Saturday, September 17, 2022

Stubs - The Batman - Less Can Be More

The Batman (2022) Starring: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell. Directed by Matt Reeves. Screenplay by Written by Matt Reeves, Peter Craig. Based on Characters from DC. Produced by Dylan Clark, Matt Reeves. Run Time: 176 minutes. Color. USA. Superhero

Note: This review contains spoilers for The Batman.

Batman is perhaps the most popular character to come out of DC and one that Warner Bros. tries to use any way they can. There are numerous animated features with the character and now what seems to be the nth reboot of the character in feature films. While The Batman is not part of the DCEU, it does mark a new multiverse with Batman, sort of like with Spider-Man there is The Amazing Spider-Man and other storylines to draw from.

Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne.

This is a millennial take on Batman with Robert Pattinson playing a much younger version of the caped-crusader than we may be used to in films and on television. Here, Bruce Wayne is probably in his late twenties/early thirties and somewhat new to the vigilante persona.

For a superhero film, The Batman seems to have a more realistic, if that’s the right word for a film based on comic book series, take on the world. While Bruce has a fairly modern Batcave and some very high-tech devices, including his suit, the Batmobile and Batcycle look more like do-it-yourself projects that Bruce, no doubt along with Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis), has souped up. The homemade vibe carries over to Catwoman’s (Zoë Kravitz) costume. It’s a good thing she doesn’t try hard to hide her true identity because her “mask” doesn’t really cover her face.

Also, a bit different, we see Batman look vulnerable and even scared at times, which again adds to the realism. He is human after all and subject to the same fears we all have. Even though he professes not to be afraid to die, he doesn’t have a death wish either. What makes a hero is getting past those fears.

Bruce Wayne/Batman is usually a more complex character with him having to be caped crusader at night and an executive by day. While films are always balanced more towards the superhero side of the character, here it is more extreme with Batman being the persona almost 90 percent of the time. This version of Bruce Wayne seems more idealistic than past incarnations, and less interested in the business aspect of his life, though it provides the funds for his after-hours escapades. He’s sort of like a vigilante living on a trust fund; you don’t think about money because it’s always there.

Paul Dano plays a very dangerous and vengeful Edward Nashton/Ridder in The Batman.

While Bruce must come to terms with the past trespasses of his father, as the Batman, he must fight a more violent version of the Riddler, aka Edward Nashton (Paul Dano), than had been depicted in past films. In a populist move against big and corrupt city government, Riddler has taken it upon himself to kill all those he thinks have wronged him and lied to Gotham City, including Mayor Don Mitchell, Jr. (Rupert Penry-Jones), Police Commissioner Pete Savage (Alex Ferns) and District Attorney Gil Colson (Peter Sarsgaard). He even tries to kill Bruce Wayne to pay for his father’s sins, but instead only wounds Alfred. The murders, for the most part, are fairly grisly and somewhat over the top, but what would you expect from an insane sociopathic Batman villain? The film’s PG-13 rating keeps the gruesome and blood to a minimum, which proves the less is more credo. Still, this is not a film for the young and impressionable.

Everything in The Batman leads back to the Renewal project set up, which was funded by Thomas Wayne (Luke Roberts) during his own brief foray into politics nearly 20 years ago. But the money doesn’t go to help the city, but into the pockets of the politicians who by now are “running” the city, though as a front for Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), the city’s crime lord and the man who really runs Gotham. These are the people Riddler is after.

And by using social media, Riddler manages to create his own army of well-armed dissatisfied followers who willingly take up his fight when Riddler is finally arrested after assassinating Falcone. Riddler’s last post-arrest act sets up what’s remaining of the city’s leadership to be sitting ducks for these vengeance seekers.

The Batman (Robert Pattison) and Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz).

The acting is fairly good throughout, with Pattinson putting in a better than I expected performance. Kravitz puts in a strong one as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. Paul Dano seems to channel someone like James Hinckley in his role as the Riddler, someone who seems innocuous but is more than capable of being dangerous and deadly. Andy Serkis delivers an interesting take on Alfred Pennyworth and Colin Farrell practically disappears into the Penguin character. Jeffrey Wright is a good actor and makes the most he can with a rather reactionary James Gordon.

Colin Farrell as the Penguin.

What hurts the film is a rather plodding and joyless tempo. The film’s nearly three-hour runtime is a lot to take, especially when the film seems devoid of humor. The long runtime seems to fit with the DCEU films. This would have been a better film if it had a shorter run time by like a half hour.

There never seems to be a quiet moment ever in The Batman. The music modulates between themes written by Michael Giacchino and "Ave Maria" by Franz Schubert, both of which add to the unrelenting seriousness of the film. Again, the less is more idea would apply to the score as well. It is okay to have quiet every so often.

By now, Bruce Wayne’s backstory is a given and we’re not shown it, as past films have, though it is alluded to in this film. I’m okay with that, though there are other basic story points missing. The most glaring is the idea that Gotham City is at or below sea level as it is prominent in Riddler’s final defiant act, as he floods the city by blowing up parts of the seawall that we learn then circles the city; think New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. One has to wonder, if that’s the case, with all the rain during the film why Gotham doesn’t already resemble Venice during high tide.

While there is a lot to like about The Batman, there is too much of it. One has to hope that when they make the sequel, which you know is coming, that they might decide to up the tempo and maybe shorten the length. That said, I’m pretty sure if and when it gets made, the run time will only get longer. Again, less can be more.

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