Perhaps wholly appropriate for our current time, The Batman is a dark film, both aesthetically and in terms of subject matter.
Most if not all scenes appear to be shot on a black palate with seemingly incessant rain, which beats down on our burdened superhero (Robert Pattinson) as he navigates the murky city of Gotham. He is tortured by his emotions and the vague memories of his now-deceased parents; even now, as an adult with all the resources in the world, Bruce Wayne grapples with his identity and his role in the larger world.
Part superhero movie and part detective whodunit, The Batman is a slow-moving, lumbering beast. At times monotonous, the story is stretched thin over its three-hour running time, featuring a gamut of mobsters (including an unrecognizable Colin Farrell as The Penguin), a Batman love interest (Zoë Kravitz) and, of course, lovable “butler” Alfred (Andy Serkis). The main big baddie is The Riddler (Paul Dano), who provides Batman — and the audience — with a bounty of riddles and cyphers to solve throughout the film.
The movie plods along at a snail’s pace when there’s no action, often featuring the cast poring over a new Riddler clue or figuring out their next move to save Gotham. When they do happen, the fight/action scenes are fun to behold, but they simply don’t happen enough. There are plenty of brooding, melancholic scenes of Pattinson walking gloomily, pondering his fate, as Nirvana’s Something in the Way plays. Hands-down, this is the most emo Batman movie ever made.
Aren’t all Batman movies dark?
This is true. Dating back to the 1989-and-later Batman reboots, they’ve always had a darkness and grittiness to them. The difference with The Batman is that there’s something depressing about it — not quite The Joker-esque, but adjacent — and as an audience member you’re forced to undergo this deep personal analysis with Bruce. For those disinterested in the comics lore, it can be a tough film to sit through. It’s missing that vein of humour, that much-needed levity. There are a few chuckles, but not enough to supplant the darkness.
How is Robert Pattinson in the role?
Pattinson is a fine actor, and he’s shown his chops since his career-making turn in the Twilight franchise. With a sharp jawline and an appropriately gravelly voice, he does his best here, and when the mask is on, for the most part he succeeds in the role. It’s when the cowl comes off and Bruce emerges that we meet a sullen, very teen-like version of the character.
With tendrils of jet-black hair constantly falling in front of his eyes, Bruce laments, Bruce complains, Bruce opines, Bruce whines. It’s strange that the movie would cast Pattinson, well-known for playing a teenaged vampire, and then have him play the character in this way, drawing parallels between them. It’s as if, when he takes the costume off, he de-ages 10 years, both emotionally and mentally. Thankfully, we don’t deal with Bruce too often.
What about the others?
Kravitz appears far less in the movie than I thought she would, and she makes for a stunning Catwoman. The chemistry between her and Pattison is middling, and appears to be far more convincing in real-life interviews. Their love isn’t really given a chance to bloom, and in most scenes, she’s gone before we even remember she’s there.
The most robust relationship in the movie is between Batman and Commissioner James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), who have a strong friend-father-son type of thing going on. They trust each other, confide in each other and turn to one another when the chips are down, and you believe in them, too. Surprisingly, considering all of the other Batman movies (and all the lore that came before them), Bruce’s relationship with Alfred is weak and relegated to the sidelines.
In the few scenes we have with Alfred, it seems that Bruce reserves all of his angst and rage for the poor old butler, who’s always on the receiving end of the superhero’s ire.
Dano relishes in his villain role, taking it to the next level with his hysterical voice and creepy glasses. Methinks this isn’t the last we’ve seen of him as The Riddler.
What’s the bottom line?
A long, weaving detective story with a mystery that even the most diehard Batman fan can’t solve, The Batman is sure to please comic-book lovers. Unfortunately, the movie is buried under its own weight, and for those who don’t know any backstory, it can be confusing and at times even frustrating as it moves slowly from scene to scene.
Still, a Batman movie is a Batman movie, and if you’re looking for some butt-kicking, superhero action and a glimpse of the new Batmobile, you will definitely find them here.
‘The Batman’ is now playing in theatres across Canada. Please check your local listings for details.
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