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Bruce Wayne riddled with anger issues in terrific "The Batman"

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Posted at 10:06 AM, Feb 28, 2022

This review contains mild spoilers for The Batman. The writer recommends seeing it with as little knowledge as possible but doesn’t believe this article will necessarily ruin the experience.  

Though I enjoyed and admired Christopher Nolan’s “gritty” Dark Knight trilogy like many others, I never really felt like it would be all that bad to live in Gotham City. I mean, sure, there are bad parts of town. But doesn’t every city have stretches that could use some TLC? Clearly the Joker was a problem and the Bane thing got really out of hand with the whole police force being trapped underground and all, but I could see myself going to a Gotham Rogues game in the between times. Maybe grab a pizza with friends after.  

Let me tell you something, I want no part of living in the Gotham City that director Matt Reeves has constructed in The Batman.  

Designed to look something between the Times Square of Taxi Driver and the nameless city in Seven, this Gotham feels irredeemable, massive, and mean. If it isn’t raining, it’s about to start soon. One wonders if the local news team that’s perennially breaking the latest tragedy ever has time to leave the set. It’s not gloom, it’s doom. It’s no wonder this city produced a Batman, or any number of psychopaths that resemble him in rage if not in restraint.  

Did I mention it’s tremendous? It is. The Batman is a visceral, three-hour long, plot-driven detective movie punctuated by high-flying action and one of the best car-chase sequences in a long while. Keep in mind I said detective story, not a mystery or a whodunit. Anyone who’s seen the trailer knows who did it. The excitement is driven less by determining who the next victim will be than by hanging out with Batman as he figures it all out.  

Oh, and Bats DOES have some things to figure out. Set in the second year of Batman’s War on Crime, the Caped Crusader has little in mind for an end game. To start, his foes are mostly small fries. A mugger here, a convenience store robber there. He actively admits he’s not sure he can beat Gotham City into submission, but viewers will have to acknowledge it is a lot of fun to see him try.  

It’s also a treat to watch Robert Pattinson in the role. Though Batman is early in his crime-fighting career, Pattinson steps into the suit (and baggy black t-shirt) fully formed. He’s in nearly every scene of the movie, most of the time in costume. As Batman, he is all swagger and control. As Bruce Wayne, he appears almost sickly and barely comfortable in his own skin. He speaks to Alfred (played with necessary calm by a somewhat underutilized Andy Serkis), the way you talk to a parent when you know they just want the best for you, but you’re not willing to hear it. You imagine he spent his young adult years in some dark places.  

Batman is only as good as his rogues’ gallery, and he’s got a good one here. Paul Dano effectively gets his creep on as the Riddler. Zoe Kravitz is essentially the second lead of the movie as Selina Kyle and we’re all the better for it. Perhaps most importantly, my beloved Colin Farrell dons 15 pounds of make-up and an over-the-top Robert De Niro impression to play Penguin. I could have used more from the great Jeffrey Wright, whose Jim Gordon mostly exists to state the obvious and fill the space around Batman’s silence, but really, A+ stuff, guys.  

The cinematography by Greig Fraser is enough reason to see this movie on the largest screen possible. Same goes for the score by Michael Giacchino. But the person we need to spend the most time talking about here is Reeves. He’s proven to be a highly competent and intellectually minded genre director in the past, and this story has clearly been living in his head for many years.

That it’s a story about national anger toward wealth and institutions proves especially apt. Bruce Wayne walks freely, if not confidently, in both of those worlds. He can afford not to worry about money because he has it. It’s not a surprise that he takes a somewhat cavalier approach to low-level criminals and the world they inhabit at times. For someone of his stature, it would be a surprise if he didn’t.  

This isn’t exactly high-level psychology, but in the current landscape of mainstream movies it’s awfully nice to see the Dark Knight get to be a little dark. If he’s sexless, like so many other modern superheroes, it’s because intimacy is not something that comes easily to a man who gets his kicks by dressing up in black to punch people.

Marvel wants you to believe you could hang out with the Avengers. Any attracted suitor watching The Batman might more realistically stare up at our handsome vigilante and think, “I can fix him.”  

Two years on the streets of Gotham, this Batman is already more than capable in a fight. Bruce Wayne, however, has some things to work on. With Reeves and Pattinson at the helm, he’s just getting started.  

"The Batman" premieres on March 4.

Jon Ewing is an executive producer at Denver7 who watches too many movies in his free time. He would not pretend to be a real critic, but instead someone who is occasionally allowed to see something like The Batman in a press screening and then write about it enthusiastically. Like actual critics, though, he does not care if you do not share his opinion.