Saturday, October 1, 2022

REVIEW: 'The Batman' soars above expectations

March 2, 2022
<p>Photo created by Daena Faustino</p>

Photo created by Daena Faustino

Editors note: This review of 'The Batman' contains spoilers. Continue reading... if you dare.

I watched “The Batman.” Special thank you to Jamir Bowers, Michigan State University’s Warner Bros. Representative, for a wonderful screening experience! 

Now, let’s discuss. Warning: there will be spoilers. Beware. 

This movie was everything I wanted and more. It is the best comic-to-film translation of Batman to date. The influence of Frank Miller’s “Batman: Year One” is clear. The difference is, this movie is year two of Batman’s crusade. 

How perfect.

The opening scene was terrifying, psychological-horror-movie-esque. It opens with Paul Dano’s Riddler. We see him kill the Mayor Don Mitchell Jr. Quite brutally, repeated hits to the head with a metal object. 

We are also introduced to Batman, his first words being the notorious “I am vengeance.” 

This film is, at its heart, a psychological thriller and an ode to detective film noir and Batman lore. Dano’s Riddler is a Zodiac killer-sort of villain. It’s comical, yet scary and frightening. You want to laugh, not because it’s funny, but because it’s absurd and deranged.

This film is a detailed, carefully crafted depiction of the morally grey — because yes, the Riddler isn’t wrong. But he is. He is the product of trauma. Just like Bruce Wayne. Dano killed it, metaphorically and literally. 

Often, the complexity of comic storytelling is lost in adaptations. It’s a valid, accurate critique of superhero television and movies. This includes politics. Batman and his Gotham have always been political. Neither of those are lost in “The Batman.” It’s there. 

Lieutenant James Gordon (not yet commissioner - remember, this is an origin story) and Batman, investigate Mitchell's death. They discover the Riddler left a message for Batman, but Gotham City Police Department’s Commissioner Pete Savage vehemently yells at Gordon for giving Batman access to the crime scene. Savage forces him to leave. The Riddler kills Savage and sends a video of his death to Gotham news outlets. 

The Riddler leaves another message for Batman, the central element of which is the phrase, “you are el rata alada.” In Mitchell’s car, Batman and Gordon find a thumb drive, with pictures of him with Annika at the Iceberg Club. Batman is, then, introduced to Penguin — mobster Carmine Falcone’s lieutenant, a sort of right-hand man.

He knows nothing, Penguin tells Batman. 

Batman has his first encounter with Selina Kyle, or Catwoman here. Their chemistry is impeccable from the beginning. I love the Bat and the Cat. Zoe Kravitz’s Selina is well done. Her acting is marvelous. She is unarguably the best live-action Catwoman. 

Batman, then, follows Selina to her apartment and to Mitchell’s house. Annika’s passport is locked in a safe at his house. They return to the apartment, but now Annika is missing. Batman and Selina begin working together. Back at the club, they discover District Attorney Gil Colson is on Falcone’s payroll.

Thus, starting, the beginning of the end. 

Batman’s eyes are opened to the city’s deep corruption. It’s far beyond that though. Gotham’s problems are systemic. Can it be renewed? That is, Batman’s battle. 

This is a character driven story, with an overarching story. The film does a phenomenal job balancing Gotham, the city, and Batman, the character. It's an allegory for our current times — kinda strange how it’s so timeless. Our cities, like Gotham, never change. 

So, the Riddler is a part of a much larger puzzle. 

The Riddler abducts Colson and straps a time bomb to his neck. Put in a speeding car, Colson crashes Mitchell’s funeral. Bruce is there, but later arrives as Batman. The Riddler calls him with Colson's phone, threatens to detonate the bomb if Colson cannot answer three riddles. 

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At the third riddle, Colson refuses to name the "rat" (el rata) who gave the GCPD information leading to a drug bust ending mobster Sal Maroni's operation. The Riddler kills him. Batman and Gordon conclude Penguin could be “el rata” or the rat. They learn Maroni's operation continues and GCPD is heavily involved. 

They plan to track Penguin down, but are interrupted by Selina, who attempts to steal Penguin's drug money. Their plan is exposed. A confrontation ensues. While Penguin escapes, Selina finds Annika's corpse in a car trunk.

In an epic car-chase scene, Batman tracks Penguin, eventually learning he is not the rat. The cinematography at this moment was impeccable. The orange, fiery color was beautiful. It was stunning. When Batman walked to Penguin’s flipped, totaled car —fire in the background, only his walking shown — I was in awe. Visually appealing and shot so creatively. This was one of my favorite scenes. Matt Reeves’ direction deserves praise. 

Batman and Gordon investigate the ruins of an orphanage operated by Bruce's parents, Thomas and Martha. 

The Riddler was a resident there. He has a grudge against Thomas and targets Bruce.

Batman learns the Riddler has sent a bomb for Bruce. He rushes to return home and warn Alfred. But alas, Alfred is injured and hospitalized. Batman and Alfred’s relationship is explored deeply. And they aren’t on screen much. In the few words they exchange, however, like “you’re not my dad” and the cufflinks scene are telling. Bruce loves Alfred. He takes him for granted. Alfred’s always been there. 

Riddler publicly alleges Thomas, running for mayor when he was murdered, hired Falcone to kill a journalist for threatening to reveal details of Martha's mental illness. Bruce confronts Alfred. Thomas asked Falcone to intimidate the journalist, but decided to turn Falcone over to the police after learning of the murder, Alfred said. 

Falcone then had Thomas and Martha killed. It is also revealed Falcone is Selina’s father. He’s the “el rata,” the rat. Annika was strangled after Mitchell told her that Falcone was the rat. Selina decides to kill Falcone. Batman stops her. Falcone is then arrested but shot and killed by the Riddler.

The Riddler, or Edward Nashton, is put in Arkham Asylum. Batman confronts him, to which Nashton says, the two are partners. But Nashton resents Batman, who he knows is Bruce. Bruce, a rich kid, got sympathy for his dead parents, rather than an abandoned one, like Nashton. 

He’s right. I agree with Nashton. He grew up in poverty, it's violent. The system, Gotham, didn't sympathize with him. Rather, it created the Riddler. 

Batman rejects Nashton, who reveals he’s planted car bombs around Gotham. The bombs flood the city. Batman learns Nashton has an internet fan-base. He has “stans,” if you will. They plan to assassinate mayor-elect Bella Reál in the bomb and flooding chaos. 

Batman takes them down, Selina joining in too. A memorable moment: her saving and lifting him from the ledge. 

The film ends with Batman aiding in the city’s recovery efforts. He isn’t vengeance, he says. Batman is more. He has to be more. It’s a full circle moment. As a Batman fan, and an even bigger Batfamily fan, it brought me a lot of joy. Because this is Batman. He is more. I’m glad we get to see it.

“The Batman's” concluded a story of growth and grief. Robert Pattinson is, definitely, “The Batman.” 

Oh… and I didn’t forget that moment.

Yes, I’m excited to see Barry Keoghan as Joker. We all should be. 

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