(The) Batman finally gets his dark victory

Pattinson stuns in first outing as the caped crusader

Robert+Pattinsons+Batman+has+an+early+tense+exchange+with+Colin+Farrell%E2%80%99s+Penguin.

Warner Bros. Pictures YouTube channel

Robert Pattinson’s Batman has an early tense exchange with Colin Farrell’s Penguin.

Warner Bros. Pictures YouTube channel

Noah Braun, Mac photojournalism

The Batman feels like a sum of its parts: it combines the grittiness of Ben Afleck’s character and the world he occupies, the excellent pacing and writing of Christian Bale’s movies, and a uniquely gothic and rain-soaked mystery feeling from the Dark Knight’s early days in Batman: Year One, Earth One, and The Long Halloween. Perhaps most importantly is the fact that it is able to pull off the darkest narrative yet to be seen in one of these films without coming off as excessive or self-indulgent. Nothing is flawless, though; there is still something in the way of this being a 10/10, although it may not bother everyone.

For starters, the most important thing you need to know is that this movie feels dirty. No, not in terms of nudity or language for the most part, but visually. Gotham is a decaying cesspool, and its inhabitants reflect that. The city is incredible, and this is the best looking movie, period, that I have seen in a while. There is a noticeable lack of green screens in most scenes, seeing as how they shot in actual sets with real props. Crazy, I know. Everything is captured beautifully in all of its danger. Alleyways are covered in posters, graffiti, and trash, gothic cathedrals are blended perfectly with the more modern architecture, and convenience stores are battered and dirty from lack of care and undergoing multiple robberies. The movie has a noticeable visual style, favoring reds, oranges, and yellows over the Nolan movies’ blue, green and black hues. That is not to say there is no black, though; on the contrary, some shots reminded me of Batman: the Animated Series, which went so far as to use black as the base color (in terms of paper being used in that case) as opposed to the usual white.

At the helm of this mystery is a reimagined version of the Riddler, the classic comic villain, whose shtick, probably what you would imagine, telling riddles that are tied to his crimes, is given a more horrific and brutal twist befitting of the story being told.”

The only thing stopping armies of thugs from bringing the whole city toppling down is a police force reaching its limit—and they cannot be everywhere at once. That ability falls upon one man, a man who, for all criminals know, could be in the shadows at any time, or maybe out of the corner of their eye. He does not wield a gun (as it should be), but instead something exponentially more powerful—fear itself. The persona of the “Batman” is explored greatly in this film, in a way that is really unrivaled on the big screen, and it is accompanied with a genuinely engaging mystery with great pacing and tons of twists and turns that harkens back to the Batman movies Christopher Nolan directed, especially The Dark Knight.

At the helm of this mystery is a reimagined version of the Riddler, the classic comic villain, whose shtick, probably what you would imagine, telling riddles that are tied to his crimes, is given a more horrific and brutal twist befitting of the story being told. Long gone are the days of Jim Carrey’s goofy green and purple tights from Batman Forever. This Riddler wears a massive coat and a winter combat mask, carrying a steel ice scraper as his weapon of choice, all making him monstrous and physically imposing. Paul Dano’s performance really brings this character to life, sometimes being actually terrifying due to his unpredictability.

Our villain is not the only one who got a makeover, though. The costume design for Batman himself is finally good, too. In past films, the outfit was always silly-looking and weirdly usually one of the worst parts of the movie visually. Not anymore: the collar allows Robert Pattinson to turn his head without clumsily whipping around his entire body, and the mask fits without squeezing his face so it looks too small. The armor looks functional and realistic considering the resources this scrappier Bruce Wayne has to work with. It also fits to where Batman does not look too bulky nor too skinny, and these proportions, combined with his height and dark visage, makes him look very intimidating. The only problem that I have with the costume itself is that the bottom edge of the cape is not pointy and jagged like it always has been, which is about as nitpick-y as nitpicks come.

The movie has a noticeable visual style, favoring reds, oranges, and yellows over the Nolan movies’ blue, green and black hues. That is not to say there is no black, though; on the contrary, some shots reminded me of Batman: the Animated Series. Screenshot taken from the official trailer for The Batman, Warner Bros. YouTube Channel.

While our titular character does have to uncover the corruption behind the city in order to play the Riddler’s game, I took much more interest in the subplot about Batman learning to become more than just a dark agent of vengeance. He has to learn to value the lives of the people he protects, and in doing so, become a hero, not just a vigilante feared by all. This is a value that has been lost in recent times, especially in Snyder’s films and their universe. In fact, there are scenes in this movie that are far more inspirational than anything in Wonder Woman 1984. There is one in particular that I don’t want to spoil, but I’ll just say it adds a bit of flair, or rather, flare, to the climax.

When it first revved up, the bass in the theater was so powerful that the seats were shaking. Every other sound was fitting as well. Batman’s boots sloshing through the rain-soaked pavement inspires dread, and the Riddler’s blunt strikes with his scraper are impactful.”

Dano’s and Pattinson’s performances as the two masked rivals are no doubt good, and the rest of the cast is not different. Zoë Kravitz made for a more compelling Catwoman than Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises in my book, and Colin Farrell’s Penguin, Jeffrey Wright’s Gordon, and Andy Serkis’s Alfred were all on point as well.

As is to be expected in a movie that features mainly hand-to-hand combat, the fight scenes are superbly choreographed from beginning to end. All the action overall was thrilling, with the Batmobile chase shown in so many of the trailers especially not disappointing. From the second the car roars to life, you know you are in for, well, a ride. It all builds to a head-turning shot that you may have already seen advertised. Watching it in context is no less hair-raising. It is refreshing that for once, the Batmobile is not a tank, since it is only ever that in the Snyder and Nolan films, and The Dark Knight Returns. The scrappier-but-powerful muscle car fits this more DIY-version of the character well, and the chase it is in is one of the best scenes in the film, if you have not gathered that already.

The sound design, especially of the aforementioned Batmobile, is also superb. The car growls and shrieks as it speeds up and groans and creaks when it slams into obstacles in its path of destruction. When it first revved up, the bass in the theater was so powerful that the seats were shaking. Every other sound was fitting as well. Batman’s boots sloshing through the rain-soaked pavement inspires dread, and the Riddler’s blunt strikes with his scraper are impactful. It is needless to say that the soundtrack is perfect, too. Anyone who has seen any of the trailers can probably already gather that bit of info. Batman’s main theme is especially great, building on itself until it overwhelms your ears, then eases off.

There are elements of this film that feel very comic-book-esque. Pattinson’s opening monologue, in particular, feels like it was pulled straight out of a Year Two, if there was one. The fact that the first installment in what is presumably a new series is not an origin story is great, like I said before, and it reminds me of what was attempted in the Tom Holland Spider-Man movies, although that is pretty much where the similarities between those two end.

The Bruce Wayne of The Batman, however, is quiet and reclusive, and, again, does nothing to distinguish himself from his superhero alter-ego.”

Sadly, while Batman is portrayed as a very interesting and complex character, Bruce Wayne does not get the same treatment. There is really nothing that distinguishes him from his alter-ego in this film in terms of behavior, which is disappointing considering how the movie even makes a point of talking about how Batman is the authentic personality and Bruce Wayne is the mask he puts on; still, there is nothing different between his two sides, making this comment not really applicable to this piece of “Batman” media. Conversely, the Bruce Wayne of the Nolan films provides contrast to his nocturnal alter-ego by being a Tony Stark-like playboy. There is even a quote in The Dark Knight Rises where he is asked by Selina Kyle what character he is supposed to be at a masquerade, to which he replies, “Bruce Wayne, eccentric billionaire.” It is one of the best moments of the movie, and it shows just how much of his own life is a cover for what he does at night. The Bruce Wayne of The Batman, however, is quiet and reclusive, and, again, does nothing to distinguish himself from his superhero alter-ego. I understand that Bruce is supposed to be a depressed, angsty, and unmotivated shell of a man, but if there was a similar performance to Christian Bale’s as that side of the character on Pattinson’s part, or even just a similar moment, I think myself and many others would enjoy the movie just a bit more, and would really sell viewers on the “double-life” concept.

Due to the absolute perfection of nearly every aspect of cinema and of a good Batman story, I have to urge anyone who has not already seen this film to go ahead and get on that. Even if you are not the biggest Batman fan or the biggest fan of the superhero movie genre, you will find something to enjoy in this three-hour long package; don’t be intimidated, it is certainly worth your time. The movie’s lax approach to characterizing Bruce Wayne is a letdown, but that is really my only complaint. I think that a still-incredible 9/10 is what I will settle for. I can only hope that the DCEU from here on out is a powder keg, and that The Batman is the match.