By Anna Di Iorio-Reyes
Director Matt Reeves’ The Batman is… good, but not great. Coming out of Matt Reeves’ The Batman, I don’t really have a strong like or dislike of it. It’s not bad enough for me to trash it, and not good enough for high praise. It’s a Batman movie. Let me explain why.
Set two years after Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) first appeared in Gotham as the Batman, his newest mission takes the form of stopping the Riddler (Paul Dano) from uncovering Gotham’s criminal underworld, and the Wayne family’s secrets in the process. The Riddler seemed like a refreshing new enemy compared to the Joker in past films, but as the movie progressed, the two unfortunately came to have tedious similarities. The Riddler is first on Batman’s radar after killing the former Mayor of Gotham, Don Mitchell Jr. Then, the Riddler slowly builds an online presence, with his videos highlighting a theme of the city’s lie and how Gotham’s political foundation is built on them.
The film takes place completely at night, dusk, dawn, or in dark places around Gotham City, and evokes a film-noir style. The city itself is parallel to Todd Phillips’ 2019 Joker’s version of Gotham– run-down, but stable. Reeves’ direction on lighting and camera positioning is exceptional. No shot was overly dramatic, and I never felt like that the movie was forcing me to feel a certain way. Choices in favor of dim lighting or even complete darkness made fight scenes and even car chases enjoyable. Combined with the ambiance of the movie theater, I was surprisingly content to sit through three hours of The Batman. In fact, being in that environment was the only thing that made me happy to sit through it.
For me, the reasons I watched this movie were that it was in the theater, and I knew it couldn’t be that bad. The promise of popcorn, yearning to experience the big screen again, and the pleasure of a reclining chair was what finally pulled me into my seat, and also prevented me from getting up. The surrounding speaker systems resonated with the melodic and fitting theme music. Along with the whispers of people around me, watching The Batman was almost a nostalgic experience. That being said, I would not have watched this movie anywhere but the movie theater. If I were to have seen this on my living room TV, an object prone to glare, and thus having the ability to pause, I would not have persevered through it.
Pattinson plays a standard Batman, a natural performance without major weaknesses. However, what disappointed me the most about how Reeves manipulated the portrayal of Batman was that there were no surprises. As presumed of blockbuster films, Pattison played Batman like how everyone expects him to be played: straight-faced, brooding, and pensive.Even hearing Pattison say “I’m vengeance” in his deep American accent just made me want to laugh. I kept waiting for his character to turn in a new direction, and maybe that was hinted at, but by the end Batman had the same character arc and personality that I’ve seen so many times before.
Despite this, even if Reeves didn’t bring something new to Batman on-screen, he did bring something back– Batman as a detective. This Batman is by far the most interesting to experience, and is already my personal favorite. He’s more cunning than his peers, and is always one or two steps ahead. He also analyzes the evidence with the officers instead of coming in and punching everyone, as seen in past renditions. Plus, without as much hitting, it gives Batman ample time to grunt and stand around looking intimidating.
Watching this movie forced me to look at the broader scope of how the character of Batman developed. The main understanding of this Caped Crusader has evolved from 1960 Adam West to 2016 Ben Affleck. When the two stand next to each other, one in spandex and the other in an armored bodysuit with glowing eyes, differences are not hard to point out. Over time, Batman has embodied this deep voice, built-in abs, and an aggressive masculine mentality of “I’m-gonna-sit-in-my-dark-mancave-and-punch-someone-later.” It’s even more apparent in this most recent film when Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz) enters the picture. As soon as this supposed “definition of a man” sees a little leg, you see the first glimpse of vulnerability. He’s all aggressive and powerful until he sees a pretty woman, where he’s then “brought down.” It’s sad. Their love story itself, however, was one of the best parts of the film. Pattison and Kravitz had much-needed chemistry and worked well together on the screen. Of course, thankfully and as is tradition, Batman didn’t end up with her, showing that the real love story was between him and Gotham all along (surprise!).
I’m not a die-hard superhero movie fan, so my opinion isn’t that popular among those who are. If you do love these kinds of movies, you will most likely love this one. The Batman in its own way will be a comfort movie for some. For those of you who are skeptical… well, this movie falls into a gray area, because it is definitely not a must-watch. I personally don’t think it’s a bad movie, but from an “outside” opinion it certainly left something to be desired.
Once The Batman ended, I felt like I had already watched it many times before.