The Batman

I wouldn’t say I bought the hype necessarily, but I was disappointed I didn’t like this movie more in the end. While it stands taller than most comic movies these days, I have my criticisms.

While the pacing made the film feel shorter than its runtime, it simultaneously felt slow in a way that I’m not looking forward to revisiting. This is reinforced by the fact that the mystery helps the viewer along through the three hours, and by the next viewing there will be no more of that. And if I can be very picky here, there wasn’t enough of it to begin with.

I love seeing the world’s greatest detective allowed to detect, but it won’t sit among the great media mysteries culture has to offer. Batman shows up somewhere, gets a riddle clue, immediately knows its answer, and then usually lucks his way into the information that allows him to apply said answer. It feels convenient, like an aid to the runtime rather than a genuine mystery. At no point did I wonder about the villain or his motivations or next moves. I didn’t care. I just watched the characters onscreen wonder and care.

It has the look and tenor of a film noir but none of the all important cynicism which defines the genre. It is an action movie masquerading as a crime mystery (and severely undercut by its PG-13 rating; the all important five year olds were in attendance and their parents’ money pocketed by Warners, but they were watching a movie too grim and violent, while I, meanwhile, am shortchanged of a movie violent and grim enough to suit the pulpy presentation and pretense). It is an adventure movie masquerading as a mystery. It is a movie with a hero who learns about hope masquerading as something more grim; in this way, Joker (the weaker of these two movies) is ironically more honest and true to some sort of bleak vision than The Batman can be allowed to be.

The casting runs over with inspired choices (Jeffery Wright as Gordon, John Turturro as Falcone, and Colin Farrell’s absolute scene thieving standout role as the Penguin deserve high praise), yet I didn’t get enough of what I wanted from many others.

Zoë Kravitz’s femme fatale Cat Woman never sat right with me, and I don’t know if it’s her or the character (broadly speaking) that made it hard for me to buy. She was written better than any Cat Woman before her, but it just didn’t click for me.

I love Andy Serkis in basically everything, but here I find he shares a common issue with Pattinson as Bruce Wayne: I don’t get nearly enough of him. There’s hardly more to say about it than that when discussing Serkis’s Alfred, but with Pattinson’s Wayne the issue is greater for obvious reasons: despite the legendary hot take that DC’s heroes are sometimes in disguise only when they are their public personas, to me, Bruce Wayne is still an important element of the Bruce-Batman being, and I felt like there was little to him beyond pouting and some occasional dramatic conversations with others. I want to better trace his experience living this dual life as he learns his character arc, but there just isn’t time for that. This movie is stuffed to a point of buttons threatening to pop off, and they couldn’t fill in these blanks for me without creating another Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

But there we have to give credit where credit is due. This movie is the anti-Justice League. It is the anti-Marvel Movie. This movie stands alone among its contemporaries (excluding Joker and to a certain extent Logan) for never forgetting that it is a real film first. It is shot beautifully, and thoughtfully. On the occasion when it remembers to include action—the car chase is what I’m thinking of here—it is done so well that criticism would be merely pedantic. This movie is polished to a level of shining quality on an almost molecular level, and it never feels like a cheap corporate cash-in.

It could have been that. It would’ve gotten away with it too. But Matt Reeves and all the skillful, passionate people involved made a real, good movie instead. But it is still a movie with enough compromises that I struggle to think of how long it will be before I am interested in watching it again. I’d watch the Keaton Batman again tonight. I’d revisit any of the Dark Knight trilogy again. They are shorter, more energetic, and don’t fully rely on an under-cooked element of mystery. They are easier sells as rewatches for this reason. So are even the very bad Batman movies.

I could recommend this to everybody. But I also expect sooner rather than later than somebody will agree with me: it was just enough, and I am in no rush to get a second helping.

This is a copy of the review on my Letterboxd profile. There, I gave it an 8/10 score.

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