It seems that every generation has their own version of Batman that they grew up with. Mine was based on watching reruns of the 1960’s Batman TV series with Adam West and the animated Super Friends. That Batman was polite, wore bright colors, enjoyed hanging out with his sidekick and outsmarting the Gotham Police Department while still respecting them. That Batman left a long time ago. Since then, each new variation of Batman has become darker and Robert Pattinson’s take on the character is no exception.
With Warner Bros. taking some heat for making their recent DC-related movies so overly serious, it is somewhat surprising (though not completely unexpected) to see yet another DC comic come the big screen with virtually no levity at all. Unlike (most) of the Marvel movies, this one isn’t exactly family-friendly either. (You won’t be seeing any Happy Meals with Pattinson’s likeness any time soon). But it’s not morally ambiguous either. Despite his frustrations with the evil villains lurking in his city, this Batman refuses to use a gun, relying only on his skills as a marital artist. He believes in doing good and standing up against those who don’t share his convictions.
Sadly, this Batman, only two years into the job, is a more tortured soul than any of the others who came before him. (Can you blame him? Talk about work burnout.) His billionaire Bruce Wayne persona is not all that charming either. He’s reclusive. And when one of the villains is able to dig up some dirt on his parents, he almost falls apart.
Matt Reeves’ The Batman is a whole new take on the iconic character, but even so, it begins without an origin story. Fittingly, the story begins on Halloween where wearing masks is the norm. We witness different crimes taking place in Gotham and shadows that we expect our hero to emerge from. In his opening narration, Bruce explains that the citizens in town know that he can’t be everywhere at once, but they don’t know where he is hiding either causing the bad guys to pause a bit. Its takes a while for him to show up and it’s pretty effective.
(L-R) Alfred the Butler (Andy Serkis), Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) and Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) (Warner. Bros.)
In his short amount of time on the job, Batman has established himself as a force to be reckoned with. While some in the police force are wary of this vigilante, Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) is convinced that the Bat is worth trusting. He is one of Bruce’s few friends. The other is his butler Alfred (Andy Serkis) who has known the superhero since birth.
This Batman is also different in that it plays more like a mystery than a superhero movie. Batman is a detective tasked with finding clues to find a serial killer before he strikes again with yet another gruesome killing.
(L-R) The Penguin (Colin Farrell), Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz) and The Riddler (Paul Dano) (Warner Bros.)
This movie features a bunch of familiar villains including Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), The Penguin (an unrecognizable Colin Farrell), Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) and The Riddler (Paul Dano), but unlike Batman with his full bat costume, they don’t really look the part. The Penguin doesn’t walk around in a tuxedo and an umbrella. The Riddler doesn’t wear a green suit with a bunch of question marks printed on it and the name “Catwoman” is never uttered and Selina Kyle’s costume only vaguely resembles a cat.
Falcone is a mob boss who hangs out at The Penguin’s bar, the Iceberg. This is where Selina works too. When her roommate goes missing, she asks Batman for his help in finding her, but he wants to use Selina to get to get to her boss. Meanwhile, more people are dying and it’s an election year to boot.
At just 10 minutes shy of three hours, this is a long movie, and it feels like it, but we’ve only scratched the surface. And while it doesn’t particularly have a happy ending (Batman movies rarely do) there appears to be a little light at the end of the tunnel. It is as if you needed to go through this journey with our hero to find out where this is was all headed.
“Vengence won’t change the past. Mine or anyone elses. People need hope,” he says just before the credits roll and suddenly, I found myself excited for the sequal that is bound to be coming in two or three years.
The Batman is very good movie. If you’re looking for an action flick, there is plenty here, but not as much as previous films. If you are looking for a movie where the hero does more than just utter pithy quotes or a film that follows a mystery, this is for you too. If you are looking for a movie to take the kids to this weekend, this is probably not the film for you. Though most of the violence is either implied or executed off screen, it’s still there. And when the hero is not beating up the bad guys, it slows down a bunch. Surprisingly, The Batman will be quite boring for younger audiences.
Main image: Warner Bros.
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.