"The Batman," director Matt Reeves' new reboot of the forever franchise (after Ben Affleck turned in the cape and cowl) answers a question many of us have had for years: what if Batman was super into The Cure? Imagine if a mix of Kurt Cobain and Howard Hughes and you'll be close to Robert Pattinson's take on The Bat and Bruce Wayne. I know I sound snarky, but it's actually an interesting avenue to explore for the character, even if "The Batman" doesn't take full advantage of its new freedoms.
The weirdest thing about this new Batman movie is that it actually has a really cool approach to the style of Gotham City and the world of Batman. This is the gothiest Gotham has ever been, with misty neon streets reminiscent of David Fincher's "Zodiac" and "Seven" adding a tactile realism to the city we've never seen before. Christopher Nolan's Gotham felt like a gritty mash-up of Chicago and New York and Tim Burton's felt like an extension of his childhood memories of silent German expressionist films like "Metropolis" and "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari."
Reeves' Gotham feels wholly original and, combined with dark and brooding cinematography of Greig Fraser, we have a Batman movie that feels grounded in a way that we haven't seen before. All of this is weird because we finally have a new Batman movie that looks different, but the script is an amalgamation of storylines we've seen in "Batman Begins," "The Dark Knight" and "The Dark Knight Rises." We have the gangland story of "Begins" (even down to the point where mob boss Carmine Falcone, who was played by Tom Wilkinson in "Begins," is back and played by John Turturro).
We also have another Catwoman/Selena Kyle, here played by Zoe Kravitz—soon after Anne Hathaway's take on the character in "The Dark Knight Rises." Even the main villain, The Riddler (played by Paul Dano), feels like a remix of Heath Ledger's Joker, just louder and whinier. What was the purpose for Reeves to design and direct such a gorgeous looking new Batman movie when the plot is something we've seen so many times before?
Robert Pattinson brings an emo strangeness to the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman that's definitely different than any of the takes we've seen before, but he's stranded in a movie that is way more interested in nailing a tone and an aesthetic than telling a gripping and original story. There are no limits to the stories that can be told with Batman, so I'm not sure why, after this reboot of the franchise, we're going back to the well so quickly with a plot that doesn't take our well-known and established characters off in any new and interesting directions.
Don't get me wrong, "The Batman" is very entertaining (even with its ridiculous three-hour runtime), but if Reeves had chosen to tell a story worthy of its visuals, performances and score, this could have been the greatest Batman movie of all time. As it stands, it's just the best one since 2008's "The Dark Knight." Maybe my expectations were a little too high based on my unrepentant nerdiness and deeply abiding love of all things comic book, but it was hard not to feel let down. A Batman movie that's also a serial killer/film noir/detective story is a brilliant concept, but if the story being told isn't as elevated as the idea, then what's the point? I'm definitely excited to see more films set in Reeves' Batman universe, so here's hoping that when we get the eventual sequel, it will take advantage of all the brilliant pieces to make a more satisfying whole.
Dir. Matt Reeves
Now Playing at Tin Pan Theater