Directed by: Matt Reeves
Premise: Batman (Robert Pattinson) and Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz) investigate a series of murders linked to corruption in Gotham City’s government and police force.
What Works: Each incarnation of Batman has a distinct look and 2022’s The Batman conjures a unique Gotham City. The city streets have a look that recalls the tech-noir of Blade Runner and Dark City. This is a grimy, lived-in place and the Gotham City of The Batman has a vivid identity of its own. That’s fitting for this film because The Batman is the story of a city. The Ridder murders political and law enforcement figures tied to a citywide corruption scandal and each killing is paired with clues and puzzles that hint at a larger conspiracy. In purely narrative terms, The Batman is one of the most complex superhero films. The story has a lot of moving parts but they come together well and the film is efficiently told. The villains are the most watchable characters. Paul Dano plays The Riddler and although he’s not on screen very much Dano makes an impression that ripples through the rest of the picture. Colin Farrell is cast as The Penguin and Farrell’s transformation is impressive. He brings a sleezy quality to the character that suits the tone of the movie. The Batman also includes Catwoman played by Zoë Kravitz and she’s the most compelling character in the film, so much so that it’s easy to imagine a retooled version of this story that omits or minimizes Batman and centers on her character.
What Doesn’t: The Dark Knight Detective has been portrayed on screen many times and this incarnation of Batman is the least interesting of them. That is not the fault of Robert Pattinson who does a fine job with the material he’s been given. The problem is the script. Despite running three hours in length, The Batman finds no time to do any meaningful character work. Everyone in this movie is one note. Part of the problem is that nearly the entire movie takes place at night. No one has a daytime life. Batman is always a crime fighter, never Bruce Wayne. The same is true of Catwoman, Alfred (Andy Serkis), and Gordon (Jeffrey Wright). There is nothing to these people beyond their job titles, not even the hint of a homelife, and they don’t evolve over the course of the story. Without any depth or complexity of character, the film remains a superficial experience.
Bottom Line: The makers of The Batman have found an angle on a familiar character that is novel enough to justify yet another Dark Knight movie. This movie favors plot over character but it’s a promising start to a new series of films.
Episode: #894 (March 13, 2022)