For over 30 years, Batman ’89 and Michael Keaton have stood the test of time as my favorites of the Batman franchise, but last night, Matt Reeves’ The Batman (even surprisingly to me!) now takes the top spot.
The Batman takes sharp deviation from any of its predecessors and offers a super-noir, pulse-pounding, cinematic thriller, that is the most Batman of any Batman to hit the big screen, with Robert Pattinson portraying a deep understanding of Bruce Wayne and Batman during this timeline and world.
Stripped down, this film is classic Bronze Age Batman, with pulls from Frank Miller’s Year One in dealing with the crime families, with nods to Jeph Leob’s The Long Halloween and Hush (but not in the way that any comic fan would immediately think), but interestingly enough –takes very little from Mike Barr’s Year Two, as Gotham is under attack by a different kind of masked vigilante for its government corruption.
This is a younger Wayne (about 25-26 years old) that’s still trying to figure out his place in the world — while also uncovering the dark secrets of his own family name. This Bats does come off as reserved, but vigilant of his surroundings, while willing to work with Captain James Gordon (Westworld‘s Jeffrey Wright) with rescuing his crime riddled city. And while the transgressions and murders spike, so does The Batman’s reputation, which makes the GCPD and its current roster very uneasy.
I appreciate that this movie removes unnecessary and heavy GCI that has become amplified in modern comic movies, and pits the Detective in his very early stages in hand to hand combat against henchmen, cops, and anyone who gets in his way.
Since this is “year two” Batman, I think some fans (mainly casual—and that’s totally cool) will have questions about the look, style, and interactions of all the characters as they evolve throughout the movie. We’ve mostly seen an “established” or “a begining” Batman and his rogues in previous iterations, to see these DC legends in their sophomore stages of detecting, thieving, and riddling the city, it could take a bit to leave those preconceived images behind, but everything presented in this film cements the tone that Reeves’ sought to build. Hell, even the interactions between Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis‘) and Bruce come across distant, cold, and undeveloped, and that’s because they are.
Michael Giacchino‘s score is very foreboding–like you know shit is about to get brutal when you hear the pummeling staccato chords of doom enter. Again, it’s another way that this film defines itself as its own world, by staying far away from the classic Danny Elfman theme which conveys a bit of heroism. The Batman’s theme is all ominous, with some similarities to Vader’s march, not as a tune, but the rhythmically charged notes timed to minacious stride.
The Bat and The Cat — Zoe Kravitz channels Bill Finger’s intention of Selina puuurrrfectly as a high stakes safecracker that seeks answers and revenge for the murder of someone close to her. Although she’s very playful with a stoic surface, Selina does reveal her more vulnerable side when imploring Batman for help.
The Penguin – Collin Farrell is mesmerizing and charismatic and I won’t say much else except that we do know that the Penguin is getting his own HBO Max series which picks up after The Batman, so plenty of room is left for Oswald to grow into “The Gentlemen of Crime”.
Riddler – A brilliant and impassioned take on Batman’s most intellectual foe, whose main goal is to expose the profiteering of the Thomas Wayne Foundation and how it trickles into every corner of Gotham’s elite. Paul Dano portrays an astute and delirious villain who really just wants to be vengeance.
The Movie is three hours, but by the time the second and third acts hit, it’s perpetual adrenaline-fueled fun (with the Bat-mobile and Bat-toys!), and goes by fast. While Reeves does present a well balanced story that can easily be seen as concluded, I wouldn’t be surprised if WB called him back for more. 4.75/5 Whiskeys.