It’s been a while since I highly anticipated a DC movie from Warner Bros. Yes, I’m one of those people. I’m one of the people who enjoyed Zack Snyder’s vision of the DC Extended Universe. Man of Steel is my favorite version of the Superman story. Henry Cavill and Amy Adams are my favorite Lois and Clark. Wonder Woman’s introduction into the DCEU was executed by Snyder, and we all saw what could happen to Wonder Woman when Patty Jenkins is left to her own devices. Likewise, Aquaman’s initial outing was engaging under Snyder’s leadership and, while I don’t think it’s worthy of an Oscar, Zack Snyder’s Justice League was superior over the Joss Whedon version. Let’s not forget what Todd Philips did with Joker when he was left alone by the studio.
Oscar award-winning director Ben Affleck initially was going to write and direct The Batman but, for whatever reason, dropped the assignment and the role. Enter a director (and a composer) from the J.J. Abrams Bad Robot tree, and, ordinarily, I wouldn’t be excited about who took over the assignment. Matt Reeves (and Michael Giacchino) are no ordinary descendants from the Abrams tree. Reeves directed Cloverfield, America’s own kaiju (and Giacchino wrote the score, which only consisted of the end credits sequence). Reeves also directed the reboot trilogy of Planet of the Apes Giacchino scored the final two films.
So, Reeves and Giacchino have outstanding credits to stand on independent of Abrams, and they can add a solid outing in The Batman to add to their accomplishments. If you’re wondering why I have mentioned Giacchino almost every time I say, Reeves, the score added powerful impact to the words directed and co-written by Reeves, with Peter Craig credited as the other screenwriter.
When people talk about the DCEU, they emphasize the Extended Universe portion of that initialism. It’s important to remember that DC stands for Detective Comics, the publication which introduced Batman in issue #27, dated May 1939. Reeves hasn’t forgotten. He has given us a neo-noir detective story from beginning to end. Whereas many previous directors have given us dark and moody stylings of Gotham City, Reeves and his design team have given us a Gotham that’s an amalgam of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, and several other cities. At times the film reflects the daytime essence of those cities yet still maintains the dark and moody atmosphere in which Batman and Jim Gordon are destined to operate.
Some trepidation was raised about Robert Pattison playing Batman. I don’t write spoilers, but I will say this. Pattison is Batman… just Batman. There’s a reason why the word Batman is so outsized in the credits and marketing materials. The former Twilight star plays the role well. Andy Serkis is Bruce Wayne’s faithful butler Alfred Pennyworth. Zoe Kravitz gives a wonderful performance as Selina Kyle, a/k/a Catwoman. However, throughout this movie, Batman’s loyal partner is Lt. Jim Gordon, played marvelously by Jeffrey Wright.
Gotham City is plagued by a series of high-profile killings beginning with its mayor. Over the objections of some policemen and the police commissioner, Gordon brings Batman into the investigation from the very beginning. Several elements of the Batman ethos are just presented as fact. So, no unnecessary explanations of the BatSignal or why Batman and Gordon are so close. It’s a fait accompli. It is what it is, and I was fine with that.
The story presented by Reeves and Craig is populated with a couple of familiar characters from the Batman mythos. The Riddler and the Penguin are in evidence, played by Paul Dano and Colin Farrell, respectively. There are several other baddies to populate the story. Peter Sarsgaard plays DA Gil Colson and who doesn’t love a performance from John Turturro, who plays Carmine Falcone, a gangster I learned about from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy.
Reeves’ The Batman does not suffer from comparisons to Nolan’s trilogy. I am eagerly looking forward to Reeves’ next installment. So, why does this movie get an 8 instead of a 10?
Too much plot. There’s a lot of plot in this movie. A lot is going on and a lot that you’ll have to keep track of during its near-three-hour running time. Don’t worry. I don’t think you’ll be looking at your watch too much because a lot is happening, and you’ll have to pay attention because Reeves doesn’t necessarily explain things upfront in a fashion where you’ll understand what is going on. However, eventually, it will all come together for you.
There’s an interesting twist on the Batman origin story, such as it is. I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.
The Batman is rated PG-13 for strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong language, and some suggestive material. It is a solid, very powerful movie that you will want to watch multiple times. It is playing in IMAX 2D is available only in theatres right now.