectual presence are heavily marred by his laughably bad “garbage man” costume and Dano’s odd decision to deliver every line with heavy breathing and ear-piercing whimpering. Reeves said his look was inspired by the Zodiac Killer (why that excuses such piss poor costume making is beyond me), at least his riddles and motivation are interesting. Catwoman and Penguin are played well but both are executed too poorly to even be recognized as supporting villains. Kravitz is top-notch as Selena Kyle but her Catwoman mask looks like something a drunk coed would wear to a Halloween party. And for all the numerous hours of high-end makeup transforming Colin Farrell into the Penguin, it feels almost insulting that he is barely around for more than 10 minutes…in a 3 HOUR film that is already TOO LONG.
Overall, “The Batman” tried, it really, really did try very hard to bring something different to the table. The problem is they brought too much. There are multiple conflicting storylines that never succeed in feeling cohesive no matter how hard the characters try to make sense of it. Its two movies crammed in one, overstuffed 3-hour movie which utilizes its hero and thematic vision beautifully, but then bungles its villains so completely it almost feels like Batman would have been better off just fighting the mob instead of such disappointing representations of villains (all handled better in previous films I might add).
We give “The Batman” 2 ½ stars out of 4 stars.