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New to VOD - THE BATMAN

the batman review
Batman investigates a serial killer who taunts him with riddles.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Matt Reeves

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano, Colin Farrell, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Andy Serkis, Peter Sarsgaard

the batman poster

In this latest reboot of the Caped Crusader, some of American pop culture's most iconic characters are stripped of the eccentricities that made them icons in the first place. This is a "dark" and "gritty" take on Batman, darker and grittier than any we've ever seen before, which means it distances itself from its comic book origins as much as possible. It robs The Penguin of his umbrella, even though it's constantly pissing down in this version of Gotham.

the batman review

This results in a Bruce Wayne/Batman who is almost entirely devoid of a personality. Were it not for a voiceover that lazily fills in some details, we'd know very little about Batman's motivations. Robert Pattinson does his best to inhabit the character, but there's not a whole lot to inhabit. This Batman largely resembles a sullen teen, and initially it seems like we might be in for a Batman whose heroism is more ambiguous than we're accustomed to. The film opens with a Travis Bickle-esque voiceover from the caped one, and we witness him over-react to an attempted mugging by seemingly smashing a hoodlum's face to pulp. In these early moments Batman appears to be a school shooter and Gotham his Columbine. Could this be a Batman movie in which Batman himself is Gotham's biggest threat?


The answer comes early on when we're introduced to the movie's real villain, The Riddler (Paul Dano). Gone are the wacky costumes of earlier incarnations, replaced by an army surplus outfit and balaclava. Even his riddles are bland this time out, and could be solved by anyone who made it through primary school. It still takes Batman a while to figure some of them out however. The world's greatest detective isn't the sharpest tool in the box here, constantly relying on others to explain what's going on.

the batman review

When this movie was announced, the filmmakers made it clear that it would follow the format of a detective movie. They've been true to their word, and action is very thin on the ground here as Batman spends most of the movie following up leads and piecing together clues. What the filmmakers don’t seem to understand however is that nobody in their right mind watches detective movies for their plots. We watch them for the eccentric characters the detective protagonists come across in the course of their investigations. Even Raymond Chandler admitted that the plot of The Big Sleep didn't make any sense, but nobody cares because it's packed with interesting characters. This movie has The Penguin, Catwoman and The Riddler, but they've been stripped of their larger than life personalities and moulded into dull stock crime movie archetypes. Zoe Kravitz's Catwoman is simply a working class female Batman, The Riddler is just an edgelord (the sort of person who will harass critics who dare to write negative reviews of this very movie) and The Penguin is a stereotypical Italian-American mobster with a heavily made-up Colin Farrell mugging like peak De Niro.


An opening montage establishes Gotham as a crime-ridden hellhole, but it also tells us the city's criminals cower in fear at the thought of Batman lurking in the shadows. Huh? Which is it? A similar contradiction comes later when a character refers to Commissioner Gordon as a "white privileged asshole," despite the fact that he's played by the African-American actor Jeffrey Wright. Such moments are emblematic of a movie that doesn't seem to be sure of its identity. For most of the running time you could be watching some second rate David Fincher thriller, but then Batman will sprout wings and start flying above the streets. I'm not sure who the movie is for either. Kids will be bored senseless by its plot heavy and dialogue reliant narrative, while there isn't enough meat on its bones to satisfy an adult audience. With a length of three hours, watching The Batman is like painting the Golden Gate Bridge; by the time you get to the end you've forgotten what kicked off this plot in the first place.

the batman review

Several filmmakers have openly complained in recent years that they can't get certain types of movies made unless they rework them as comic book adaptations. The Batman however doesn't feel like a pre-existing story with Batman shoehorned in, but rather a Batman movie desperate for a story. There's nothing here we haven't seen before, with a few moments reworked from Christopher Nolan's trilogy in a manner that comes off as very expensive fan fiction. It's the darkest Batman movie to date, and I don’t mean thematically. I mean literally. Even Gotham's wealthiest citizens seem to be cutting down on their energy bills by keeping the lights off in their homes. In every way, this franchise really needs to lighten up.

The Batman
 is on UK/ROI VOD now.



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