More than 83 years ago, Batman, one of the world’s most famous comic book characters, made his first appearance in the May 1939 issue of Detective Comics (Issue #27). In the nearly 85 years since the Dark Knight made his debut on the printed page, he has had countless stories told both in print and on screen. Fans of all ages have their favorite version of the big, black bat (longtime fans will get that reference) throughout that time, too. Audiences got a whole new story of Batman in March when Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment debuted The Batman. This take of the Batman mythos is the most unique addition to the Batman universe to date. That is due in large part to its collective presentation style and story, which will be discussed shortly. The cast’s work on screen makes for its own interest and will be discussed a little later. The bonus content that accompanies the movie in is recent home release is just as much of note as the movie’s primary content and will also be examined hater. Each item noted here plays its own important part in the movie’s overall presentation. All things considered they make this movie one more of this year’s top new theatrical releases.
The Batman, the latest addition to Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment’s decades-long series of Batman movies, is the single most unique entry in that realm. It is completely separate unlike any of its predecessors both in terms of its stylistic approach and its story, both of which are tied together. It is the first time in the franchise’s history that a Batman movie has been so gritty and that one of the franchise’s movies has focused more on story than say special effects and Batman’s gadgets (including the Batmobile). As writer/director Matt Reeves points out in the movie’s bonus content (which will be discussed later), the intent here was to craft a movie that was in fact a detective story, not just another comic book to film tale. It was meant to present Batman doing what he has done best for decades, solving mysteries. In this case, it found Batman trying to solve the mystery of The Riddler’s sadistic, homicidal quest to bring his own justice to Gotham City before The Riddler can commit his crimes. It is more of a hard-boiled film noir style presentation than the movies that audiences have come to know over the decades, and that is wholly a good thing. There is no 1960s-era cheekiness here. There is not even any of Tim Burton’s approach here. If anything, this clearly Hush-esque story feels more like a natural progression of the gritty approach taken by Reeves’ predecessor, Christopher Nolan, in his Batman trilogy. As noted, the focus is on Batman/Bruce Wayne’s abilities as a human detective and less on his toys (again, longtime Batman fans will get that reference), and that really is a nice change of pace. That unique approach really gives the movie its own identity separate from the other Batman movies out there. What’s more even being as long as it is (clocking in at just shy of 3 hours), the story still manages to keep audiences engaged and entertained even despite the issues posed by that length and related pacing.
Speaking of the movie’s run time and pacing, that really does collectively detract from the viewing experience. From beginning to end, there is so much brooding, even more than ever before. What’s more, there are so many plot elements and so many twists and turns that the story really does get bogged down in itself by the end. Speaking of the end, it seems like Reeves and company could not seem to figure out how to end the movie. From Falcone’s arrest to the chase with the Penguin, to Edward’s arrest and the long sequence that follows, there is just so much in the final act that it is too much. Reeves and company could have ended the movie at so many points therein, but in going on as long as they did, it makes the story feel that much more like it just plods along. Considering that the story already plods along at such a slow pace as is, that only hurts it that much more. Keeping that in mind, the story is unique but is far from perfect. It really requires audiences to fully immerse themselves in the story and be ready and willing to sit through it all. Those who are ready and willing to sit through it all will agree that the story is, again, unique, just too long for itself. It is not enough to doom the story, but certainly does detract from the movie’s overall presentation.
While the story featured in The Batman is a mixed bag, something that is more of a positive overall is the work of the movie’s cast. Robert Pattinson (The Twilight Saga) plays the part of a troubled young Bruce Wayne surprisingly well here. He is actually that believable as he takes on what is one of the most iconic roles in modern movie history. There are no hints of that glittery vampire that he portrayed in the Twilight saga. Here, audiences get from him a Bruce Wayne/Batman who is emotionally lost. He is trying to make sense of the tragedy that had consumed Bruce for such a long time. Perhaps part of the reason that he does so well is that this movie is not just another origin story. This is not even a Year One story (which is also discussed in the bonus content). This is Bruce Wayne at a pivotal point in his life and role as Gotham’s protector, coming of age in a manner of speaking. Pattinson’s ability to interpret Bruce’s emotional and mental state here is so immersive, so kudos goes to him for his performance.
On another note, co-star Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood, 12 Years a Slave, Little Miss Sunshine) is just as noteworthy in his diabolical performance as The Riddler/Edward Nash (yes, they changed his last name here, more of a sign of how far this movie branches from the roots of the Batman mythos). Edward’s performance, the killer instinct that he brings out in this portrayal, immediately conjures thoughts of the villain in Se7en. From bludgeoning one official to death, to beating another within half an inch of his life and putting a bomb around his neck, to his maniacal sense that he and Batman were two sides of the same coin (wonder is that a foreshadowing of what is to come in the future for Batman?) as he sits on the other side of the glass in Arkham, Dano does so much right with this version of The Riddler. He really is about as sociopathic and homicidal as the late great Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Yes, that is a lofty statement, but it is true. The way in which he makes The Riddle rant to his followers in his internet posts really brings out that psychotic nature even more. Overall, Dano is well-deserving of his own applause here. He makes it that easy for audiences to be shocked by The Riddler and hate Edward.
Dano’s performance is just one more of the most notable in this movie. Colin Farrell (Daredevil, S.W.A.T., In Bruges) puts on his own powerful performance. Considering Farrell is not American (just like Pattinson), he makes his accent fully believable at the foundation of his performance. That foundation is bolstered by his full-on mobster style take on Oswald Cobblepot. Rather than making “Oz” just another comic book character, Farrell makes The Penguin more of a gangster type name than character with a bunch of bird-themed gadgets, etc. Again, this is another way in which the movie continues to separate itself from all of the other Batman movies out there. He makes Oz a character that audiences will love just as much as love to hate. He is just that impressive in every one of his on-screen moments. When his performance is considered along with those of Dano, Pattinson, and the rest of the cast, the overall work of the cast is so worthy of applause. The cast’s work handling the script makes that extensively long, plodding story more bearable. As a result, audiences will manage to remain engaged in the story to the end, so again, the cast’s work proves just as important here as the story.
The work of the cast interpreting the script in this movie is impressive to say the least. It is the cast’s work alongside the unique hard-boiled noir detective story here that really makes The Batman worth watching. This is especially important to note because of the movie’s run time and plodding pacing. Those elements are just part of what makes the movie bearable. The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its recent home release rounds out its most important elements. The content is extensive, taking on the movie’s creation from pre-production to wrap in its longest feature, which runs just shy of an hour. Also addressed through the various extras as the makeup and costuming for Selena Kyle/Catwoman, Edward/The Riddler, and Bruce/Batman. Audiences are also treated to an in-depth examination of the Batmobile, from its creation to its testing and how the movie’s big chase scene came to life. Audiences also get an interesting look at Batman’s “relationship” with The Riddler, how The Riddler’s view on justice and vengeance inadvertently leads Batman/Bruce to eventually change his view on whether Gotham City is worth saving. Dano’s discussion here is really eye-opening. That is because it shows Dano really has an understanding and in turn appreciation for that duality between the lead antagonist and protagonist. The discussion on how Selena slowly transforms into what will become Catwoman is another interesting albeit brief discussion. That is because it outlines the personal emotional issues that she faces, finding out the truth of her mother and the role of Falcone (who is played just as well by John Turturro – O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Quiz Show, Barton Fink) in what happened to her mother. It makes audiences look forward to what star Zoe Kravitz (X-Men: First Class, Mad Max: Fury Road, Divergent) will bring to the role in the next Batman movie. Each of the bonus features that come with the movie’s home release clearly offer audiences plenty to appreciate. When they are all considered together, they offer just as much to appreciate if not more than that of the story itself. Keeping that in mind, when the bonus content featured here is considered along with the movie’s story and the cast’s work therein, the whole makes The Batman a unique new addition to the Batman mythos that while not “your grandad’s Batman” is still well worth watching.
The Batman, Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment’s latest addition to the expansive Batman cinematic and TV universe, is a unique presentation. Its uniqueness is partly due to its featured story. The story here is not just another typical Batman movie that focuses on Batman’s gadgets and all of the cliché villain portrayals. Rather, it is a deep hard-boiled crime noir story that is full of twists and turns. Given there are perhaps too many of those twists and turns throughout, and too many endings in the final act, but the overall story is still worth watching for those who are ready and willing to sit through its nearly 3-hour run time thanks to that overall story and approach. The cast’s work interpreting the extensive script is a saving grace. From one actor to the next, every cast member does his and her own important part in making the otherwise plodding story bearable. The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its home release rounds out the movie’s most important elements. That is because of all of the background that it offers audiences. Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of this movie. All things considered they make the movie not the best of the year’s new theatrical releases, but still one of the best.
The Batman is available now. More information on this and other titles from DC Entertainment is available at https://dc.com.
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