You may have already read (I sure hope you did) the article Emma Loggins wrote about this film when it got a theatrical release earlier this year. If not, you can find it here.
Just like Emma, I too was skeptical of Robert Pattinson in the lead role of Bruce Wayne/Batman. Even though I have never seen any of the Twilight films, I just really couldn’t see him in the role.
To be fair, I think a lot of people thought this about Michael Keaton back in back in 1989, and he turned out to be perfect in the role. It was much the same with Pattinson. He turned out not only to be a strong performer, but he was a perfect fit for this incarnation. And just like Emma, I went in with very low expectations and came out really enjoying the film.
This film starts off in year two of Batman’s crimefighting career, thankfully saving us another original story (don’t get me wrong, Batman’s original is great, but we’ve seen it a few times at his point). He has an ally in Lieutenant Gordon on the Gotham City PD, but the rest of the police are openly hostile to him.
Batman discovers a massive network of corruption in the highest levels of Gotham City’s infrastructure (politics, police, etc.) and makes it his mission to clean up the city. While doing that, he must stop The Riddler, who has his own plans for cleaning up the corruption of Gotham that is both inline and at odds with Batman.
Along the way, he “teams up” with Selina Kyle/Catwoman (who challenges his black and white views on right and wrong). We are introduced to The Penguin, who is done in an amazingly fearless performance by Colin Farrell (he is unrecognizable grotesque in the role – not the handsome guy we’re used to seeing).
The Batman: What I Liked and Didn’t Like
The biggest win that I can point to in this film, for me at least, is that it really put the Batman as a detective aspect front and center. Most Batman films really focus on action and getting the bad guy and don’t spend enough time on the fact that he has superb detective skills. This film really dives into that. And we see him gathering clues to eventually solve something. It’s really refreshing. And I hope we see more of that in future films.
The casting is right on point. Pattinson does a great job in the lead role as sort of angsty, brooding Batman. He seems like the kind of person you could see donning a costume and going after people at night. Paul Dano is creepy in his role as The Riddler and makes him feel like a real person. As I mentioned before, Colin Farrell disappears into his role. Andy Serkis gives a solid performance as Alfred, and Zoe Kravitz makes the Catwoman a layered character that really feels understandable.
Finally, I think the strongest aspect of the film is its realism. This film tried in almost every way to make the Batman universe seem real. Batman himself is a solid fighter but not invincible. He has a few gadgets, but not a ton of items on the utility belt. The Batmobile is just a highly ungraded car, not a fantastical vehicle.
The villains are the same. The Riddler is a very realistic villain. In fact, he seems to be very obviously based on The Zodiac Killer. Something that seems somewhat unrealistic but really did happen and that’s probably what makes him scary. Catwoman has a dark history that makes her story feel palatable.
I must admit that the realism can also be a con. Yes, this movie does bring Batman into the real world. But, in a way that also takes it out of that comic book world. Superhero movies are admittedly an escape from reality, and you feel like they take you away to another place. Instead, it’s more like the story comes into the real world. It’s both good in the way it’s executed but I have mixed feelings about taking apart that comic book universe. It also, in my mind, makes it aimed more towards adults and not a film a lot of children should see or would enjoy.
The running time of 2 hours and 55 minutes is a bit much for me. While I do agree that I can’t imagine anything being cut nor does everything feel forced or shoehorned in, I just personally don’t have the attention span I used to have. I sort of felt this way with The Dark Knight as well (it had a 2 and a half hour running time) and I know a lot of people don’t and that’s great.
Just know going in that you’re in it for a long journey, though it is a satisfying journey.
This is a film that relies a lot on dark footage (it’s often nighttime and in a dark, gritty city). The 4K release does an amazing job making the blacks as deep and inky as possible without all the negative effects and loss of image. The facial details are quite good, but I did notice that up close facial details could be soft and slightly hazy. Batman’s stubble is often blurring and not sharply imaged, but I learned in the commentary that this was intentional.
The Batman comes with a Dolby Atmos track and that track is just audio perfection. It established a moody and atmospheric tone that just sets the stage for the rest of the movie. Deep bass is very common throughout, especially when Batman drives his Batmobile (which rumbles like a muscle car). You also hear very little detail; boards creaking as they are being walked upon or gravel when it’s stepped upon. All of these things come together for a wholly immersive audio experience and make the experience that much better. It’s one of the best tracks I’ve ever heard.
The release comes with a series of vignettes about the film that give a ton of insight into the choices made:
• Vengeance In The Making
• Vengeance Meets Justice
• The Batman: Genesis
• Becoming Catwoman
• Looking for Vengeance
• Anatomy of The Car Chase
• Anatomy of The Wingsuit
• A Transformation: The Penguin
• The Batmobile
• Unpacking The Icons
• Deleted Scenes with Director’s Commentary
Overall, this film set a goal of making the Batman story something that feels based in the real world and that goal was definitely achieved. It strips away a lot of the fantastical aspects of Batman and firmly set it in reality so it feels like this really could happen. That might throw some purists off and they might not find it enjoyable. But I think that overall it works.
The Batman is available May 24th from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment