Fuck me this is a long film. It’s almost three hours long. But I’d spotted that before I watched it and so when the story came to what some people might assume was the ending, I expected it to carry on for a while longer. It’s pretty clear that Bruce Wayne isn’t the greatest of detectives when faced with The Riddler’s complex clues, so when the end of the investigation appears to arrive, if the answer to the viewer’s question “is that it?” had been “yes” then Christ it would have been a pretty flat ending. So thank God it’s a long film.
And you know, it never felt like a slow film. I am a real moaning git when it comes to slow pacing in films or (especially) TV series. No moans with this one. Of course I am a huge Batman fan – he’s probably my favourite comic book hero – so I am biased, but the fact that writer/director Matt Reeves took the time to build the tension and not cut corners with creating the grittiest darkest version of my beloved hero yet is to be applauded. No reprimands on that score from this corner of the internet.
Of course there are a few very minor gripes which I’ll clear out of the way now:
- First is that the action sequences are cursed by the modern fashion among editors to throw in a bazillion cuts. I think they think it helps sell the visceral staccato nature of the fisticuffs, but I’m a fan of old Hong Kong martial arts movies and Japanese Samurai films and I’d much rather see the action in long takes from a wide angle.
- Batman, who remember is just a buff rich guy in a bulletproof suit, comes a cropper in one scene where he gets hit hard by a car / the underside of a bridge. Steve Rodgers might just brush such an incident off, but he’s a super-soldier. Bruce Wayne is not. He’d be dead. Instead he picks himself up, dusts himself off and wanders off into the shadows with only his ego bruised.
- In another scene Bruce is trying to piece together The Riddler’s clues and Reeves decides he would do a ‘mood floor’ instead of a wall full of photos and perhaps bits of string – yes the ‘room full of crazy’ is a huge cliché, but to replace it with a guy spray painting words on the floor while the camera hovers overhead is just as dumb. It might look like a cell from a comic book, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Why not use Microsoft Notebook lol. There’s another ‘room full of crazy’ later in the film and I suppose he thought two would definitely be too much.
- Apart from the inclusion of one of my favourite Nirvana songs the soundtrack doesn’t have any particularly banging tracks or orchestral themes compared to previous movies, or even current Disney+ TV shows.
Phew, okay back to the good stuff. And there is much more good than bad in this film. First of all Robert Pattinson is great as moody Generation-Z caped crusader with charcoaled eyes and Zoe Kravitz is a good choice to appear alongside him as Catwoman. Kravitz doesn’t have the same level of the sexy je nais se quois as previous actors who have played the role, but it’s perhaps more realistic as a result. Pattinson has the chin and the brooding silence that is typical of Bruce Wayne, but also a level of vulnerability that other actors haven’t shown. It’s a good mix especially because this is Batman Year 2 – i.e. very early on in his fight to bring justice to Gotham and obeying the law more than he does as he gets older. Much as I enjoy watching him, Ben Affleck would not have fitted this story.
Also hats off to the special makeup effects team who managed to make me forget that Colin Farrell had ever been in Affleck’s other costumed caper Daredevil. I liked the film but Farrell’s portrayal of Bullseye is down there with Ryan Reynold’s spin as Green Lantern. It took me a long time to realise actually, just by the sound of his voice (and embarrassingly just after I’d seen him in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, alongside Barry Keoghan who has a bit part in The Batman) that Oz aka the Penguin was Farrell. What a great job creating the most realistic looking version of the Penguin I’ve ever seen.
Also thanks Reeves for not going through the rigmarole of showing us Wayne’s parents getting shot outside the movie theatre. There’s no real back-story for any of the characters apart from Selina Kyle (Catwoman) and even then we don’t learn why she’s so good at parkour or kicking ass, and I didn’t miss it. We’ve seen it all before, several times, probably as often as Peter Parker getting bit by that spider in fact.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly for me was the design aesthetic and look of the whole film. The thoughtful use of coloured light (mostly reds) and shadow is exactly what a Batman film needs. There’s real feeling of grime and menace to the city’s streets, alleyways and even the rooftops. The vehicle design is totally grounded in reality – no Tumbler here folks – and Batman’s famous gadgets are kept to a minimum. It all helps (gripe 2 aside) to make people think ‘this could actually happen’.
Sweet main image courtesy of Openverse image library.