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The Batman

“I’m vengeance.”

Okay, before you say this looks way too grim-dark, let me tell you that you’re right – it is very grim-dark. This is the darkest Batman we’ve ever had (save for a few comic runs). It is brutal, dripping with atmosphere and tension. The villains do not pull punches, and neither does this Batman who isn’t really a hero; he is shadow and vengeance personified.

Intrigued, or turned off? Well, let's start with the most important question: is it good? Yes, very much yes. In my humble opinion, this is perhaps the best Batman movie ever made, at least on par and perhaps surpassing The Dark Knight. This isn’t hyperbole or empty praise. This film works on every level, from the casting and performances to the cinematography and the thoughtful scripting and dialogue. This is the Batman I’ve been waiting basically my entire life to see. It captures the titular character and his world beautifully.

First off, the things that set him apart from some other Batman interpretations: he doesn’t kill, or use guns. He isn’t just a lip service detective; he frequently shows actual observation and deductive skills and we get to see him solve the puzzles left by the villain. He is obsessed with his mission, throwing himself into his role as Batman, but with an opening narration (a first for a Bat film), he explains that after two years of fighting he doesn’t think he is making a difference. Sure, the criminals are afraid of him, after committing a crime we see those criminals peering into the shadows wondering if the Bat is about to take them down. He describes that fear as a tool, but is it serving the greater goal of helping Gotham? That’s the question the movie tries to answer, and I honestly liked the answer they came up with.

Yet there is more here than just that exploration of heroism versus vengeance. This is a very good movie when looked at from almost every angle. It creates an entirely new Gotham, and man, is it glorious. I loved the hyper-stylized Gotham from Burton’s movies. I didn’t care much for the Gotham from the Nolan movies because it was just a city, nothing special about it. (Unless you consider Chicago special. Sorry, Chicagoans.) This new version is an almost perfect mix of gothic and real, where you really, really don’t want to live there, but it is such a cool place to look at.

This movie is filled with the kind of page perfect characters you would hope to see. Seriously, this has the best interpretation I have ever seen of the Penguin. Zoe Kravitz’s Catwoman in particular stands out as almost a second lead. The Riddler is just as terrifying (perhaps even more so) than the Joker, because the guy is seriously unhinged; a serial killer in the vein of the Zodiac killer, with a talent for creating elaborate kills designed with a riddle at the heart of them.

Jim Gordon is also possibly the best version of the character I’ve seen on film (no offense to Gary Oldman), played by a gruff and serious Jeffrey Wright who you believe is a good cop desperate enough with the state of his city to trust a man dressed up as a bat. Their relationship is the foundation of the film, as they work through the Riddler’s plan together. It is really a joy to watch this friendship throughout the film.

Last but certainly not least is Robert Pattinson as The Batman. He is in costume for eighty percent of the run time and is in practically every scene. He does more with his eyes and mouth than a majority of his fellow actors in that suit. He exudes this quiet rage, from his careful and slow walking speed to the way he speaks in this soft growl that only occasionally shows his true anger. Batman isn’t just the star of the movie, he is the driving force behind most of the action. He isn’t a passive character reacting to things; he is proactive, throwing himself into situations where only he can really make a difference.

Pattinson’s Bruce is still grieving over the death of his parents. Ten years on from that trauma he is still coming to grips with how it affected him. He is somber and barely emotive when he doesn’t have the mask on, as if he feels exposed.. What is really telling is that Bruce doesn’t think of himself as a hero, but he also doesn’t shy away from helping people when he can.

Framing everything is a stellar score and gorgeous cinematography that captures the darkness without ever losing the details. Each frame is practically a work of art, with sweeping vistas of the city to dark gloomy tunnels filled with graffiti and trash. Rain falls in sheets, and you can feel the drops hitting our masked vigilante as he stalks the shadows. As far as aesthetic and atmosphere goes, The Batman is closer in line with a Fincher film than a traditional comic book movie. The menace and tension looms over everything. The sound design is also impressive; when you first see the Batmobile, you can feel its power. It is actually kind of terrifying, and you can understand why a villain might be afraid of just that car, let alone the man behind the wheel.

Bits:

There are a number of direct homages to previous Batman movies.

There isn’t really an after credits sequence, so after three hours you don’t have to wait through the credits.

While a complete story, there are some character beats towards the end of the film that could be considered a set up for more. These are not cliffhangers in any way, more like questions that could be left to the imagination or resolved in a future sequel.

By every metric this was a great film, and while opinions may vary to what degree, if you like dark noir detective stories or comic accurate adaptations, this movie is for you.

4 out of 4 Versions of Batman

Samantha M. Quinn spends most of her time in front of a computer typing away at one thing or another; when she has free time, she enjoys pretty much anything science fiction or fantasy-related.

4 comments:

  1. It's nice to see some Batmania again after being SEVERELY let down by TDKR. I refuse to believe this is gonna be better than TDK but I'm still hyped for whatever's in store. I never cared about the playboy side of Bruce's life so I have no problem with it being excised, though most of my friends hate that creative decision. In some things I just absolutely hate any and all instances of levity. Quipping belongs on Buffy and the MCU if you ask me. Oh and I love that one rainy/grainy red poster for it... can't wait to see it.

    >>"There isn’t really an after credits sequence"
    GOOD

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  2. I really liked the "dark, noir detective story" and would've been happy to just keep it at that but it had to go more big action movie which was really disappointing. I left angry and wish I had walked out after a little over two hours when the main mystery appeared to have been solved. It would have been a mostly cohesive movie then.

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  3. One, it sounds like this film is going to work well for you.

    Topher, I've seen that criticism leveled at the film, and while I do see where you're coming from, I have to disagree. It was very subdued for a move this size all things considered. The end was also the culmination of Batman's character arc which kind of made the movie for me. His actions in those scenes define him going forward, illustrating his kindness and compassion instead of his brutality.

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  4. I hated this movie. It was so bland and was way too long. The set was too grim too dark and Batman was actually bland, and not well acted, although I'm not sure the actor was given a lot to work with. The woman who played Cat Woman was awful. Her costume made me laugh, in particular the face covering. If you could not see who she really was get glasses. I like the actor who played Alfred, but even Alfred was slow on the uptake. I will not post why, but it's obvious when you see it. Plus for Alfred to be a former military man it made no sense for------ to happen.

    I understand that this movie wasn't really made for a person like me. I would much rather they make a Batman based off of the animated series. An older more well seasoned likable Batman who does rough it up, but is still charming. Although to be real maybe no more Batman movies for the next 5-7 years. After all how many must they make? Same characters, same stakes same blah.

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