Memorable and bold: “The Batman”

David Eckstein-Schoemann, Reporter

Warner Bros. starts off the new year with a reimagining of one of its biggest heroes, Batman! This is a character who has had the most portrayals in anything I have ever seen. Whether it’d be comics, games, TV, and especially movies, this is a character everyone is familiar with. Unlike most reboots that have people rolling their eyes uninterested, Batman is one of those properties that always has people talking about it, whether they’re excited about it or not. On top of being one of DC’s most popular characters and biggest moneymakers, Batman always gains traction with audiences regardless of how many times the character is recast or changed. How does this version stack up? Let’s look at the story.

In this universe, Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) is in his second year of crime-fighting while dealing with the trauma of the death of his parents when he was a child. By day he is a recluse billionaire, but by night he goes into the night as Batman dealing harsh beatings to the criminals that cross his path. His crusade against crime is tested when a new villain called “The Riddler” (Paul Dano) comes onto the scene targeting elite Gotham citizens to expose the city’s corruption. Especially one that connects Bruce’s family to the investigation. Along the way, Batman is aided by James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) of the Gotham City Police Department, and cat burglar Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz) as they deal with other threats such as “The Penguin” (Colin Farrel) and Carmine Falcone (John Turturro). Through deciphering riddles and unmasking clues, we see this version of Batman come into his own as Gotham City’s protector.

Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

When I first saw the trailers for this I was worried that it would be too similar to Christopher Nolan’s Batman from years ago. While I greatly enjoyed that series, I was looking for something that would do something different with the character. Having seen the movie, I am grateful to say that this film gave that to me. If you are looking for a Batman movie that bathes in its roots as a noir detective story, then you got it here. While it does take place in Batman’s early days, it is smart enough not to repeat the same tropes we’ve seen over and over from previous versions. For one, it doesn’t show Bruce’s parents getting shot, or delve into the backstories of all these characters. The film makes clear that it is already aware that most people know the story.

This movie plays out like a pulp/detective graphic novel with some horror elements sewn throughout. This makes sense as Batman did come from DC which stands for “Detective Comics”. Though I should also make clear that while it is a detective story, it is not a mystery as the focus is not on who the villain is but more on what the villain’s goal and motivations are. 

This is basically a narrative where you see the main characters come across clues that help them connect the dots and see the big picture of what’s going on. This aspect of the movie was extremely well put together as Matt Reeves directed these scenes so meticulously, and with so much craft that people can read into the situations and feel like they are a part of solving this case. You can easily see elements of classic stories such as “Year One”, “The Long Halloween”, and “Ego” playing major roles in this film. This is a type of story I have been waiting to see in a Batman movie, and I am so glad this followed through on that. 

Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The world that is established here is also great. This has got to be one of my top three favorite Gotham City’s I’ve seen in live-action. While it looks like a real city you can see yourself living in, it’s stylized with these gothic buildings that are covered with signs that are all cluttered together. It creates an atmosphere that you can see existing, while still feeling like you’re reading a comic book. To me, this city looks like a cross between both Christopher Nolan’s and Tim Burton’s Gotham City. While it is more real like Nolan’s world, it’s still stylized and creative like Burton’s. It is definitely not afraid to be a comic book movie while still having a serious edge to it.

The filmmaking aspect is also top-notch as it has a real “Alfred Hitchcock” feel to how these scenes are established. The best example I can think of is in the beginning you have camera shots that take their time in visually showing audiences the setup of the story. My favorite parts include shots where you see the crime and corruption that is happening in this city from criminals’ points of view. So when people see the Bat-signal light up the sky, the camera pans to shots of dark alleys or street corners making the viewer question whether or not Batman is there. Buildup such as this is so effective as it makes you feel like you are in this world, as you understand the conflict of the story as well as the brooding of the main character. 

The music by Michael Giacchino is also phenomenal with how it builds up from a slow base to this loud orchestra that makes you feel the suspense taking place in these scenes. It’s full of instantly memorable themes that convey the characters’ sense of dread, horror, and hope throughout the film.

Robert Pattinson is going to be a major standout in this movie as he plays the character incredibly well. I know people have made a lot of jokes about the actors in the “Twilight” series. It’s already been a decade since those films came out, and I am glad to see that a lot of them have moved on to give strong performances in their careers, and Pattinson is no exception. With movies like “Good Time”, “The Lost City of Z”, and “The Lighthouse” being proof of this. While I had some doubts when I heard he was cast, I didn’t rage online like a lot of fanboys out there. It is practically common when every time a major actor is cast as Batman, people freak out despite not seeing the film or performance. We did this with Michael Keaton, we did this with Ben Affleck, and now we’re doing this with Robert Pattinson. I’m the type of person who wants to see the performance before making my judgment, as there are plenty of underdog actors who have surpassed people’s expectations in the past.

I was surprised at how well he acted as Batman. He’s got the voice and attitude down. The way he carries himself through these scenes is fantastic, and he is also given some pretty cool action throughout the film. What I love about his Batman is how he dives more into the detective aspect of the character. He even has a voice-over narration where he details his thoughts to the audience like you’re reading the character’s thoughts in a comic panel. 

His Bruce Wayne is also really good, even though this side of him isn’t given as much attention as he’s in the costume throughout the majority of the film. This may seem strange as most directors tend to show more focus on the actual character over their alter ego. But I feel this works here since the movie is meant to show Bruce’s development as Batman. I’m sure this character is going to continue to grow and evolve as these films progress. But as far as first starts go, this was an outstanding first outing in the cape and cowl.

The rest of the cast is also great, as this film got some fantastic actors to play these roles. Zoë Kravitz is a lot of fun as Catwoman as she brings so much to the story with her chemistry with Batman. I like how these two work off each other despite their different methods and morals. Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth and Jeffrey Wright as James Gordon is also great, as they have this sense of grit to them that fits perfectly with the story and tone. The dialogue they share with Bruce in and out of costume is also effective as you feel like you are watching a crime thriller. Even actors such as John Turturro as Carmine Falcone won me over with how they affect the overall story.

Colin Ferrel as The Penguin is another standout as he is having the time of his life every time he is on screen. While he is not the main villain, he gets a good amount of screentime here. He is everything you would want out of a performance like this. He’s essentially a combination of Al Pacino and Robert de Niro, covered in some of the best makeup I’ve seen on screen. 

Paul Dano as the Riddler was effective as the main villain. His demeanor as well as the means to how he carries out his plans make him a legitimately creepy antagonist. He has an eloquent vocabulary but is still prone to bizarre outbursts. He’s demented in every sense of the word, but he also has a dark sense of humor. Since this is a detective story, it makes sense to have a character like the Riddler be someone for Batman to go up against. 

The film has an amazing cast that works well off of one another, with each one having an effect on one another making this world feel more like a community than in previous versions. To some people, it may feel like there are too many characters that the movie is trying to squeeze in. But it works here because a lot of them are already established. 

Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The filmmaking elements and cast are all excellent and elevate the film to great heights. Any critiques I have are purely minor, but they are elements I wished were done better. For one, some of the costume designs could have gone through a few more changes. Most notably, the Riddler mask which I did not like. The reason is that it covers his entire face, which makes it hard to see the actor emote. I understand that they were playing this character as secretive along the lines of the real-life “Zodiac Killer” which ties in perfectly with a character like the Riddler. But I do believe that he should have been showing his face, as when you do see his actor’s face you can easily see this as a creepy Riddler. It would be like if characters such as the Joker wore a mask most of the movie. It does a disservice because people want to see the actor fully portray the character. 

The Batman cowl and Catwoman mask could have also used some work. I understand that these characters are still in their early stages. But I wish they could have gotten better masks as you can easily see these characters wearing ones from the comics that would fit perfectly in this world. With that said, they didn’t distract me from their performances despite how awkward they may look sometimes. This is surprising because their suits, Batman’s especially, are really cool. It essentially looks like armor that he can easily move, fight, and take off whenever he needs to. It is a running joke with Batman suits in movies, where people question how anyone can fight in them. But here I can easily see someone doing these elaborate moves while wearing this suit.

Courtesy of David Eckstein-Schoemann.
Courtesy of David Eckstein-Schoemann.

The one common complaint I have heard from people is that the running time is too long. Despite the movie running at 176 minutes, I did not feel the running time until the climax. This adds up because the climax is the only story element that could have been improved more or cut down. This in no way detracts from the film as the climax itself is not bad by any means. But I feel it was introduced into the story last minute and could have been built up a lot more throughout the movie. There is also this commentary that they felt the need to include here and fully explain what the film’s message is about. Which I felt was unnecessary because, with DC Comics characters like Batman, a lot of the commentary is self-explanatory. I understand why people do it with Batman as he is a symbol and icon of our values in what we see as heroes. But when it feels like the message is being spelled out to you, it doesn’t feel as effective. This is by no means awful as a lot of the film’s messages hit the mark, I just wish this aspect could have been shown to the audience rather than outright explained.

With that said, I was not feeling the length because the performances were so good, and the world was so stylized. At its core, it is still a hardcore pulp/detective movie with aspects of action and horror. I feel like all these elements work so well with Batman because he does have such a rich history in these different genres.

Courtesy of David Eckstein-Schoemann.
Courtesy of David Eckstein-Schoemann.

Batman is a character who has gone through multiple tones, changes, and incarnations over the years. Not just in films, but in the overall media in general. It’s still early to see how this version is going to rank for a lot of people as each person has an actor/portrayal that they’re going to lean more towards. The way I see it, it’s like classic stories such as “Alice in Wonderland” or “A Christmas Carol.” Stories that have been told and redone numerous times over the past few centuries. While some versions don’t match up to the source material, it’s still interesting to see the different ideas and concepts that each creator brings with their own interpretation. Whether it’d be making updates to match with the times or giving more attention to certain elements, the number of ways these stories can be retold is a testament to how timeless they are. You can argue that the same viewpoint also applies to characters like Batman who have existed for almost a hundred years and have a history of going through changes that reflect the times and audiences they have gone through.  

Batman’s live-action history alone is proof of this. The Adam West show was a reflection of the goofiness of the 60’s. The Burton films were a byproduct of the dark tone of the 80’s/90’s. The Schumacher films were a reaction from the studio who wanted to appeal to audiences by being campier and kid-friendly. The Nolan films were a complete departure from the campiness of the previous films, taking a more grounded and cinematic approach. Then we got the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) movies that continued the tough/gritty path that the character is known for. Now we have this version which seems to be taking a deep dive into what makes Batman who he is while still adding its own spin. 

Every version stands out in its own way. A lot of them are dark, while others are light. Many of them have a strict no-kill rule, while some of them don’t. No matter how you look at it, Batman is always going to be an interesting topic to discuss with people. Whether you love or hate certain versions, people feel a strong connection to them because each one has aspects that they identify with. That’s how good a character Batman is. 

Overall, this movie is an excellent take on the character. While there are elements that could have been improved, I feel the people behind it gave us a fantastic film. The performances are phenomenal, the style is amazing, and it makes you excited for what’s to come in the future. This seems to be the case as there are plenty of story elements and characters that are going to grow and evolve as this series continues. I’ve been reading and watching these characters for as long as I can remember, and I can’t wait to see what comes next with this world. It’s memorable, bold, and inspired just like the caped crusader.

4.5 spinnaker sails

Spinnaker rates this movie 4.5 out of 5 Spinnaker Sails.


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