The Unofficial Batman Movie Review (SPOILER FREE :-)
Riddle me this, what’s dark, dreary, and makes you have to pee?
With a runtime that is four minutes shy of three hours, The Batman feels longer than it needs to be. (See trailer below.)
The runtime of this movie has been met with some support from die-hard fans who suggest that this movie needed to be this long, but the die-hard fan within me tells me it was not necessary. Both Seven (David Fincher) and Chinatown (Roman Polanski) were cited by director Matt Reeves for being cinematic inspirations for this neo-noir detective film and both are slow-burns that never felt too slow with run times of two hours which begs me to ask, why did the Batman need an entire additional hour?
Regardless of its run-time, the movie has an intricate plot that seems obvious on the second watch, but nuanced enough that only eagle-eyed detective types could catch it in one sitting.
The acting in this movie actually felt really, really good with special praise for Batman, Riddler, Penguin, and Detective Gordon.
Robert Pattinson’s (or dare I say Battinson) Batman/Bruce Wayne is a ‘rough around the edges’ young Batman who hasn’t learnt to differentiate between his two egos, which for a ‘year two’ story makes perfect sense to me. Pattinson seems shy and awkward as Bruce Wayne as if this isn’t who he really is, but interestingly when he dons the cape and cowl some of that shyness is thinly concealed but still visible which I applaud Pattinson for portraying in a nuanced way.
Paul Dano’s ‘Zodiac Killer’ Riddler sends shivers up your spine when you first see him. Not seeing his face in the trailer makes it that much better when you watch it in the theatres and get into the mind of this character. He is everything I wanted for a big-screen Riddler and more particularly with the thematic dichotomy between him and Batman where the thesis of the movie can be found if you reflect on what justice is.
A large reason why you would hear laughs from the otherwise bleak movie was because of Colin Farrell’s Penguin or even Jeffrey Wright’s Commissioner Gordon. Farrell and Wright are both witty and charismatic. Wright’s portrayal of Gordon felt grounded and gave the audience a normal person to watch this film from and no semblance of Colin Farrell exists beneath that makeup. He is someone else entirely.
The plot of the movie seems complicated, and it should be. This is a Batman movie where his detective skills are put to the test and in such a realistic take on the Batman character, it feels like complexity is needed even if the audience won’t catch it. This is especially true when the entire plot happens in six days.
Although I have so much praise for this film particularly after watching it for a second time, I have to wonder, can I justify watching this movie twice just to be able to fully understand it?
Even after watching the film, a lot of my friends didn’t fully understand the Riddler’s plan or what was happening half the time and this seems to take them out of the immersion. All of this makes me wonder about art in cinema. Where do you draw the line between a complicated movie that explores important themes on justice and society for the modern-day and a Superhero blockbuster? Wherever that line is, The Batman walks on it.
But WAIT!!! There's MORE...
I did want to take a minute and address the ‘tokenization’ of this film. Some critics have complained that race swapping Catwoman and Gordon was a move done to appease the people while betraying comic book legacy. A while ago I may have agreed with this sentiment, but in this movie, I never once thought about it. This made me realize there really wasn’t a problem here. Kravitz felt exactly like how Catwoman should feel and Gordon was a really good cop in a bad city which is something we need more of in the modern world. The race of these characters felt irrelevant to me. If anything it made this movie feel like a modern Gotham and it didn’t ruin my emersion or make me think this was some form of propaganda.
Even Catwoman’s infamous line where she suggests stealing from rich white hedge fund types and that the rich white people in the city who died to the Riddler got what they deserved felt normal. If you think about it, this is a character whose own father is a bad rich white dude, and her love interest is also a rich white person (which she doesn’t really know yet, but this adds for a very interesting conversation in the future.)
Just please dear God, whatever you do, make Gordon keep that mustache. It is as important as Batman's cape and cowl, no I am not joking.