Friday, March 11, 2022

Film Review: “The Batman” Is Again Overshadowed by a Cat

The Batman (c) Warner Bros

Film:  The Batman
In Cinemas 

Premise: Two years into his young crime fighting (or as he likes to call it “VENGEANCE!!”) career, The Batman (emphasis on the “The”) faces his biggest mystery yet. People elected or hired to protect Gotham City are ending up gruesomely killed, and always with a greeting card for The Batman with a riddle (could the villain be the Hallmark Killer? No spoilers here). The only one who trusts The Batman (played with more growl than bite by Robert Pattinson) is Police Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright). His search for the killer leads to many suspects, including shady bar owner Oswald Cobblepot (Colin Farrell), best known as The Penguin (emphasis on the Jared Leto-style prosthetics, which should be a warning sign that handsome Hollywood Stars are taking jobs away from real Italian actors who could play offensive Italian stereotypes); mob boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro); amateur cat burglar Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), as well as a host of other seedy Gotham City types played by the likes of Peter Sarsgaard (whose real-life wife was a previous Batman damsel) and Paul Dano. Also making what amounts to a cameo appearance is Bruce Wayne (played with a throwback Edward Cullen emo veneer by Pattinson), the young, bang-challenged, orphan billionaire who has essentially been in hiding since his parents’ deaths with his trusty butler Alfred (Andy Serkis). 

My Take: I’m going to try my best to not spoil the major plot points here, but let’s just say, this iteration of The Batman is no Hercules Poirot. Like previous Batmen before him when dealing with a riddle-based villain, this The Batman is able to solve the puzzles presented but isn’t able to ever get one step ahead of the bad guy. This makes the three-hour movie a DC Comics version of “Se7en” with shades of “Zodiac.” It doesn’t make for a very compelling movie: an ineffective The Batman whose fallback position seems to be closer to “smash” things (like The Hulk) than solve things. Pattinson is more intriguing as Bruce Wayne, but we never find out why he has chosen to deal with life with an alter ego (or how he got his costume and cool gadgets). I admire director Matt Reeves’ different take on the younger, less experienced caped crusader, but keeping the tone of the movie so bleak is taxing, with no moment of real levity. This is reflected in Michael Giacchino’s otherwise excellent score, with his sober take on “Ave Maria” and a theme that’s too distractingly close to John Williams’ “Imperial March.” Thankfully, Reeves and Company seem to remember this is a comic-book movie, which is more than I can say about the overpraised “Joker” film. As a movie, “The Batman” is at the same time overwhelming and undercooked. But if you go in thinking you’re binging six half-hour episodes of Season One of “The Batman” series, you will be intrigued enough as I was to look forward to what will happen next season. 

The Batman (c) Warner Bros

VIP: Zoë Kravitz. Kravitz, who is usually the best thing in any project she’s a part of, steals the movie as Selina Kyle (like Michelle Pfeiffer before her). Her Selina is also a smarter crime solver than The Batman and surprises us every time she shows up. She is also vulnerable and perpetually pissed off, which is a cool combo for an antiheroine. Like most things in the movie, we don’t get that much backstory for Kyle, especially how she became such a badass fighter. I am still upset that her series “High Fidelity” was canceled on Hulu (please catch it if you haven’t seen it), but her big screen performances here and in the recent “Kimi” have been quite impressive and enjoyable.

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