Anchor Staff Writer
In his second year of fighting crime, the Batman investigates a series of high-profile murders. Each victim is an official of the Gotham City government, and it’s quite a surprise that each one is found to be corrupt. While searching for the killer, puzzling cyphers and clues strike fairly close to the home of Bruce Wayne. Nobody in Gotham is prepared to know how deep the corruption really runs.
What word can be used to best describe “The Batman?” Gritty. Avoiding standard superhero elements and morphing into a shadowy detective story, “The Batman” is able to achieve a level of grit far beyond any of its predecessors. For me, the heavy references in style and theme to some personal favorites of mine like “Zodiac” (2007), “Klute” (1971), and “Taxi Driver” (1976) were so prominent. Honestly watching “The Batman” felt like watching the David Fincher masterpiece “Se7en” (1995) for the first time again. Director Matt Reeves crafted something beautifully chilling here, reminiscent of thrillers that shaped the entire genre. Everything from the actors and the sets, to the cinematography and the soundtrack was astounding, leaving very little room for any major criticism.
Robert Pattinson redefines the role of Bruce Wayne / Batman. Being less concerned with Batman as a hero, the film mainly emphasizes his detective skills and thirst for vengeance on the criminal underworld. Batman as a character is seen in a much darker light, striking blood-curdling fear into evildoers, always paranoid that he may be lurking in the shadows watching them. He’s significantly scarier here compared to many other renditions of the vigilante. The Bruce Wayne half of the character also fits the film’s darker theme. Contrasted to Christian Bale’s exaggerated rich playboy alias, Robert Pattinson’s Bruce is a recluse. Pattinson’s Wayne doesn’t galavant with women in helicopters and expensive restaurants. Instead, he locks himself away from the public. He lacks any social skills, sleeps throughout the day and becomes a grungy zombie of a person. Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” sets the perfect tone for this Batman, and the grunginess of the character is cohesive with the grunginess of Gotham City.
Although Pattinson performs exceptionally, it’s safe to say another superstar steals the show. Paul Dano may just be one of the best young actors of our time. He triumphs in “Prisoners” (2013), “There Will Be Blood” (2007), and just about everything else he’s in. Again, Dano reaches a level capable of terrifying audiences through his performance as Riddler. The character, based on the real-life zodiac killer, leaves cryptic clues and cyphers with the bodies of his victims. Each murder is planned out with extreme attention to detail, all fitting into one master puzzle.
Colin Farrell and John Turturro likewise delivered very real performances as The Penguin and Carmine Falcone. Farrell, unrecognizable, was able to offer comedy in his mannerisms without making the performance seem too comic and campy. His makeup was academy award worthy. Turturro was impressive in creating a realistic aging mafia don, Falcone, which contrasted to other depictions of the character. As an Italian-American I must say this performance of Falcone felt the most believable from what I’ve seen.
As for other characters all were performed well, however Andy Serkis’ Alfred deserved more screen time. He seemed underused, especially given his skills and relationship with Bruce’s late parents. Zoë Kravitz stood out as Selina Kyle / Catwoman, however the writers also could have given her more motivation. She is very compelling in the first and second acts of the film but appears overshadowed at the end. Kravitz still proves to be a fitting match for the role.
Another strong criticism of “The Batman” has to do with its lighting. Filming for darkness is understandable when achieving a moody atmosphere, however some scenes were simply too dark for the audience to know what was happening. This occurs much in the first act and isn’t as bad later on. However, the batmobile chase was also somewhat hard to distinguish. Too much focus was put on facial reaction during the car chase instead of focusing on the vehicles themselves. The darkness and rain also masked a lot of the car shots which was slightly disappointing. Again, this is only nitpicking. “The Batman '' offers several great action scenes with incredible fight choreography that are sure to please.
Pacing was also a small issue when analyzing the film. The first act perfectly sets up the thriller elements, however it avoids establishing any backstory for characters. Because of this, most of the backstory is crammed into the middle of the film. This drags on for some time but the scenes remain very well constructed. The death of Bruce’s parents is also omitted from the film but by making this choice Reeves reinforces that this is not an origin story. We already know what happens to Thomas and Martha Wayne. There’s no need to see it again.
In all, “The Batman” scores exceptionally high for this year and is definitely a must-watch film. It’s exciting to anticipate what more will come from this new universe.