The Batman: B-

The Batman: B-

A solid reboot of the Batman franchise, The Batman breaks new ground in several ways. It eschews the "Marvel-style" glossy, fun thrill ride in favor of a gritty noir style - it's firmly (and unrelentingly) dark, serious, and bleak. And Goth AF. It thankfully skips committing yet another variation of Batman's origin story to film and instead gets right to the main course. It reimagines classic characters and adds new and unexpected twists to long-established backstories. All the characters, costumes, and vehicles are very grounded - less fantastic, more realistic - and I enjoy that. And finally, harkening to his roots, Batman does a fair amount of actual detective work.

At three hours The Batman is quite long but it doesn't feel quite that long, so it's fairly compelling. Still, it could have been tightened up a bit and shortened without leaving anything important out.

The film does hit a few sour notes for me. First off, literally: the musical score is pretty lackluster, especially when compared to the epic and visceral themes of the Christopher Nolan movies. Have a listen:

I like the Nirvana song near the beginning and it fit the mood of the film. But then it's that plodding melody for the rest of it.

The movie's relentless bleakness wears thin after a while. I don't want it to be Marvel-jokey or anything, but I think it could use some lighter and/or heartwarming moments to balance things out.

I'm also not a fan of the portrayal of the main bad guy. A friend of mine loves the performance so opinions differ, but I found the bloodthirsty, wheezing, and shrieking character to overly abrasive to a degree that overshadows the "disturbing" quality they were possibly going for. It also seems at odds with the character's high intelligence.

My biggest criticism of the film is that the various bad guys just don't seem that bad and they never create much tension. Main bad guy makes a couple of shocking moves early on, but we pretty much learn about everything after the fact. The ending is a bit limp due to this same problem. The stage is set for a grand finale and tension builds for about two minutes... and then we're let off the hook again right away. Contrast this with most every villain scene from Nolan's The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises: the bank robbery, the ferryboats, the plane hijacking, the football stadium, the nuke, etc. Nolan's Batman brought a white-knuckle intensity to the villains that is almost entirely missing here.

Couple of final gripes about sour notes.

  • There's a disjointed car chase scene where a fleeing villain causes a huge pileup and a massive fuel tanker explosion trying to stop Batman. Batman and Officer Gordon catch and question the bad guy - and then let him go, seemingly oblivious to the people who probably got injured and killed in that pileup.
  • My WOKEDAR started tingling when a protagonist of color dropped a line about "white privileged assholes" running the city. Can we just have a nice Batman movie with a multicultural cast and not add on race-baiting social justice commentary, please? I could nitpick a little further but it wasn't too bad overall.
  • There's a really clunky (IMO) scene where Batman kicks a bunch of ass, almost gets killed by the last bad guy, and then his gal pal saves him. That's fine and they share a good moment... and then one more bad guy pops up, tries to kill the gal pal, and then Batman saves her. It's a small thing, but it felt highly unlikely and unnecessary. Is Batman contractually entitled to always have the final save?

One point of interest: I was looking at the cast just now and my mind was blown about a couple of actors I hadn't realized are in the film. This gruff and burly version of Alfred the butler is played by Andy Serkis AKA Golem! And "the Penguin" is played by... Colin Farrell!!

All in all The Batman is a fresh, original take on the franchise, albeit it could benefit from some lighter moments and a higher degree of tension on the part of the bad guys. It's available now on HBO and it's worth a watch. I'm looking forward to the next one!