I know it’s been a minute… but what kind of Batman purist/connoisseur would I be if I didn’t emerge from the shadows to give you my take on the newest reboot of the world’s most popular superhero (I said what I said). While Marvel continues to craft the most intricate comic book cinematic universe of all time… D.C. just can’t help but follow the money and reinvent the caped crusader yet again for the big screen. And like the fanatic that I am… I couldn’t help but indulge. The question is… is the newest version of the Caped Crusader worth the time?
If you’re able to read… then there’s no point in explaining the backstory of Bruce Wayne aka The Batman. You know already. Nightmarishly corrupt city. Billionaire with a butler confidant. Parents murdered. Masked vigilante. Psycho villains. Yadda yadda yadda. Thankfully, Director Matt Reeves (Planet of the Apes) doesn’t waste time explaining the obvious or giving us an operatic slow motion replay of a child’s parents being shot in an alley. This Batman starts off in year two. Limited on gadgets and experience, this raw version relies solely on his detective skills, martial arts prowess, and of course, the element of intimidation. As a critical mayoral election approaches, he must stop a new serial killer on the loose with the goal of unravelling the city’s dark truths.
Let’s start with what I absolutely loved. For starters, Robert Pattinson is long past being Cedric Diggory or the sparkly skinned vampire of Twilight lore. His Batman fits the mold of a gloomy noir. When he is in costume, he is absolute perfection from the voice (no need for voice modulation here) to the walk. Reeves’ film opens with a sensational monologue and gripping cinematography that impeccably illustrates Batman’s presence amongst the criminal underworld even when he isn’t actually on screen. The side players are top notch as well. Zoe Kravitz plays Selina Kyle aka Catwoman like she was born to play the famous femme fatale. Her presence is magnetic and my favorite iteration of the character thus far in any medium. Along with Jeffrey Wright’s humble Jim Gordon, they form an excellent trio easy to route for. As for Paul Dano’s villain, you’ll find no complaints here. The Riddler in this film is no Jim Carrey. This sadistic version seems tailor made for Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, complete with a daunting, cerebral presence that forges an excellent foil in a slow paced, crime thriller style film that favors drama over action (though the action is eye popping). Collin Farrell (completely unrecognizable) adds welcomed charismatic flair in his portrayal of aspiring mob boss Oz Cobblepot aka The Penguin.
But alas, this is no Batman Begins or Dark Knight. For starters, the movie is entirely too long… even for an enthusiast such as I. The final act drags and leaves a lot to be desired. The climactic skirmish tries, but doesn’t quite give enough to show Batman’s unrelenting resolve and meticulous effectiveness as a one man wrecking crew. And as good as Pattinson is under the mask, I wasn’t a fan of his emo version of Bruce Wayne. Part of the mystique of the character is the juxtaposition between the brooding vigilante and the billionaire playboy. Having Pattinson moody the entire movie makes you wonder why none of the pieces involved haven’t figured out his secret identity. As a result, supposedly emotional scenes like the ones with Andy Serkis’ Alfred fall flat. The film also is a retread of many of the themes of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy to the point where it feels like this might’ve been better served as a sequel to The Dark Knight Rises instead of a reboot. Say what you want about Ben Affleck’s time in the role, it at least felt like a weary version that hadn’t been shown on screen before. Personally, I’m still waiting to see a live action portrayal of Batman in his long standing comic book role of flawed mentor to the likes of several different Robins and Batgirl.
Despite a few flaws, the newest rendition into the onscreen Batman mythos does enough to warrant expansion… if it explores more of the character than just hardened loner. The climax does gain points for exploring something we haven’t seen since the 90’s films… that of a Batman that warrants being embraced by the good people of Gotham even if the outside world thinks empowering a masked vigilante is foolish. It also does a fine job of acknowledging Bruce Wayne’s white privilege and having the character come to terms with his own anger and hypocritical lust for vengeance. Purists like myself will also note the seamless blending of some of the best comic storylines like The Long Halloween and Batman: Hush. So while it doesn’t reach the heights of my favorite Batman flicks, it is certainly an enthralling, well casted and stylistically solid outing that any casual fan of the character should experience.
FINAL GRADE: B