Am I allowed to say how confusing it is that The Batman releases in 2022 when I have already been through several Batman variations? My favorite of which (off the top of my head) is Michael Keaton as Batman with that glorious Prince soundtrack. There was one with Val Kilmer. And of course, there’s special mention of Christian Bale as The Dark Knight, and wait – weren’t Ben Affleck and George Clooney part of the mix?
I certainly have a bit of naivety about the DC world or extended universe or whatever they are calling it. And, I have heard that Michael Keaton is coming back as Batman this year in both Batgirl and The Flash. I just wanted to toss that in as trivia knowledge that doesn’t really matter, because this film is not part of the DCEU. Apparently it stands alone, but has the same characters. I’m not trying to explain something I don’t understand, just stating what I’ve read.
The Batman stars Robert Pattinson and seems to take place just a couple of years after receiving his first bat signal. The premise is the same: millionaire orphan Bruce Wayne rises to hero status to serve justice to the people of the city of Gotham in the form of a masked crusader.
Visually, the film is very dark and wet. It creates an uncomfortable intensity that sets up the overall vibe through the darkness of the city streets. We remember the death of his parents as he hides out in his tower and in the shadows of Gotham. He’s depressed and moody, with a menacing emotional compass pointed at vengeance, and figuring out how his parents were involved. Interestingly, when he emerges from the dark corners, there are few Alfred-inspired technical devices and a lot of hand to hand combat. Batman actually does take hits and, notably – he never kills his opponent.
“Something in the Way”
One thing I noticed was that there is an unrelenting, haunting score in the background. Foreboding music that sets the tone with tension, disruption, and risk. Even beneath intimate dialogue, there is an intentional soundtrack with pinnacle messaging through the repetition of Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” song. There is only one scene I can think of that doesn’t have this resonant heartbeat, and instead we hear the lull of hospital machines ticking away. The sound engineering overall is impressive, and deserves a mindful listen.
The Riddler (Paul Dano) is introduced as a self-righteous vigilante who believes he is ridding Gotham of corruption. He invites Batman to pursue him through a series of riddles left behind with each of his victims. Of course, The Batman cracks the code with little effort. Meanwhile, The Riddler is creating an army of followers to continue his whistleblower-inspired masked justice.
Penguin (Colin Ferrell) is here and operating a private club for Gotham’s powerful elite including mob boss Falcone (John Turturro). The inevitability of Penguin’s rise to crime gets clearer as more city leaders are put to rest. And let’s not forget a prequel is coming to HBOMax.
“You have a lot of cats.”
We also meet Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz) at the club, a fierce and cunning distraction who partners up with Batman as she tries to find her missing roommate. She drives a motorcycle, has long, pointy nails, and a lot of cats. <wink, wink> Perfectly cast and brilliantly executed, I’m so hoping she comes back for more.
Overall, I think this is an exceptional example of true creative filmmaking from director Matt Reeves. He doesn’t waste time trying to over-explain or force fit a story we might already know too well. Rather, he impresses upon us a thumbprint of The Batman’s identity through psychology and experience within a brutal and tangible atmosphere. The connection with the Mayor’s son reflects a bridge between vulnerability and power. The Batman senses this juxtaposition within himself, and we are witness to the struggle.
I do miss the charming bachelor with fancy defensive devices and witty banter, but not much. And, I did snicker when he commented, “You have a lot of cats.”