‘The Batman’ unmasks the darkest knight

The newest Batman film surpasses the hype

“Patman,” was a term of encouragement bestowed upon me by my mother out of respect for my deep Batman admiration. I greatly anticipated this film starring an official, “Patman” as played by Robert Pattinson, which is still a better title for him than the Twilight fandom’s “R-Pats” (Sorry Pattinson, please don’t break my hands and mouth for that — I didn’t come up with it).

“Two years of nights have turned me into a nocturnal animal.” Bruce Wayne fights crime as Batman since his advent two years ago, realizing that crime is rising instead of falling. When a serial killer calling himself “the Riddler” begins murdering Gotham’s elite while exposing their secret corruption, Batman forms an unlikely bond with a cat-burglar and embarks with his trusted friend James Gordon to end the slayings. Little does Bruce realize that his symbol has not only stricken fear into Gotham’s criminals but has also fueled the drive of a much worse enemy, vigilantes.

Pattinson was given what I call, “the Joel-Schumacher-treatment” as they were both unfairly ridiculed for duds that weren’t their faults and not credited for their good work; few acknowledge Schumacher launched the careers of Matthew McConaughey (“A Time to Kill”) and Collin Farrell (“Tigerland”/“Phonebooth”). I knew Pattinson would play a good Batman but I wasn’t expecting him to be the invigorating revelation he is here. 

While most “Batman” films contain roughly a half-hour of the caped crusader’s screentime in two-to-three hours, this employs at least two from its three-hour runtime. This is the most Batman-centric film of all. It’s not Tim Burton’s fetishistic freak-show, or Christopher Nolan’s Michael Mann-inspired crime saga featuring Batman; it’s strictly a realistic yet stylish neo-noir detective story.

Batman’s tech is grounded with more realism than Nolan’s trilogy being expressed as rugged and crude. His flight-suit is as dangerous to operate as it is effective to fly. (“Nice form but a little rough on the landing, he may have to settle for the bronze.”) The PG-13 rating is pushed hard with impactful violence and more profanity than all previous films combined. Matt Reeves’s script and direction keep the film moving at a bullet’s pace in suspense, and Michael Giacchino’s score is revolutionary, simultaneously expressing both horror and heroism.

Zoe Kravitz reprises her role from, “The Lego Batman Movie” (chuckle) as Selina Kyle with great nuance and development. Colin Farrell vanishes inside Oswald Cobblepot in a long-overdue proper portrayal as a hardboiled gangster with surly charisma making him strangely loveable and greatly heightening the batmobile chase where he expresses both fear and exhilaration while pursued (plus, his laugh is so unbelievably wholesome). Jeffrey Wright’s Commissioner Gordon is fantastic, and I never realized how much I needed a film where he and Batman spend the entirety solving a mystery together until now. 

In the cons section, this film feels like it is trying to outdo its predecessors in the “dark and disturbing” department. A scene depicting a recorded torture/murder is broadcast on the news, disturbing with body-horror whereas the ‘Look at me’ scene in “The Dark Knight” seems inspired by wasn’t trying to be, it just naturally was in its realism and Ledger’s landmark performance. The Riddler is ominous in his demented presence and gallows humor until he’s revealed and becomes a ridiculous caricature; say whatever of Jim Carrey’s take, but he remained a consistent character. A contemporary political statement is expressed which made me wonder, “Have I finally found something Prince’s 1989 soundtrack aged better than?”

This best impartation is Batman’s no-killing rule in its most intense degree. Despite disliking corrupt cops, Batman doesn’t hesitate rescuing one. My favorite sequence occurs when Batman races against time, fighting through hordes to prevent Selina from slaying the mob boss who wrecked her life, Carmine Falcone (played to icky brilliance by John Turturro), risking everything to prevent murder. Having seen Batman fail to prevent evil in other films, the result of this left me beaming with satisfaction.  

“The Batman” was immensely better than I thought it would be, and I had ridiculously high expectations. This film tackles the idea of Batman realizing that he is the reason such evil people are becoming more creative, and therefore must spend the rest of his crime-fighting career reinventing himself. There’s more virtuous resonances here than I was expecting in a film steeped with sadism yet somehow marketed with a “Batman Calzone.”

Review: 5/5

Leave a Reply