- Movie Rating -

The Batman (2022)

| March 2, 2022

It occurred to me about three-quarters of the way through The Batman that I may be finished with this character.  There is simply nothing else that I need to be shown, largely because we have apparently stopped trying to make Batman movies entertaining and we have started running them through a pace that gets darker and darker and darker until the experience comes off as unsettling and a little sad.  Let’s put it this way, this is the first comic book movie that brought back memories of Se7en.  We shouldn’t be doing this.

The Batman will be a joy to those fans who want the bat to roll around in the muck, to fight for a Gotham that is in danger of being buried by it’s own inhumanity and corruption.  They get that here in droves – nearly three hours of it to be exact – and I’ll admit, the approach felt a little different.  In it’s best moments, I got a sense of the movie that I wanted from The Dark Knight Rises, a movie in which the entire political structure of Gotham City was so in bed with the mafia that you are unable to tell the difference; and meanwhile a lone menace stands in the shadows who wants to punish the city for its legacy of sin.

The problem is that we’ve seen this all before.  Tim Burton did it,  Christopher Nolan did it.  By this point, it’s just a difference in style.  Director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, War of the Planet of the Apes) puts together a production that is breathtaking, but puts it in service of a movie that is not only bleak and ugly but way too long.  The movie has nothing to say that couldn’t be wrapped up in under two hours.

Robert Pattenson’s Batman is not exactly ground-breaking, though he does scale back a bit.  He’s less talky, less emotional, more detached.  To effect, this gives the character a sense of presence and dread.  Unlike the Nolan Batman, this bat’s philosophy for wanting to spend his evenings beating up criminals on the streets of Gotham kind of goes without saying.  He is also less dependent on gadgets.  They’re here, but those wonderful toys take a backseat during the moments when he uses his fists to turn a thug’s face into hamburger.

The setting and the story feels somewhere between old film noir and the aesthetics of Blade Runner.  Corner to corner, Gotham is a cesspool of crime and degradation while high above the 1% dance the night away in their penthouses (the movie is not subtle about this).  Keeping it that way is another matter.  The political arena of Gotham is, again, an interchangeable morass of mafia values and empty political promises.  Whose screwing who?  And what are the politicians doing with their evenings?  It’s not surprising to anyone.  Nor is the element that brings Bats into the middle of all of this human waste.  Bodies are stacking up, clues are being left, and it is clear that Gotham has a serial killer in its midst.

What disappointed me greatly is that this isn’t played as a mystery.  Batman works with Commissioner Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) to put the clues together to find a madman who calls himself The Riddller who, when he isn’t leaving videos of his crimes, leaves cryptic messages teasing the police and eventually Batman himself.  What does Riddler want?  It’s not all that surprising.  As I say it’s not a mystery.  We know who the killer is and what he wants right from the beginning and so it’s kind of a long, slow journey getting there.

What mystery resides in the film come from the characters, mainly Salina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz) whose reasons for wanting to infiltrate the viper’s nest of the city’s criminal empire yield possibly the film’s only real surprise.  But, at least she has a function in the movie.  I never could figure out the role of Oswald Copplepot (Colin Farrell, buried under a heavy rubber fat suit) who works closely with the mob but seems to be part of this movie as a bit of character recognition.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t enjoy this movie.  There’s a lot to admire but there is not a lot of entertainment in it.  It’s sour and bleak and disturbing.  When Batman confronts the serial killer toward the end of the movie, it gave me the same queasy feeling that I had during the more disturbing scenes of Joker – that’s not a good thing.  I guess that’s the way of things in this post-COVID world.  Things have to be sick and disturbing rather than entertaining.  The Batman wallows in an atmosphere of rotting dread for so long that you find yourself begging for a little sunshine.  Please!  Somebody!  Anybody!  Tell a joke!  Throw a pie!  For Heaven sake, even Hamlet had a comedy relief!

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2022) View IMDB Filed in: Action