When the Riddler, a sadistic serial killer, begins murdering key political figures in Gotham, Batman is forced to investigate the city’s hidden corruption and question his family’s involvement.
This review contains spoilers.
I may be a man of a certain age but I don’t sit around filled with nostalgia that Keaton is the definitive Batman and all others should be compared to him. I want original interpretations from the squillions of different comic book takes on the caped crusader. I want to see different incarnations of Batman, alongside his dual-half Bruce Wayne. I want to see new, never seen before takes on the villains too. With Matt Reeves take on The Batman we certainly get get most of this.
There’s such a clear vision for the look and style of Gotham and the tone of the film. Without doubt it was refreshing to see this new, original looking gothic version but for me the same visual and cinematography at all costs route, such as those seen with Eternals or Blade Runner 2049, ends up making the film look like an over stylised and somewhat brilliantly polished turd.
My major problem with the film is that this take on Batman doesn’t actually do anything Batmanny? Besides jumping off a building badly, does he do anything in the film that any other generic action hero couldn’t do? If you replaced every action sequence and detective element with Reacher or John McClane, would it make a difference? Batman doesn’t actually foil anything and gets thoroughly out-though and out-played by The Riddler. The world greatest detective? Not from this showing. This Batman is pretty weak, dim and frankly a bit bloody rubbish. He struggles to take out some generic street gang as well as some un-trained geeks with guns. He also needs saving by Catwoman, just like in Nolan’s films.
I mean, I get that this is a gritty, more realistic Year two Batman story but still, he’s really not very good. His only good thing, heroic thing, was cutting a live electrical cord which is something that should have been done by an electrician when they knew millions of gallons of water were heading their way. This whole scene is so small-scale that it was purely used to produce another iconic shot, fitting a narrative to provide symbolism, instead of good old Batmanny action.
Yes, there were some good twists and turns along the way and the climax of The Riddler’s plan to paralyse Gotham was unexpected but how many died? How many were injured? Batman simply failed to protect them. I get that this narrative means that Bruce will have to step-up and it’s a journey for Bruce/Batman to embrace both sides of himself in the sequel but why do studios have to disrespect viewers so much by promising such big resolutions for the next film?.
Maybe I’ve been watching superhero films too long but I expect arcs, entertainment, humour, action and conclusions but this take is simply not my cup of tea. The definition of heroism is too small scale and so oddly fitted. Just like Bond, Batman should always win in the face of adversity. Here he doesn’t and that does not sit right with me, especially in the way it was consistently done.
The Batmobile car chase was another classic example of choosing to make a middling action scene to end up with an iconic image, rather than delivering an interesting or truly unique Batman-centric scene. I mean, jumping up over a car ramp, haven’t we seen that before with Batman in Nolan’s films? I’m not sure what the Penguins car was, but it was equally, if not faster, than the Batmobile. How many people would have died in all that weaving and crashing? Why is there not internet outrage in the same way as the Snyder films got when people got maimed or injured by Batman and his actions?
Another thing that galls me so much about The Batman is that the first trailer, which was brilliant, showed off way too much of the action. I never even bothered watching any more trailers or TV spots and sadly after just the one trailer, half of the best scenes were ruined.
Oh, and yet again, a Batman film can’t go by without another version of the Joker showing up. Batman has so many iconic villains, but yet again, in a scene so boring and cliché, we get what Reeves describes as some sort of unfinished, proto-Joker. I’m pretty sure that the Gotham series did this and I couldn’t care less about seeing another version so soon. This wonderful, seedy, dark and gothic Gotham would have been perfect for The Reaper to appear, or any number or other villains, but sadly we get the same old faces.
In something so unique, there’s just so much that feels stolen or borrowed from Nolan’s, or even Burtons films. That’s not to say that the film isn’t enjoyable and I imagine I am firmly in the minority with my general meh-to-middling thoughts about it. It is a good film, there is no question of that. Influenced by so many films from Chinatown, Zodiac to Seven, it simply feels so familiar, yet unique. I mean, I was never bored, but everything just felt so grounded, ticking over and then never really going off at the end.
I was not expecting any comedy or even humour, and there was none. There was one scene with Gordon seeing the Batmobile when he could have said a line from Nolan’s films and he didn’t. Just a little nod, a little humour would have sufficed but we just got nothing. They weren’t interested in Easter eggs, or paying homage, purely being so unique that they copied without credit.
I honestly can’t say I found anything wrong with the casting at all, or even their performances. Pattinson looks the part and he did the action that was required of him well. He was supposed to brood and he does. Wright was good as Gordon, while Dano was good, almost terrifying, as Riddler. Kravitz’s Catwoman was probably the most rounded off character and I can’t tell if she was vastly underused or used too much. Her and Pattinson show off some middling chemistry, making for a relatively believable Bat and Cat relationship. Farrell plays what is probably the most interesting, in terms of screen entertainment, character and his look is terrific.
There’s nothing really that I can pin-point, apart from Batman being a bit shit, that I can say is the reason why I didn’t enjoy it. I really wish I liked it a bit more but sadly I can’t say I did. Maybe it was too clever, too stylised and too long, or maybe it was someting else. Sometimes people just don’t get a film. I feel the same way about the original Blade Runner too. I see, and continue to hope, many fans find it more enjoyable than I did. I’m just not bothered about seeing it again, nor am I too bothered about a sequel. As a man with a loft full of Batman comics ,who has worn a Batman belt buckle every day for the last 20 years, it saddens me that I don’t like an interpretation of it. Hopefully the next reboot will be more to my liking.