Seriously, how many more versions of this guy do we need? Between 2012 and today, we’ve actually seen five different takes on the Batman universe! That includes Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, the DCEU’s Batfleck, Lego Batman, Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker, and now we have The Batman. I do admire these major blockbuster filmmakers trying to give different unique spins on the ancient character to better fit the times, but we already passed the point that says, “enough is enough!”
With the exception of most of the actors who played the Joker, the Batman universe has never been known for having particularly great acting, and this new addition in no way will stand out from the pack. The bad acting includes Colin Farrell hamming it up in that Penguin makeup, which even then isn’t as bad as the female actors, all of which are just the worst—particularly Zoë Kravitz and this actress playing her friend who speaks in an exaggerated foreign accent. There’s so much more focus on the camera tricks than the quality of the acting and nowhere is that more evident than in Robert Pattinson as the Batman, who doesn’t look too comfortable moving around in his bat suit. When not wearing that stupid costume, Robert Pattinson pulls out a reason to go shirtless in a scene for no reason other than to remind you of the type of movie you’re watching: The kind that isn’t about telling a story but about fanbase pandering. If there was a focus on story, then there wouldn’t be such miraculous plot conveniences that have been seen in every action movie ever, such as a bad guy running out of bullets at just the right moment, or a conveniently placed ramp thrown in for Batman to escape from an explosion in the nick of time.
Though to be fair, it is a nice character moment when Bruce Wayne addresses how he can’t save everyone, and it’s keen to see how the bad guys play that weakness of his to their advantage, but there’s no actual depth to his character beyond him referring to himself as “vengeance” and “the shadows.” Well, at least he has more depth than what Commissioner Gordon gets, which is none.
But I understand, most audiences only go to these types of movies for the cool factor, and gladly, it delivers in some of those respects. I think a lot of hardcore Batman fans will love the way the chilling sound design mixes Ave Maria into the musical score, especially in a scene where a sniper looks into one’s living room; it’s such a fine contrast between death and beauty that plays a crucial role in the entire movie. Then there’s the Riddler, who has his disturbing doses that are nearly as strong as what Heath Ledger did with the Joker; he wraps a victim’s entire head in duct tape one minute and sends someone a literal “thumb” drive the next. Then again, since this guy is now behind a mask and glasses while he overacts on a phone camera for most of the movie, you never know him as a multidimensional character. So he’s not as memorable as you would hope for.
Yet the action is some of the best you’ll ever see in a comic book movie. There’s such a powerful buildup to Batman’s intro that sets the tone for the adrenaline-heavy action scenes, which are full of shadows to craft the shape of each stunt actor. The overwhelming inky blackness genuinely improves the intensity of every fight scene, especially with the use of flames in a club fistfight, and when gunfire is used to create what appears to be a strobe light effect. The power to that is really all in the set designs—Wayne’s mansion is big and fancy, yet grim and colorless, to match how he views himself in that present moment. Then out in Gotham City, the streets intentionally look like Times Square as the streets are riddled with a creepy Halloween scene. The costumes are designed by the master of European period dramas Jacqueline Durran, and she now proves her versatility in her craft. It’s creepy to see everyone on the streets with their scary costumes, which opens up the opportunities for lots of burglaries.
If the direction, script, and acting were all done with the same amount of energy as the stunt choreography, then this movie would have truly become something special. However, a progressive Batman movie is apparently too much to ask for. You still get a scene where pervy Bruce spies on Selena Kyle as she undresses, and he ultimately still gets the girl for no apparent reason other than fan service. The technical components also can’t quite achieve genuine greatness due to the poor special effects, between the CGI bats and his flying squirrel cape (yes, you read that right). So as per the expected results of a well-received superhero movie, it’s one step forward, two steps backward.
Yeah, I get it, Batman is cool and angsty, he’s someone every boy and grown man wants to be like, but when that ideal vision of manhood today is virtually the same as it was back in 1989, clearly there’s a problem. I’m not denying that there’s passion put into The Batman, I’m not denying that Matt Reeves had a legitimate deeper reason for why he wanted to give his take on how the character should fit our times, but that passion went into the wrong places. Maybe if they started from the ground up and prioritized telling a good story that made sense, then there would have been a better reason for this reboot to exist, and to come out as soon as it did?
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!