'The Batman' Review
There have now been three big screen Batmen in my lifetime. Four if you count LEGO Batman (and let’s be honest, he’s the G.O.A.T.). Nearly 10 years after Christian Bale stepped down, and 4 1/2 years after Ben Affleck’s second stint in “Justice League”, it’s Robert Pattinson’s turn as “The Batman”.
Matt Reeves (who directed the last two “Planet of the Apes” films) makes his intentions clear right from the opening scene. This is an eerie, more subdued, and extremely darkly-lit Caped Crusader movie. Many first-half scenes are especially murky, making it challenging to see everything that’s going on.
There’s not much new here when it comes to the story. The exception is the key relationship in the film — between Batman and Lieutenant James Gordon (he’s not the commissioner yet). At times this feels like a buddy picture, with the duo even providing the movie’s few laughs. Jeffrey Wright’s scenes with Pattinson are well-written and executed. Pattinson (who’s in the batsuit about 70% of the time) brings a level of sadness and despair to the character we haven’t quite seen before. It’s a solid performance.
The best sequence in “The Batman” (topping anything Christopher Nolan did) is a skillfully shot car chase involving Batman and The Penguin. An unrecognizable Colin Farrell channels Robert De Niro. He looks like Jake LaMotta and talks like Vito Corleone, with a little Jack Byrnes (from the “Fockers” films) thrown in. The high speed pursuit is thrilling and 100% believable, but it’s only a small slice of a massive pie.
Zoe Kravitz is passable as Catwoman, but the material doesn’t give her any room to stretch. The Riddler is also in “The Batman”. In fact, he’s the main villain. Unfortunately, he’s also one of the film’s major weaknesses. After a jarring initial appearance, the development and execution of The Riddler character drops significantly. Many of his scenes come via cell phone and video screens. This just doesn’t work. Paul Dano has done some great work in his career, but his Riddler is one of my least favorite Batman foes. And it’s tough to have a great superhero movie without a great villain.
At 2 hours 55 minutes, “The Batman” absolutely feels dragged out. Various sections and subplots are given way too much time. But it’s the all-too familiar core aspects (the Wayne family secrets, Gotham City’s corrupt political system, Batman’s struggles to keep his true identity a secret) that prevent this effort from soaring. I realize you can’t make major changes to this iconic saga — but you’ve got to try to give us something new besides the actor inside the suit.
It’s not a spoiler to say this won’t be the last we see of “Pat-Bat”. Out of the gate — or rather, out of the cave — this is a watchable, but not incredibly original first installment. Here’s hoping next time we get a script and bad guy worthy of this new Dark Knight.