As “Ave Maria” begins to play, Matt Reeves boldly fills the screen with an announcement that this film is not about Bruce Wayne/Batman but The Batman – the making some sort of grand distinction.
Reeves may have a point, Bruce Wayne is portrayed as a rather reclusive shell of a man. Yet, even with his sickly face and brooding looks, he remains a favorite among Gotham citizens. The rambunctious and controversial Batman is more anti-hero here than ever before. His solo support comes from Police Officer Jim Gordon (a consistent Jeffrey Wright), soon to be discovered as one of the only “good cops” on the force (Reeves might’ve had some commentary there, but I’m not sure it fully landed).
I would say because of our familiarity with Batman the plot plays out easily enough, but Reeves’ aim to distinguish this film from its predecessors brings the twists and turns tally to an astronomical height. This reviewer was a fan. I never knew where the film was going to end up, and by the time I got there, I realized it was more about the characters’ emotional journey and relationships than the story. A clever switcheroo, in my opinion.
Does the film suffer from taking itself too seriously? Of course. Especially in the case of Bruce Wayne, there’s not much to unpack by the time we get to the fifth or sixth shot of Robert Pattinson staring regretfully into the void – as he did so expertly in the Twilight series. Where the messages really come alive are in the slick Catwoman (a fiery Zoë Kravitz) and explosive Riddler (a ridiculously sick Paul Dano). Though the caped crusader claims his title as “vengeance,” I would give it away to either of these two who have far more economically and socially motivated reasons to be angry. Each rewrites their iconic character with emotional depth and strong character choices.
This Gotham is deep with detail and moral decay. The Penguin (an unrecognizable Colin Farrell) and Carmine Falcone (an effective John Torturro) run the chaos, but the settings in which they reside are perhaps more terrifying than their deeds. For the tone, think Christopher Nolan meets David Fincher but with the visual language of Blade Runner 2049 (only the scenes featuring orange or black, mind you). The sound design and editing are additionally incredible, aiding one of the greatest car chase sequences I’ve ever seen put to film. This is all without applauding the composing genius of Michael Giacchino. John Williams brought the power of Star Wars to life with his work and the same “classic movie” feeling can be felt here (Giacchino did draw inspiration from The Imperial March). Musical excellence can also be attributed to an expertly placed acoustic version of Nirvana’s “Something In The Way,” playing under Pattinson’s temperamental journal entries.
Where the film falters is often in the cheap surface level dialogue. Some deliveries feel forced or embellished in order to raise the power of the words, but end up backfiring in proving their simplicity. Even as some more wild plot points come together in the whole of the story, you can’t help but feel as though they’re placed for shock factor – after all, Warner Bros. and DC want to make the big bucks from this studio film. All in all, Reeves made some moves: some brilliant, some predictable, some whacky, and The Batman is better off for it.
The Batman is now playing in Theaters Everywhere