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The Caped Detective: a review of ‘The Batman’

It was a thrilling ride that kept me on my toes.

We’ve seen so many iterations of Batman from the whimsical reimagining of Tim Burton and Michael Keaton to Joel Schumacher’s campy run with Val Kilmer in ‘Batman Forever’ and George Clooney in ‘Batman and Robin.’ Christopher Nolan then changed the way we approached superhero movies with his grounded take on the character with Christian Bale, which gave us a defining Joker through Heath Ledger and then Ben Affleck put on the mantle in Zack Snyder’s ‘Justice League.’ And that’s not to mention the animated series, the animated movies, and the appearances on television shows.

So, honestly, what more can be said about the orphan who has taken to fighting crime wearing a suit fashioned like a bat after his billionaire parents were killed in the streets of the tough-as-nails city of Gotham?

Matt Reeves, a director whose work on the prequels to the ‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise is quite impressive, decides to venture into one of Batman’s original modes, which was that of a detective.

What Reeves manages to give us is a completely new and original cinematic imagining of Batman. No more origin story – what for? We all know it – but instead of the confident master of vigilante crime-fighting, we see Bruce Wayne, who has only been Batman for two years. He is not infallible. He gets hit. He makes mistakes. He is making things up as he goes along.

His suit is clunky and heavy, built to withstand punches, knife attacks, and even bullets. In fact, there’s a lo-fi quality to technology in this film (except for some very cool contact lenses that play an important part in the story) that makes this film feel almost like a period film for superhero movies. There’s not even a cellphone in sight.

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The Caped Detective: a review of ‘The Batman’
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

And with this setting, we are introduced to a broken Bruce Wayne, played with great sensitivity by Robert Pattinson, who also manages to shift to his Batman persona when he wears the mask. But even that shift is tenuous. After all, he’s new at this.

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The world is a neo-noir epic, complete with the protagonist’s introspective narration, a femme fatale in the form of Zoe Kravitz’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman, and a grimy, evil city and the monstrous side of human nature that exists there.

The Caped Detective: a review of ‘The Batman’
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

A lot of The Batman reminds me of David Fincher’s ‘Seven,’ where it is about solving a puzzle posed by Paul Dano’s Riddler. Murders are happening and it’s leading towards a great big reveal that positions this film not so much as a hero versus villain story but as a story about society’s deterioration.

Director Matt Reeves and co-scriptwriter Peter Craig do not shy away from the very contemporary discussion about Wayne’s ability to help people more with his money than as a caped crusader. That’s actually touched upon and handled with the character’s internal logic in place. While crime is perpetrated by the criminally insane, evil is found somewhere deeper and systemic.

It’s that aspect of ‘The Batman’ that feels so refreshing and invigorating. The focus is not on the extraordinary feats of Batman to stop an extraordinary crime but the realisation of what is really needed to combat corruption and social ills. 

So while the film is dark (both lighting-wise and tonally) and gritty, it also gives us fantastic imagery, some really good character work by Pattinson, Kravitz, Dano, and John Turturro as the mob boss Carmine Falcone, and a completely new approach to the character.

The Caped Detective: a review of ‘The Batman’
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

My only reservation is the big finale that felt much bigger than it needed to be. The last big action setup felt like it’s from a different film altogether. Throughout the film’s 176-minute runtime, it gives us good old fashion noir with a twist, introspective character development, and dynamic relationships, and then it ends with a large battle sequence that felt more like it belonged in a different movie. It appeared like it was put there to please any comic book movie fans, who may have felt that they didn’t get enough comic book action.

But that’s a matter of taste. All in all, it was a thrilling ride that kept me on my toes. Kravitz is phenomenal and her chemistry with Pattinson was electric. I didn’t even notice how much time had passed. 

In a world like ours that needs heroes, it’s good to have movies that give us an escapist fantasy at times just to feel light and good about ourselves. But it’s also good to have an alternative: superhero movies that show us that evil is not just one person with a skewed sense of the world. That the evil is systemic and that punching your way out will not get the job done.

My Rating:

5 stars - Don't Look Up review




The Batman will open in Philippine cinemas on Wednesday, March 2 (two days ahead of the US release date of March 4). Book your tickets here.

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The Batman
Action, Crime, Drama
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