Review: ‘The Batman’ Has More Heart Than Brains

By Collin Chesak, Current Staff

With “The Batman,” Matt Reeves delivers a brutal bat noir that is more emotionally potent than intellectually challenging. The movie seeks to be more of an elaborate epic than the intimate character drama of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Instead of giving him the arbitrary origin story, Reeves introduces Batman like a stoic western character, down a long hall out of the darkness.

Batman remains a mostly static figure in the film, and the Bruce Wayne side of the character is mostly engulfed by the Batman mission and the lust for vengeance which this film slowly disippates. Despite the minimalist approach to the character, Robert Pattinson masterfully conveys emotions and brings the world’s greatest detective to life mainly using his eyes, stature and voice. 

The film is mainly led by the actions of the Riddler who strings Batman, and a wonderfully whispery Lieutenant Jim Gordon played by the ever-reliable Jeffrey Wright, on a “Chinatown”-esque tour to expose Gotham’s corrupt politicans and justice department .The tour also serves the purpose of displaying Reeves’ take on Gotham City, a place of brightly lit skyscrapers built atop rundown concrete bridges that is always being drenched by rainfall. Highlights of this tour include run-ins with the Penguin, played with tremendous mobster bravado by an unrecognizable Colin Farrell and the later involvement of stoic organized crime leader Carmine Falcone, played to the film’s noir tone by John Turturro. 

Paul Dano plays the Riddler to be more deranged than uber-intelligent as Batman solves most of his riddles within seconds. However, the Riddler’s greater scheme remains unsolved until the end. The final stages of his plan only succeed because he eventually takes illogical steps to clean the “cesspool of a city,” revealing the unforeseen magnitude of his psychopathy. 

Zoë Kravitz and Robert Pattinson as Catwoman and Batman, in an official publicity still for “The Batman.”

The film also includes Catwoman as a modernized take on the femme fatale archetype. She is a nightclub employee who we soon learn to be a burglar. Zoë Kravitz plays Catwoman in an uber-sleek, composed manner that has chemistry with Pattinson’s stoic Batman.

Despite its use of noir conventions, “The Batman” is unsurprisingly an external film with raw physical intensity compared to the typical noir film which is defined more by subtext and mental anguish. This tunnel-vision-esque focus is reflected in Greg Fraiser’s cinematography, which is made up of perfectly framed action that only cuts to wider shots as a point of transition. The action sequences are shot in a picturesque manner in which the editing rarely disrupts your line of sight to the straightforward brutality of the fight choreography. 

The plot is rather predictable, but the movie creates excitement using a gradual upward incline of intensity rather than a roller coaster with a multitude of twists and turns. The surprises of the plot are within individual riddles and details, not the arc as a whole. 

The pacing is matched perfectly with Michael Giacchino’s musical score. Giacchino mixes dreary lulls with thudding motifs that repeat themselves at greater intensity upon subsequent appearances. 

The direct main plot would be perfect for delivering the simple purpose of discouraging revenge-fueled punishment and promoting protecting the vulnerable if the film also didn’t pair it with an excessive amount of set-up. 

“The Batman” director Matt Reeves speaking at the 2014 WonderCon convention. Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons.

Catwoman is an addition that was tied in well for the most part, but she could have been left out of the Falcone situation for a quicker lead-in to the climax where she still would have the same motivation and make the same choices. I think the movie had too much of the Catwoman romance which could have been hinted in a few shots naturally without the additional sequences that distract from the film’s main plot. 

The scenes in which Bruce and Alfred, who is played played aptly by Andy Serkis, suffer from similar faults. Reeves tries to create a more unsymbiotic dynamic between them. However, much of this dynamic seems cut out and the editing team chooses to leave in the scenes that are supposed to be cathartic for their relationship without any build-up. This dynamic would have worked better if it was used more sparingly.

The closing 15 minutes of the film which follow Batman’s final monologue are completely unnecessary. Teasing the Joker could have worked as a post-credit scene, but placing it immediately after the resolution lessens the potency of the climax. The film concludes its unnecessary epilogue with Batman taking a Bludhaven-bound Catwoman to city limits. 

Overall, the lesson in faceless heroism that Bruce Wayne and the audience receive is still impactful and entertaining. 

Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” is a promising first feature in a franchise that with a more refined script could have become something greater.

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