Riddle me this, 3.5 readers.
What’s only going to be read by 3.5 readers and full of SPOILERS?
(SERIOUSLY, SPOILERS ABOUND)
This isn’t the worst Batman film ever made. I doubt the late 1990s’ Batman and Robin, what with its bat nipple suit on George Clooney, will ever be unseated from that distinction.
It’s far from the best either. 2008’s The Dark Knight has some big shoes that may never be filled while 1989’s Batman, though silly by today’s standards, paved the way for Hollywood to start thinking there might be gold in them thar superhero flicks, so I doubt you’d have any of the Marvel success today without it.
This movie is somewhere in the middle. It’s worth the price of admission, there are some fun twists and turns. However, it’s not something I want to rush to watch for a second time and at 3 freaking hours long, it’s a time commitment. Seriously, the movie is so long that when I walked out of the theater I wondered if so much time had passed that the world had been conquered by damn dirty apes.
My best description? Imagine a noir detective Batman. Like so many 1930s fedora clad private dicks, Batsy narrates the film, explaining to the audience what he’s up to.
It’s also, God help us, millennial Batman. The Caped Crusader fights for social justice and against white privilege (including his own) with his mighty Bat-Fu skills.
There’s even a twist of emo Batman – Robert Pattinson broods with long hair in his face and dark eyeliner.
To the film’s credit, it’s not an origin story. I think Hollywood is finally grasping that we don’t need to see origins of superheroes that we’ve seen a hundred times before. No need to see Mr and Mrs Wayne murdered. No need to see baby Superman’s little spaceship crash in the Kents’ backyard. No need to see Spidey’s Uncle Ben shot by a mugger again.
Yet (SPOILER), the Waynes’ untimely demise(s) feature prominently in the film as part of a larger mystery, so there’s still at least one Hollywood suit out there who is worried there might be one viewer left in the world who doesn’t know Batman became Batman because he’s sad about his dead parents.
Paul Dano brings The Riddle to life in a major creepy way heretofore unseen on film. Past incarnations of the human question mark have always just been a wacky version of The Joker (Jim Carrey’s career making goofball performance in Batman Forever, for example.) Here, Paul Dano plays every millennial’s worst nightmare, the unloved, socially inept incel who broods behind a screen all day, exposing big time dirt on Gotham’s elite with a side of murder and violence to increase online viewer counts. (Gee whiz, even the Riddler gets more readers for his blog.)
Zoe Kravitz is Catwoman though is never called Catwoman, yet she becomes a sidekick/love interest for Batsy as she searches for justice for her deceased friend caught up in the madness. Meanwhile, Colin Farrell is completely unrecognizable as crime boss henchman The Penguin. I literally did not know it was Farrell until I googled it at home. Good performance, yet another handsome guy robbing an ugly guy of an ugly role with the aid of prosthetics and make up. Sigh. If only prosthetics and make up could make an ugly guy handsome, then again who has that much time to sit in the makeup chair every day?
A lot of weirdness. A lot of heavy handed exposition. A lot of telling instead of showing. At times we are spoon fed helpings of backstory and while many films have been able to pull off a three hour run time by keeping you on the edge of your seat, this one doesn’t. By the two hour mark, I wanted to go already.
Though it avoids origin story silliness, it’s still new, early in his career Batman. He makes mistakes. Literally falls on his face at one point. If you came for super awesome grappling hook, zipline, flying around while making it look easy Batman, you came to the wrong place and ultimately…yeah while there’s a decent amount of action but there’s more talking than action.
Andy Serkis plays a believable Alfred. Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) plays buddy cop to Bats, but it almost reminded me of the cheesy 1960s Batman where Batman would work directly with the police while in full costume and no one thought it odd a mystery man in cape and cowl was consulting with the police. Here, everyone does think it is odd, but its like the writers felt there needed to be some obligatory lines like “Hey why are we working with this costumed guy” and so on.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. It’s acceptable but not great. It builds a world that I’m not, at this time, really chomping at the bit to see and it’s not just because I’ve seen it a hundred times before. And I’ll admit, I’m old, and comic book movies are for the young, so maybe the younguns will enjoy Millennial Batman fighting for truth, justice and wokeness.
I would point out though that back in the day, I thought 2005’s Batman Begins was great but at the time, I thought it would just be a one and done. That film paved the way for 2008’s powerhouse the Dark Knight so you never know, with a little tweaking this franchise might (I’ll believe it when I see it) but might just have a masterpiece sequel on the way if everyone plays their cards right.