Rea Reviews: “The Batman”

Original Artwork by Leona Moylan

[NO SPOILERS for The Batman]

It can be cruel, poetic, or blind. But when it’s denied, it’s your violence you may find.

His signature cowl coalescing with the shadows, his boots washed clean by the pouring rain, his footsteps echoing in the dark. The Batman steps onto the screen, in his newest cinematic adaptation, aptly titled The Batman. And while the reboots for the caped crusader are admittedly incessant, I assure you, The Batman is cinematically brilliant to the point of necessity. A cold and indifferent noir piece inundated with a voyeuristic quality, rather than a thrilling superhero romp. Robert Pattinson (Tenet, Twilight) plays a different Bruce Wayne than we are used to, a profoundly depressed man whose emotions are stilted at best, thanks to childhood trauma and decades of repression. And as the Batman, the fury he exhibits is far more vengeful than heroic. As hopeless as the city he attemps to aid, as dark as the night itself.

Said nights fit perfectly into The Batman‘s extremely overcast and gloomy visuals. The Batman‘s cinematography is a cut above your average superhero flick. Cinematographer Greig Fraser (Dune) creates a distinctively dingy ambience that embodies the fictional, crime-infested metropolis of Gotham. Fraser makes sure that the potentially problematic darkness of The Batman always has some degree of light, meticulously adjusting the set so every light source is realistically motivated by the action occuring on-screen. “I didn’t want any slashes of light coming from sources that you couldn’t explain,” he said in an interview with IndieWire. His utilization of color is also sublime. Fraser reflects the film’s disconsolate and iniquitous tone in the wet, auburn color palette he infuses each scene with. The Batman‘s aesthetic conscientiousness is one of its best qualities.

But it isn’t just the visuals of The Batman. The craft is, overall, phenomenal. Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) devises this complex, lived-in Gotham that faithfully manifests the comic-book source material. But without stripping it of its comic-book feel, Reeves also makes the metropolis as detailed and realistic as an actual municipality. And the ceaselessly impressive production design isn’t all. The costume design on the Batman is amazing, his ballistic bodysuit and acute “bat ears” making for one of the sleekest takes on the costume yet. Penguin’s phenomenal facial and bodily prosthetics transform actor Colin Farrell into an unrecognizable mobster. The stunning editing always enhances the scene exponentially. The score by Michael Giacchino is perfectly somber and gritty, and thanks to the accompanying sound design, footsteps and the ripping of tape have never been so ominous and visceral. These elements work together to create the quintessential edition of Gotham. And at its center, Matt Reeves places the Batman, a man simultaneously broken and dauntless. This is the premise of The Batman‘s genius.

The Batman of the comics is known as the world’s greatest detective, so Reeves took inspiration from detective thrillers by such as Se7en and Zodiac by placing the Batman in an intense investigation with a villain just as broken as he is – the Riddler. Paul Dano (PrisonersThere Will Be Blood) plays the character; an intelligent yet insane serial killer doing away with Gotham’s corrupt officials. His character’s climax is chilling, an emotionally haunting dialogue with Batman that truly curdles the blood. Batman is joined in his investigation by honed police investigator Jim Gordon, whose portrayal by Jeffrey Wright acts as rational-minded anchor, immersing the audience in The Batman‘s fantastical narrative. Gloriously exaggerated beacons of organized crime such as Colin Farrell’s Penguin and John Turturro’s Carmine Falcone would not be as enjoyable without Wright’s grounded presence. As for the mobsters themselves, Farrell’s performance embodies his extravagant makeup, while Turturro works magic in creating a deeply disgusting figure. This is also thanks to Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman, whose unexpected relationship with Falcone creates an evolved version of the noir genre femme fatale trope.

However, while well-developed thematically, Catwoman’s romance with the Batman is one of the film’s rare flaws – cold and sexual almost to the point of comedy, and adding nothing to the story. Reeves feels obligated to make the otherwise well-executed relationship a romantic one, perhaps to entice audiences that dislike his edgy, aesthetic take on the character. In a similar fashion, he writes the Riddler’s otherwise perfect character into an irritating clichė. Forty minutes before the film ends, he’s out of the picture, and we’re treated to a messy, action-packed finale that is nothing more than gratuitous comic-book movie routine. And yet, these pandering tropes meet head-on with their antithesis, my biggest flaw with The Batman: the running time. A true masterpiece shaves off all the fat – the excess material – but alas, The Batman does not. With its self-indulgent 2 hour and 56 minute runtime, Reeves equates a sullen, artistic vision with length. He keeps twenty minutes more material than Dune; an epic, gargantuan movie that editor Joe Walker streamlined as much as possible. Reeves and his editor William Hoy should have done the same, condensing the film another twenty minutes, for the sake of clarity and brevity in telling such an expansive tale. But regardless of its flaws, I loved The Batman. It is one of the grandest, most original pieces of cinema released in quite some time.

The Batman is a 4½ on the Rea-ting system. While falling just short of a masterpiece, it still joins the ranks of Dune as an inventive triumph.

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