DC’s live action versions have been a mess for over a decade, and their animation side of things haven’t fared any better. DC for some reason gets this “one more chance” given to them by all audiences because of the sheer hope that the movies will somehow reach the high highs of emotional value of these beloved comic book characters.
So yet another Batman movie comes out and gets people’s hopes built up once again for the desire to see if they can pull off a new Batman series. Swapping out an older, more mature and broken down Ben Affleck Batman for a fresh faced much younger Bruce Wayne played by Robert Pattinson.
While some still refer to Pattinson as “that sparkly Vampire guy” that was a long time ago and he’s grown a lot as an actor. I personally haven’t seen much more of his stuff, but I really enjoyed him in The Lighthouse, so I was initially not put off by the announcement as I was by the Ben Affleck one. But after hearing some of the more weird things going on with this version of Batman I was skeptical but still intrigued by the movie.
Once the movie came out, I heard pretty universal “it’s not great but not the worst” reviews of it, which didn’t really excite me because it just sounded boring. But my curiosity did get the best of me, and on a night that I was just too exhausted to not want to play games, or work, I sat down and powered through the three hour re-re-reboot of Batman.
Surprisingly, I actually really enjoyed the movie… until a single scene which undid all of the intrigue of the whole movie. But I’ll get to that in a little bit. Robert Pattinson does a good job with what he’s given, but while the “my Batman doesn’t work out” did put me off, my bigger issue was that he just was too young looking. Like with Leonardo Decaprio, the younger baby face is just too hard to get passed as the intimidating hulking gruff version of Batman that has been portrayed for most of the series.
The Emo Bruce Wayne did look silly and off putting as well in the scenes he shows up in, but it’s such a small part of a much larger and longer movie that it’s almost barely noticeable. I do enjoy the duplicitous nature of Bruce Wayne and Batman. While not being explicitly deceptive, the two faces of the character shows that Batman has always been the true form of Bruce Wayne and Bruce himself is the cover, or alternate identity.
My favorite part was every moment shared by Batman and Jim Gordon together in the same scene. Having them be a buddy cop duo, working together while in the confines of a strained relationship was pure comic book come to life moments. Sure it wasn’t packed with action, but the comics actually rarely are. Most Batman comics are 70% dialog driven with several pages in one or two scenes of action. It stands out because it is usually displayed in full page spreads, but in reality, comics are mostly people talking to each other. Take that away and you get a couple cool looking pages with no substance.
Every interaction between Gordon and Batman feels real. Gordon calls him out several times “man, I don’t even know who you really are under there” which gives off a much more natural sounding conversation and familiarity between the two. Pushing this to be a younger Batman but not an origin story was perfect, as Batman’s already battled the Joker, and has a built up presence in Gotham, as shown by a montage of criminals giving a second thought as they peer into the abyss of shadows, hoping The Bat doesn’t show up. I really dug the whole portrayal and world building of Gotham and the citizens in it.
The main “Batman players” however,’made me find myself asking “why?” a lot. While the Penguin was interesting to see him, he was more of a two bit thug than the arch villain we all know. In the comics, Penguin is a intellectual and skirts the law being one of the bigger mob bosses, and this movie does show the beginnings of it, but without all the theatrics of the intellectual part of the character.
Catwoman is a weird one, as she does bring the romance side of Batman out, and he’s clearly attracted to her, but just showing her have a few dozen cats in her apartment and a single breaking and entering to steal back a passport doesn’t do justice to the incredible cat burglar the character is known for.
And we come to the Riddler, who was basically just a murderer who had a theme of riddles as clues to see if Batman can figure out his next move. It was much more Jigsaw from the Saw movies than anything else and really felt like it was doing one of Batman’s smartest enemies a huge disservice. The scene that broke the movie and really just soured the whole ending was the confession scene. Riddler gets caught, and now wants to show his hand to Batman, show how incredible he is, how much smarter he is than everyone else’s…. The build up that he has figured out the big secret of Bruce Wayne…
That confession scene is built up, the crescendo of music and emotion, the Riddler, on camera saying “Bruuuuucccceeee” over and over…
Only to be told “we didn’t get him” as the Riddler is delusional enough to think not only is his crusade to rid Gotham of it’s elected corrupt officials is nobel, but that Batman is his teammate, just pushed it off the edge of believability. The Riddler is supposed to be one of Batman’s smartest foes, and in most cases doesn’t even care that he’s Bruce Wayne. He needs someone to match or at least be close to the level of his intellect. This “Riddler” is just some dumb punk who is pissed off because his orphanage didn’t get money that was supposed to go to them, and instead it went to corrupt politicians. And at the top? The kid of a dude who died 20+ years ago who promised the money. It doesn’t make sense. Again, not only that, but the build up of Riddler making it seem like he know’s Batman’s identity, only to show that he knows nothing is on the level of the Mandarin reveal in Iron Man 3. Take a beloved and infamously hard to write villain and have a great build up, only to reveal them as a snivelling whinny child. Screaming “No it’s not fair!!!”. It really changed the entire feeling of the movie.
The rest of it basically turns into a boilerplate action comic book movie. The city floods, everyone gathers around for the minions to do the hard work of killing off everyone (which makes no sense, as the Riddler’s plan was to get the coruption out of Gotham, not to kill inocent civilians and turn others into murders). Batman saves the day and almost gets killed, only to also be saved by a returning Catwoman. It all feels very rushed and completely out of tone of the rest of the movie. Action Packed? Sure, but not needed and unwelcomed in my mind. The movie should have ended with the confession, and either a cliffhanger like “I know who you are…. Brrrruuuuuuccceeee”, but I honestly hate cliffhangers and no movie is guaranteed to get a sequel anymore and things can change overnight in Hollywood. Or at least let Riddler show he is smarter than Batman, has figured out his identity, and have the plot be to destroy Batman, only for Batman to foil his plan in the end. The pointless killing and destruction makes zero sense to me and really goes against the character’s main drive.
All in all, I really enjoyed the movie for what it was. While some prime character traits are betrayed, the movie still works in the modern reality of the movie’s universe. I’ve been saying it for years, they could easily work these movies, with all the different versions of the characters into a multiverse setting and everything would fit together. But there is no plan. Each movie is both stand alone and a different version of these characters, while at the same time pretending they are all connected and the same version of these characters we know and love. A bit of Elseworlds branding would do wonders for DC’s mess of a movie world.
Batman works when it’s trying to be Batman. The bulking stomp of his boots in the darkness, slowly but fully revealing Batman out of the shadows is downright terrifying, and the best part of the movie. Buddy cop duo Batman and Jim Gordon playing detectives, walking the thin line between the law and vigilante is exactly where they should lean the hardest into with Batman. The right and wrong of Justice is what Batman has been built on for the last 30+ years in modern comics, and that’s exactly what this movie should spend more time on.
But, I’m tired of the “dark and gritty” modern realistic Batman. I want capitol C Comic Book movies. Ground it in reality all you want, but bold the eccentric craziness of super heroes. Give me a Batman who is human, but in peak physical form, someone daunting who looks like the tiniest punch would break your skull. Where he flies with a stretched out cape and jumps off buildings because of the tech, not because he’s wearing a flying squirrel suit I can buy at an extreme sports store. A movie universe where regular people live, and murders run the streets, but with the hushed tones of “The Bat” on everyone’s lips. He’s part urban legend, but also friends with alien supermen and martians. These things can coexist, and that fine line between reality and camp isn’t as hard to find as DC thinks it is.