About the time Batman & Robin came out, a friend and I were discussing what was wrong with these movies. He suggested that the movies need to follow the style of the comics more rather than relying on a bigger production, sets and emphasis on who was playing the villain. Batman, for the most part, is a detective as much as he is a vigilante.
While Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989 and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in 2008 are considered the two best adaptations, Matt Reeves’ The Batman released in March reminds me of that conversation we had almost 25 years ago. It presents Batman and his alter ego, Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) as more of a film noir style detective lurking in the shadows and given a voice-over narration similar to the comics. It works.
The Batman isn’t considered part of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) but comes off as more of an alternative universe version of the store. In this case, Batman is still relatively new to Gotham City having been busting criminals for about two years. He’s still considered a vigilante among the police and elite, despite having support from James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), a detective in the police department.
But this isn’t exactly an origin story which is why I’m glad Reeves and co-writer Peter Craig didn’t follow down that route. It’s been done before. We know Thomas and Martha Wayne, Bruce’s parents, were murdered outside a theater. This is referenced but it’s not shown.
The movie dives into its plot as Gotham City Mayor Don Mitchell Jr. (Rupert Penry-Jones) is murdered on Halloween night by The Riddler (Paul Dano) leaving clues that Batman and Gordon decipher along with the help of Bruce’s butler/partner/father figure Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis).
This leads Batman to the Iceberg Lounge, a nightclub operated by Oswald “Oz” Cobblepot (Colin Farrell), who’s also known as The Penguin for his facial scars and portly size. Oz is an associate of crime boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro). Batman also discovers Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz) at the club who helps sell drugs for Oz at the establishment where she works as a waitress.
But Selina is also hiding a secret as she commits cat burglaries around town. At the same time, The Riddler targets other key city and elected officials who are allegedly corrupt. All this is on the eve of an upcoming mayoral election whereas Mitchelle is being challenged by Bella Real (Jayme Lawson). But I don’t really want to tell much of the plot because it can’t really be explained without giving away much details. What I do like is how Reeves and the cast present a crime world that seems like it was lifted from the pages of DC Comics.
I wouldn’t really call Oz the villain, but he is antagonistic. The way they handle his character is similar to the way it’s been in recent comics where The Penguin is more of a corrupt character moving away with the old-fasioned style. As far as I know The Riddler isn’t known for his murderous ways, but when we see his alter ego, Edward Nashton, he comes off more as a mentally unstable person who was inspired by Batman’s vigilantism but takes it a step further. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but I think this is a nice twist on the character.
Reeves is able to give us a thrilling superhero movie to rival any of the MCU movies. Originally intended as part of the DCEU with Ben Affleck reprising his role, it was taken down a different path when Affleck walked away. While he presented an older version of the Caped Crusader, Pattinson works better as a younger version, even though he’s not that much younger than Michael Keaton when he done the cowl and cape in 1989. He’s actually older than Christian Bale when he did Batman Begins.
But Pattinson thankfully has put the Twilight movies past him and shown himself to be a very good actor. He plays Bruce and Batman as a man who is still coming to terms with the fact that his father might have been corrupt and it might have gotten him killed. An interaction between Bruce and Falcone hints that Thomas, who was a doctor, worked as a “mob doctor.”
My only complaint with this movie is they don’t utilize Serkis too much as Alfred. Not to give much away, but Alfred’s not in the movie as much as he has been in previous versions. But it does give Bruce/Batman some dimension that he might go as far as the Riddler in fighting crime. Batman has a “no kill” mentality to his crime fighting, but how far will we go if we’re pushed.
The Batman‘s financial and critical success so far will probably lead to sequels and the ending hints that The Penguin might have more of a role in them. It’s been announced he will be in a spin-off series. Reeves has said he wants to do a trilogy. Time will tell if it will be on par with Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.
What do you think? Please comment.