For a couple of minutes, I want you to imagine being in the middle of a soaking, rainy night walking down the streets of the most sketchy, crime ridden and dangerous city that you can think of. You’re trying to get home from the bus stop or subway as quickly as possible because you know how rough the city can get after nightfall. You walk halfway past a dark alleyway and you stop for a second. In that second, you wonder what or who is residing in that darkened area. Your imagination wanders and then you become even more frightened at the prospect of being met with whatever you think is out there. You hear a loud clang, as if something metallic just fell to the ground. You start running like hell immediately afterwards, at least for a few more seconds until you get to a group of street lights and you’re back at some semblance of ease. Many people encounter similar situations on a regular basis due to being in crime-ridden areas of many American cities (which were made that way, largely, due to poverty). It is also a very similar fear amongst the citizens of the world’s most famous fictional cities – Gotham City. On the flipside, small-time thieves and gangs also have that exact same level of in their minds whenever a certain spotlight appears in the sky. Any dark corner they may find themselves near, they fear the sudden emergence of…
DC Comics’ favorite pointy-eared Caped Crusader returns to the big screen in the form of actor Robert Pattinson (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Tenet) in a new film just simply titled, well, The Batman. Alongside Pattinson, is a cast of all-stars that help breathe life and verisimilitude into what I think is the most realistic depiction of the Batman character, and his world, that I’ve ever seen.
The Batman is a story that takes place during Bruce Wayne’s second year of wearing the cape and cowl and being a vigilante in the mean, and sometimes frightening streets of Gotham City. We see a Batman that is still a bit rough around the edges, makes a few mistakes, and has absolutely no interest in doing ANYTHING as Bruce Wayne. He spends 90% of the entire movie in the costume. Both he, and Gotham City police Lieutenant James Gordon (played by Jeffrey Wright)are pulled into investigating the rise of a serial killer who is seemingly targeting Gotham’s elite while leaving riddles for Batman to solve at each murder scene. The closer this Dark Knight Detective to solving the mystery of who this killer is, the more dangerous the stakes become as he navigates his way through the city’s criminal underworld, which includes the likes of mob boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), his second in command (and owner of popular nightclub Iceberg Lounge) Oswald “Oz” Cobbelpot (played by a completely unrecognizable Colin Farrell) and a highly skilled thief named Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), whom Batman starts to develop a little bit of a fondness for. With everything going on around him, Batman is still willing to do nearly whatever it takes to bring him to justice, even if it may possibly end up costing him (and his alter-ego) his own sanity.
This film is the reason why I no longer ask a question I’ve been pondering nearly my entire adult life: “If Batman is said to be the world’s greatest detective, why doesn’t he ever do… you know, any detective work?”
When I read the news that writer/director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let me In, War For the Planet of the Apes) had decided to go the noir detective story route with this Batman film, my interest piqued a bit, despite the fact that i was getting a little fatigued of the character. After all, we’ve not been that far removed from Batfleck– ahem, Ben Affleck’s portrayal of him in the Zack Snyder DCEU movies. Turns out that not only does The Batman stick the landing with keeping the story focused on being mystery-solving heavy, but there are also elements of horror that are well-executed in this 3-hour long narrative. I mean after all, who would’ve thought The Riddler, of all of Batman’s rogues, would be presented in such a terrifying way.
On that note, I’ll briefly go over all of the performances.
Before we even touch on Robert Pattinson’s Batman/Bruce Wayne, I must say that I don’t think there’s ever been a supporting cast in a comic-book based film that’s been as well-assembled as this one. (except, maybe, Superman: The Movie). Through their great acting, they add much value to the narrative being very vital to the story that Matt Reeves is trying to tell. Turturro’s Carmine Falcone is so cool and collected, even in times when he’s visibly a little stressed. Colin Farrell’s “Oz”, aside from looking like a whole separate person from the actor, exuded the character’s humor, ambition and swagger. Zoe Kravitz as cat-burglar Selina Kyle– ahem- steals the show as an on-screen version of the character that probably has the most depth, being someone that is a career thief so she can not only stick it to the man, but also survive. Bonus points for her being someone that calls Batman out on his bullshit at times… right to his face. Jeffrey Wright is pretty solid as Gotham City’s one honest cop Jim Gordon. About the aforementioned Riddler, I’m certain Paul Dano channeled his inner Zodiac Killer (google that one) to completely nail this performance to the point where he may possibly scare the most disturbed of actual serial killers.
As far as Pattinson’s performance as the titular character and his alter-ego, this is probably the most realistic and believable performance I’ve seen yet. When his Batman steps out of a darkened alley to the surprise a bunch of gang members, or fighting off armed thugs in a pitch black hallway, or even chasing someone in his muscle-car Batmobile, this is the first Batman performance that literally creeped me out…and even scared me a little at times– which is a fraction of the fear that the crooks and gangsters feel whenever they get on the Dark Knight’s bad side. He spends very little time as Bruce Wayne, and when he is Bruce Wayne, he’s not the playboy that we’ve known the character to be in the past. This movie is all the better for it.
To sum everything up, The Batman is definitely the most realistic depiction of the character ever shown on film. Not only is this a perfect blend of a detective story and a horror film, it also has quite a bit to say about the state of the neighborhoods within many major cities, and the political corruption that affects the people in them, on top of being a study of what happens as an after affect of a vigilante disrupting the status quo. In a sea of comic-book based films that immerse themselves in far more fantastical elements, it’s good to have a film– especially a Batman film, that makes the idea of a costumed hero, and their adversaries, far more feasible.
…to be continued.
photo cred: Warner Bros./DC Comics.