Published on March 5th, 2022 | by Craig Silliphant0
The Batman’s latest big screen adventure is a three-hour journey into the hearts of darkness of killers, vigilantes, and a City that’s lost its soul.
The Batman starts its story in year two of the Dark Knight’s crusade of vengeance against crime, which is great, because the last thing we need is another origin story. I can only watch Martha Wayne’s pearls bounce around Crime Alley so many times.
We jump right in, following a sadistic serial killer that is murdering political figures in Gotham City. Batman and Lt. James Gordon investigate, finding cracks in the façade of the City, corruption that’s been hiding for years.
I want to talk about the 500-pound gorilla in the room — the movie is three-hours long. Anyone familiar with my feelings on run time knows that I’m pretty hard on movies when they get indulgent for no good reason. But let’s talk about the movie and circle back to whether the three hours are warranted.
The greatest compliment that I can give this film is that of all the Batman movies and TV shows, this one feels the most like reading an arc from the comic books. It reminded me of The Long Halloween or something from Tom King’s amazing run on the series. It doesn’t feel like the usual super hero fluff. It’s a noir thriller, going back to Batman’s roots as a detective. I would not be shocked to learn that director Matt Reeves was paying homage to David Fincher’s Seven (or, Se7en, as today’s kids seem to want to call it). Gritty streets, constant rain, clues aplenty, and even weird journals like John Doe loved to scribble.
The film looks great but the music is the real super hero. Long-time Pixar composer, Michael Giacchino, creates an ominous motif of a few notes that come back wave after wave, much like the piano in Eyes Wide Shut or Magnolia, but more Batmany (actually the Bat-motif sounds a bit like The Imperial March). I was humming it all the way home from the movie and blasting the soundtrack in my office all the next day. Like the Kubrick and PTA movies I mentioned, it helps the movie keep momentum through that thick run time.
People still want to doubt Robert Pattinson, because of his Twilight-era career, but nuts to that. Both he and Kristen Stewart have proven themselves with movies like Spencer and Good Time. While he’s maybe a bit unintentionally comically emo or grunge, Pattinson does a great job as both Wayne and Batman. He’s actually pastier and more smouldering than his Twilight character, if you can dig that. The rest of the cast is top notch as well; Zoe Kravitz is a great Catwoman; Paul Dano is unhinged as The Riddler; Colin Farrell is unrecognizable as Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin, not just because of the make-up, but through his performance as well.
The story isn’t necessarily something that will blow your mind, nor is most of the action, but when you combine the film’s well-told, straightforward manner with the noir influences and the operatics of the music, it elevates the experience to pretty great cinematic levels. And as a side note, the stakes are on an appropriate, human scale. The fate of the multiverse doesn’t hang in the balance, just the soul of Gotham City — and perhaps the soul of Bruce Wayne himself.
Sometimes it feels like you’re watching three episodes of an HBO or Netflix show sewn together. The movie seems to be wrapping up but you realize there’s an hour left — and then the story swings in another direction. But it didn’t feel like the many, many, many endings of Return of the King to me. As I said, it felt more like reading a Batman comic story arc, with plot focus shifting over each issue, creating distinct chapters or acts. Or, maybe the film just wears your armour down through time, pummeling you with that awesome score. Either way, I found some effective emotional moments along the way.
And about that three-hour movie? Well, I’m sure you could have told a very similar story in two hours. But it almost never wears out its welcome in three. What I really love about The Batman is that it’s not scene after scene of fan service. It’s not a bunch of set ups for spin offs or sequels (there is one major Easter egg scene, but it’s only a minute long, which doesn’t make much difference in a three-hour movie).
I’m always saying, “Never mind your franchise building intellectual property bullshit — JUST TELL ME A GODDAMN STORY.”
The Batman tells you a goddamn story.