The Batman (Review)
Once more a Batman film is upon us. Nothing wrong with that. I'm a fan of comic-based films in general and Batman in particular. And like most fans my likes and dislikes of this series have fluctuated liked the tide. The past installment courtesy of Christopher Nolan raised the bar not only for the Batman series but cinematic comic book franchises. In an attempt to meet that bar a studio would have to attempt something their instincts usually steer them against and that's risk, creative risk. Trying something new. But when the IP is Batman, the focus tends to be the bottom line of a revenue report. But this film seems to be created by both, a breath of creative freedom within the strains of familiarity. The final product accumulates all the feelings the whole series manifested through the decades within three hours.
The length of a film should be irrelevant especially if the film is good or at the very least, entertaining. "The Batman" runs close to three hours. It seems odd that executives don't notice a smaller running time adds more shows which equals more revenue. Who knows if streaming negates such economic laced thinking or if the trend among studios, thanks to the Avengers' series, is to give fans at least two and a half hours of viewing time so they can get their money's worth. Whatever the case the film might have been more impactful if it had been cut down by an hour.
With all this time on his hands, director Matt Reeves does his best to keep his audience's attention. It doesn't help that his script writers have given him so many plot points to corral. But wait, he wrote the script along with his co-writer, Peter Craig. To say they were ambitious with this script is an understatement. They begin strong with mysterious murders that are targeting the powerful of Gotham City. Each victim is left with a riddle (easy to figure out for Batman fans who the villain is) that will lead to the next. Thank goodness Mr. Reeves and Mr. Craig let the Batman figure them out for us. To make it an Agatha Christie style film where they present the clues to the audience to figure out would have added another burden to the story. So it's a relief to watch Batman get it so fast knowing I would be Sphinx fodder if I had to solve them. And just when I was feeling relieved we wouldn't have to dive into the origin of Batman in this film, a side story of how his parents were murdered stirs. There is a twist to the story but its weight bares down on the film just when it was sailing smoothly along. It also doesn't help with the pace that I thought it should have ended three times.
But Mr. Reeves does deserve credit for his direction. It is obvious that some thought went into his action sequences. His car chase, sequences which have been done since the dawn of cinema, felt fresh as did his fight scenes although some of them moved into the "too violent" category blurring the vision of a film that didn't know whether it wanted to be realistic or a comic book movie. Each scene Mr. Reeves was able to stir the emotions and helped his film movie forward even though he had a ton of unnecessary narrative obstacles in the way.
Every Batman movie, for good or bad, is judged on its Batman. Robert Pattinson is a good one. He's a brooder which is what Batman's detractors always come away with but Mr. Pattinson adds much needed depth along with the pain and vengeance part of the character. His Bruce Wayne is not perceived as a "good" billionaire by the city of Gotham with brings a welcomed change of pace from the previous movies. Mr. Pattinson's Batman is not the infallible caped crusader we've come to expect. either. This adds to the film's attempt to give us something familiarity while venturing outside a familiar zone. It all worked and he was a soothing anecdote to the plodding bits of story that could have been edited out.
Mr. Pattinson was also aided by a stellar cast starting with Zoe Kravitz. Ms. Kravitz brings a determined intellect to this Catwoman. She knows her strengths but she is also vulnerable, physically, at least, which adds an edge whenever she faces danger. Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard and Andy Serkis add their talents giving this film some acting heft. The firecracker of a performance in this film goes to Colin Farrell as the Penguin. What a great new direction he and the filmmakers devised for this character. Mr. Farrell plays him as an old gangster from New York and he lights up every scene he's in. Mr. Farrell is so unrecognizable that there is an excitement during his scenes that we're watching some new talent we have to be on the look out for. What a surprise to find out who it really is.
The Batman is recommended viewing in a theater not so much for the visuals, they're grandiose albeit dark, but for the sound. The sound and sound editing are what makes this thrilling. There is also a lot of good, with the acting leading the way. It does get bogged down in an overlong story and it didn't make up its mind whether to be a comic book or realistic movie leading to a couple of scenes that are too violent. But Mr. Reeves does enough to make it probably the most interesting film in the franchise.