The reviews for The Batman are all over the place. Some online outlets are raving about it. Others gave it very short shrift. Some legacy media reviewers gave it four and five-star reviews. Yet more than just a handful have given it 3 stars or less. So who do you trust? Your fellow Outposters, that’s who!
Because if there is anyone guaranteed to shower off the bullshit, leave the axe-grinding or the shilling at the door, and to never, ever be swayed by “Pwesents” and phone calls from an angry studio, it’s your fellow Outposters.
But wait. It turns out that Outposters are similarly all over the place. Just this morning one of us declared it was a:
“…natural evolution of the Nolan aesthetic but with way better action, detectivology, and vibe. Matt Reeves actually ‘membered that Gotham City is a character and not just random big city window dressings for various character interactions. Colin Farrell stole the show but Battinson held his own. Riddler was good.”
He then went on to say:
“Could have either trimmed about 20 minutes or been a 5-6 part miniseries on HBO MAX given the length. Nice change from the MCU and Snyderverse overall. Recommended.”
Another Outposter had a report back from his son who went to see it last night and declared it was:
“On a par with The Dark Knight”
Encouraging sounds. But then a voice calls to us from the future, way out East where the movie opened already due to the vagueries of timezones. Wrenage has seen it, and he has a different point of view. Here is his The Batman review.
I had 74 hours to kill Thursday afternoon, so I saw The Batman. The first question a filmmaker should ask themselves to decide if their movie needs to be three hours long is:
“Does my movie contain Charlton Heston in a historical setting?”
If the answer is no, the movie doesn’t need to be three hours long. The Batman is no exception to this rule.
Details exist that I could pontificate on, but I’m going to keep this review spoiler-free. I went into The Batman with a Pollyanna attitude. I fully expected to be entertained. Yet, if I had to sum up The Batman in one word, that word would be muddy.
I’m only passably familiar with the Matt Reeves filmography. I skipped the ape movies because I tune out if a movie appears ripe for the humans-are-the-real-animals/monsters chestnut. Personally, I’m pro-human. Next time an animal makes something as sublime as Raiders Of The Lost Ark, let me know. I saw Cloverfield and Let Me In, however. Plus, Under Siege 2, which Reeves co-wrote, is good cheese.
Reeves directed The Batman and cowrote it with Peter Craig. I don’t know if their screenplay was based on a comic-book storyline, but it accomplishes little in three hours. The story retreads the same ground. Batman goes to the same places to do the same things. He encounters the same characters, and they have the same interactions. He’s a car tire spinning in the mud.
I skipped the Batfleck movies, so I can’t speak for their take on the character, but the Batman we get here is of the Year One variety. He is figuring out his mission statement. He also engages in some detective work. This should be an interesting thing, but said detective work mainly consists of Batman looming at crime scenes and providing immediate answers to riddles. We do get a few glimpses at some Bat-tech, which is fun while it lasts.
As for Pattison, I never worried about his casting. I recall the furor over Keaton, and that worked out fine. All a Batman actor has to do is show up, brood a bit, and look good in the costume. Everything else will take care of itself if the story and director are competent.
After seeing the final result, Pattison is on the bottom side of the scale when it comes to Batman portrayals. It’s honestly not his fault. He had nothing to work with. He spends most of his screentime in the costume. Pretty much anyone could have been plugged into it for what he needed to do, which mainly consisted of standing around for close-ups.
Likewise, Zoe Kravitz takes up space as Catwoman. I was hesitant about her casting, but it turned out fine. Even if they brought back Michelle Pfeiffer, she would have languished, as well. Cutting Catwoman is one way to easily reduce the movie’s runtime. They attempt to give Catwoman a reason to be there, but her presence simply made things muddier.
Andy Serkis as Alfred is also a miss. He has five minutes of screentime, and that is not total hyperbole. If you sat there with a stopwatch, he might, perhaps, top out at seven minutes. Again, it boggles my mind that this movie was nearly three hours long. So little is done with the time.
Jeffrey Wright is fine as Gordon, but he is as one-note as the rest of the characters and acting. I’m trying to think about something… anything… else to add about his performance, and here I sit, literally typing a sentence about nothing just to fill space on the topic.
All is not dark, though. A few bright spots do exist.
John Turturro brings a bit of life to the table as Carmine Falcone. Turturro gets lost in the shuffle, but when he does grace the screen, you pay a bit more attention to the proceedings. This is mostly due to the fact that we recognize Turturro from other roles that we enjoyed.
Colin Farrell continues to nail it. I disliked leading-man Farrell that Hollywood tried to manufacture in the early 2000s, but I love him now. I would have given him an Oscar nod for the invite-me-in scene in Fright Night 2011. Unrecognizable in makeup, Farrell is able to rise above the lack of material and give his Penguin some personality. That speaks volumes of Farrell’s epic charisma.
Likewise, Paul Dano manages to give his Riddler an edge. He does this mostly with voice inflection. Once Dano got out of his costume, I enjoyed listening to him rant.
The set design of The Batman is similar to the Arkham City video game. The environment is gritty, worn, and dirty… when you can see it. The majority of the film is dark, wet, blurry, and close-in on things. If they are going to throw a three-hour movie onscreen, they should at least make it pleasing to the eye. You know how Gore Verbinski gets every dollar onscreen? Imagine the opposite of that for The Batman.
The score by Michael Giacchino is strangely absent, as well. You remember the epic Elfman score that opened Batman in 1989? I kept waiting for The Batman score to take over at some point and engulf me with operatic grandness. It never did. It merely hovered in the background.
The action in The Batman is delivered by an IV drip. Really only one set-piece exists, along with a smattering of fight scenes. I can dig it if they were going for a more low-key Batman film that relied on mood and tone, but then they buried what they had of that with the long runtime.
In that regard, it ends up being a bit of a wasteland of a movie. I am not sure where the $200 million went.
Design-wise, the Batman costume is hitting a wall. It looks good, but it seems like it was designed simply to look different from the ones before it. Personally, I’d be happy if they used the costume from Batman Returns as the basic costume for every Batman film and attach different mods, as needed. I find that costume to be the best at balancing tactical and organic.
The Batmobile also seems to be hitting the overly-familiar stage. It’s cool, but there’s no wow factor involved with it. I remember reading a Batman comic from the 1970s that had a similar Batmobile. It is based on real-world cars, rather than concept or military vehicles. Basically, this Batmobile could have fitted in with Immortan Joe’s convoy.
The Batman is getting great reviews, so maybe other people see something I don’t. I am open to being wrong, but I genuinely looked forward to this movie. It enticed me into the theater in a way the Affleck Batman movies did not. Taking those films out of the equation, this is where I would put The Batman in the Dark Knight pantheon of films…
The Batman is below the Burton and Nolan movies, and whether or not it deserves to be put above the Schumacher films is up for debate. I disliked the Schumacher films, but they had some life to them, at least. The Batman is a slog, sorry to say. I was fully checked out by its misguided climax.