Plot, production value help “The Batman” soar


Photo courtesy

Warner Brother’s The Batman opened March 4 and immediately became the No. 1 movie in the country.

Devin Hung, Contributing Writer

Gotham City: the heart of never-ending darkness. The cold, rainy nights are the perfect atmosphere for criminals to run rampant and “upstanding citizens” to show their true colors. But a danger has been lurking in the shadows for two years now, ready to strike evil-doers down for their crimes, putting fear into the hearts of all. This danger is not a hero but a vigilante, doling out justice whenever he sees fit. Because when that signal lightens the night sky, it isn’t just a call for Batman. It’s a warning for vengeance.

This idea of the Batman as a symbol of fear lies at the heart of the character in Matt Reeves’ long-awaited adaptation of the Caped Crusader. He is feared or disliked by almost everyone in Gotham, and young Bruce Wayne wonders if his work on the “Gotham Project” (as his quest is called in his diary) is helping the city at all. So when the Riddler enters the scene to shake the foundations of Gotham with cryptic plans, it stands as Batman’s ultimate test as to whether or not he can save the city.

However, I recognize that this film is not going to be for everyone. The three-hour runtime is definitely felt, and even though I loved that this allowed for a much more developed and complete story, I can understand how this will test many people’s patience. That runtime also adds much to the long and twisty plot that detective stories usually have, refusing to rush through scenes that may not always contribute everything to the plot, but build a dreariness that Gotham City welcomes with open arms. I adored this ominous, gothic tone that Matt Reeves and his team gave to Gotham, it reminded me of David Fincher’s Se7en, especially with the detail that it always appears to be raining, further amplifying the dreariness of the whole film.

To address the elephant in the room, Robert Pattinson is outstanding as Batman/Bruce Wayne. He doesn’t do a ridiculous voice that held Christian Bale back from being perfect (though the voice is really entertaining and fun to imitate), nor does he feel awkward and inconsistent in either role the way the Batmen from the ‘80s and ‘90s did. And though I thought Ben Affleck was good, the writing in his movies always held him back from being a great Batman. Pattinson takes the material seriously, playing Batman as a myth: not talkative in the slightest and always foreboding and intimidating. Even little glances where no dialogue is exchanged say everything that needs to be said, and it comes across perfectly. And as Bruce Wayne, Pattinson isn’t written to be the playboy billionaire that is his public persona, but is instead a young loner that rarely leaves the comfort of his home (as Bruce Wayne that is), an idea briefly explored in The Dark Knight Rises, but done in complete here. But underneath it all is a rage that quietly stirs. Batman is angry and determined to do what he must to stop crime. Even if that means striking fear in the hearts of everyone. Without a doubt, Robert Pattinson is my favorite portrayal of Batman.

The rest of the cast is excellent as well, in particular a seductively dangerous Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Paul Dano as the cryptic Riddler. As the antagonist of the film, he is properly terrifying both with and without his mask and made me terrified by being both dramatic and understated at just the right moments. Colin Farrell as the Penguin is unrecognizable, caked in makeup that transforms him into a believable shady figure in Gotham’s underworld. But the makeup isn’t glaringly obvious to point out, it really makes Farrell look like a different person.

The makeup is only one of many technical aspects that The Batman does exceedingly well. The cinematography does a lot to add to the dreary atmosphere of Gotham City, which burns with sickly orange lighting and is drenched in blackness, showing how Gotham is shrouded in a never-ending night. The production design helps to emphasize the shadows that criminals fear the Batman is lurking in.

One of my favorite parts of the whole film for me was Michael Giacchino’s showstopper of a score. You may know him for composing Pixar’s Up, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille, the latter being a personal favorite movie of mine. It boomed the theater and overwhelmed me in every way, to a point where I could not help but sit back stunned by the music. Batman has been graced with some incredible music through the years; Danny Elfman’s scores for Batman (1989) and Batman Returns are still iconic to this day, and Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s score for The Dark Knight is some of their best work (which is high praise considering the sheer amount of gold the two have released during their careers). But, easily, Giacchino just made my new favorite Batman score and theme. There’s a looming danger in the repetitive chords that make up the main theme, much like the looming danger that the criminals see Batman as, his emergence from the shadows conveyed by the use of crescendos. But there’s a sadness in the theme as well that captures the damaged heart that Batman has, showing the duality to his character in a way previous Batman themes never had. But more than anything, this score is simply epic, and I’m getting goosebumps and a gigantic grin just thinking about it.

Robert Pattinson as Batman and Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman are captivating in Matt Reeves’ adaptation of the Caped Crusader’s story. Photo courtesy

Greig Frasier’s cinematography is also a real highlight. As the film is set around Halloween (and is partially adapted from The Long Halloween comic), Frasier purposefully uses mainly blacks and oranges to light Gotham. The orange hues not only further heighten the idea that Gotham is old and showing its insidiousness, but it also serves as a beacon of hope when day comes. But as the film mostly takes place during the night, black is what pervades the environment: the color of fear, and the color of the Batman. He also keeps Gotham shrouded in shadows, places where the Batman could be lurking at any moment, waiting for his next victim. This plays well with the production design, which creates spaces for all of these shadows to exist. There’s a dramatic sense to every location as well; Gotham doesn’t feel like a place that would exist in our world, but it’s familiar and grounded in reality enough to convince us that it is, the telltale sign of a great comic-book movie.

But what really elevates The Batman into the stratosphere of superhero films is the amount of thematic potency the screenwriters imbue into this story, aided by all the technical decisions. To touch on one of many ideas the film covers, the Riddler can definitely be viewed as a commentary on the extremes that incel culture can go to. He’s a man forgotten by society who seemingly has no place in the world, so he does terrible things to earn a place and advertises it online to a loyal and dedicated audience who are just as twisted as he is. Though there is some truth in his motives and his intelligence should lead him to consider rational actions, the Riddler exacts revenge through the inexcusable method of murder, which just so happens to go against Batman’s one rule. There is also Catwoman, who, just like the Riddler, is seeking vengeance on someone, though for more personal reasons. She, the Riddler, and Batman all seek vengeance in one way or another with their own motives. And because of this, all of these people are at risk of failing in their respective missions. And though I won’t go any further to avoid spoilers, where this movie goes with that idea is not only beautiful, but inspiring, and something that is very, very rare for superhero movies to do. I genuinely can not think of a better way for this film to end, and that ending (and one scene near the end in particular) makes the whole film even better.

I absolutely adored The Batman. It was everything that I wanted it to be and more. And virtually everything about the film impressed me. Whether it was the staggering technical feats, the wonderful acting, the well-written story with themes that really matter, or the overall atmosphere of Gotham City. There may be some small nitpicks here and there that hold this film back from being perfect, but it doesn’t matter to me all that much. I can not recommend this movie enough, and for being a true stand-alone experience that excelled in every department, The Batman is unquestionably one of the best superhero films ever made. I am so extremely happy with this movie, and I love it to pieces. May vengeance rain, and The Batman fly.

Grade: 5/5