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Film Review

The Batman (2022)

IMDB link
Running time: 2h 56min
Directed by Matt Reeves
Written by Matt Reeves, Peter Craig, Bob Kane (created by: Batman)
Starring Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright

How many live action Batman films have been made by now? Not too many, it seems, since they still draw audiences. In The Batman, Twilight star Robert Pattinson gets to put on his emo face as he takes on an even bigger emo, the Riddler, played by Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood (2007)). Despite its problems, the film is decent — until the final third, that is, where it falls off a cliff in quality.

Why so serious?

After all the gritty and dark Batman films made since the first entry of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, Batman Begins (2005), The Batman follows suit and claims the throne, being the grittiest and darkest of all (though not quite as gritty and dark as 2019’s Joker). I do not really have a problem with this, but it is slightly amusing when considering how Batman used to be during the Adam West days. Now compare the previous to the trailer for The Batman. One could even make the argument that both of these tonal extremes are equally laughable, just for different reasons; but like I said, I was not bothered by the tone, at least for the most part. It should also be noted that the film is not dark just in tone, but also in the visual presentation. This is also a movie that benefits from being seen on a big screen, so that the cinematography is done justice.

The visual style works well

The Batman follows in the footsteps of Nolan in trying to present a somewhat realistic Batman, which, however, fails spectacularly at times. In the linked scene, if Batman somehow survived, he would have broken several bones, no matter what kind of suit/armor he is wearing. Instead, whatever, everything’s fine. This is just one scene, the one that I remember being the most ridiculous, but the reason it is such a problem is because it directly contradicts the film’s ostensible attempt at realism. It is a comic book superhero film, so scenes like this (scenes that look impressive but are utterly ludicrous) are par for the course, but Batman is just a human; he has no super powers. He would not be able to just walk it off as he does, if indeed he was even conscious and able to stand after the impact. But some people will shrug this scene off as easily as Batman shrugged off his bone crunching date with concrete, and I suppose they have the right to do so.

People these days are glued to their phones

Robert Pattinson is pretty good as Bruce Wayne/Batman; while I made slight fun of the emo aspect of the character, for Batman it actually does make sense, considering his traumas. Patrick Batman — I mean Patrick Bateman — I mean Christian Bale is almost always fantastic, but I think his version of Batman was too ridiculous with the barking/growling, however logical it is to disguise one’s voice as an incognito billionaire vigilante dressed as a flying rodent. My opinion is that Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne in Batman (1989) is still the best after all these years.

The Bat and The Cat

Paul Dano’s Riddler works less well than Pattinson’s Batman. I think I get what they were going for; a sociopathic nerd with a grudge and a superiority complex, who is ultimately a pathetic, small man. Should every villain be as “fun” or as charming as the Joker or Hans Gruber? Obviously not, as that would get stale very fast. I think it’s a big problem that the main villain is (mostly) not even interesting, though, especially for this genre and for a film of this length. Even Jim Carrey’s ridiculous version of the Riddler (exhibit 2) would have at least been interesting, and the obvious tonal dissonance would have been something spectacular. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again, films of this type need strong (in some manner) villains. I do not want a semi-realistic lone wolf incel-type from some dark corner of the internet as the main antagonist in a movie like this, but maybe that’s just me. I think Dano is not the one at fault here, but the script and direction.

While Paul Dano is a good actor, I think The Riddler was one of the weaker points of The Batman

The Riddler is not the only villain of the story, thankfully. The film is a bit bloated being almost 3 hours long, but the mobsters fit in well as a change of pace from most films of this genre, as they did in Batman: The Long Halloween. Colin Farrell was a weird choice to cast as The Penguin, since he looks nothing like the character, but it works, so I guess I have no complaints about that. His performance and appearance brought to mind an overweight Robert De Niro playing one of his many mafia characters. John Turturro is quite good, as he always seems to be, as crime boss Carmine Falcone. Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle/Catwoman was not great but not bad. The rest of the cast do their jobs well enough.

John Turturro is very good as Carmine Falcone
Colin Farrell transforms into a corpulent Robert De Niro

I like how The Batman is a detective film noir story with voice-over narration by Batman, where Batman actually does some detective-esque things. The direction and music are good, though I found some of Reeves’s directorial choices slightly weird. I think breaking some of the established norms is good, however. The city feels like a mostly realistic version of Gotham. The action sequences are mostly good, but not really memorable.

I love to brood

The script is the biggest problem of the film. There are multiple moments that stretch believability, in addition to the action scene I already talked about, such as how the mayor goes clubbing with a mistress somewhat openly, but it supposedly stayed a secret until the Riddler releases photos; or when Catwoman is undercover and speaking to Batman on mobile while people are within earshot but no one notices; or how convoluted Riddler’s broader plan is, etc. Still, the script is mostly fine until the final third (or so) of the film, which feels unnecessary and too over-the-top, and includes some eye-rolling scenes such as Batman raging at an autistic Riddler, which is just comical. The movie should have ended earlier and have less goofy moments like the above.

While there was effort and some talent put into the making of The Batman, it does not reach the level of quality of Nolan’s trilogy or Batman (1989). The Batman is needlessly long and the several eye-rolling moments deteriorate the experience leaving a sour aftertaste. It is, of course, easily better and more ambitious than Joel Schumacher’s abysmal creations (Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997)), but that is not a high bar, and at least those films are fun as a kid. Ultimately, I think The Batman is almost a good movie that suffers from some poor choices. With some changes this could perhaps have been as good as The Dark Knight, which is mostly carried by an incredible performance by Heath Ledger as The Joker — which goes to show much a good villain can elevate a movie like this.

Rating: 5.5 / 10

Times I had seen this film prior to this viewing: 0

Would I want to rewatch this film? Eventually, maybe, I might give it another chance to win me over

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