We are finally out of our bat caves to report on the newest reimagining of the iconic Dark Knight, The Batman.
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Anthony’s Written Review
Can a Super-Hero film be ‘Cinema’?
The endless argument started by the one and only Martin Scorsese, may be finally answered by Matt Reeves, Michael Giacchino, Greg Frasier and the rest of the creative team behind this picture. If there is anything undoubtable about this film is that it was crafted with such attention to detail and with such a focus on emotionality and the love and passion, not only for the character of batman and his comics, but for cinema. Can comic book movies be considered “Cinema”
*Cue The Batman Theme* BUM BUMBUM BUM BUM BUMBUM…. I am… Cinema.
Alright let’s toss that topical discussion to the side and dig into the film here.
The Batman is a monumental feat of tone and execution. A proof of what can be done if the right creators are allotted the right amount of freedom and money to execute a piece that is unbelievable consistent and committed to excellence. This film feels like all involved were convinced that this was the last film they’d be able to make. Before we talk about the crafts behind the camera, let us begin with the only negative I see in this film which is the narrative and story.
The story is simple, Batman, only in his second year of beating faces in the dark alleys of Gotham is thrust into a conspiracy of murders, yes. MURDER. *gasp* all orchestrated by a mysterious villain, with a knack for riddles, The Riddler. It’s up to the dark knight to solve these riddles before its too late, uncovering a web of lies and darkness and corruption in the city of Gotham.
That’s the basic outline of the plot and I think the film delivers on all of it, the only complaint I have is it could’ve gone deeper and darker into the themes and ideas. There’s some elements that I think are not well explored, like the paranoia of the city and the people of the Riddler’s murder, specifically when it comes to the bat and Gordon trying to figure the mystery out. The scenes are all there while they are discovering clues, but it still lacked the magnetic momentum of seven or zodiac, I think he came close as anyone has, but still didn’t feel the gnawing dread from murder to murder.
I think it could have also dug a little bit deeper into Bruce’s psyche, it gets deeper than I think any batman film has but I wanted a huge emotional catharsis for him, he does get a moment that I think is supposed to be that, and it was great, but again, I think there could’ve been more, I wanted to see him emotionally desperate, and distraught.
Those are the big negatives for me but hear me when I say this film was more emotional and darker than I thought was even possible for a Hollywood superhero flick. We have never seen such a damaged and vacant Batman/Bruce. And Matt Reeves and Peter Craig both wrote a phenomenal work of batman lore. It captures all the beautiful things about this fantasy. The darkness of Batman, the unspoken rage swelling within him, the fear of the city of when that light hits the sky, the corruption of Gotham, the sickness of the Riddler, the agency and priorities of the Catwoman, the goombah villainy of the penguin and the controlled cool nature of Gordon and the damaged butler that is Alfred. All these characters are written to near perfection. And truly a testament to their craft of writing that they were able to not only have these characters feel grounded and real, but also capture everything that is unique and interesting about them from the comics. It’s the perfect combination of pride of the source material and the absolute love of cinema and cinematic history.
My favorite thing about this script is how they somehow managed to make this an absolute origin film without showing any true origins. Its genius. The way they set up the child of a dead mayor to be a haunting reflection of Bruce’s own past. And the look of Batman’s eyes as he sees their shared pain and trauma. They truly nailed this aspect and the feeling of loss, of trauma, of being parentless with no one to look up too. If anything, batman is a symbol of hope. And that there is the stunning achievement of what matt reeves made is somehow through the darkest depiction of Batman we’ve had on screen, he comes out as a beacon of light, and hope. A figure to look up too.
And the other thing I forgot to mention is how perfectly this film captures the true fear of the criminals in Gotham to batman. Every batman film has the titular bat signal as a warning and as a call, but this film is the first time I’ve ever experienced the dread and fear and horror of batman stepping out from those shadows. The intro sequence showcasing all this was absolute gold. And a cinematic moment I will never forget.
Okay, lets move past the narrative and get into some of the behind the camera stuff.
Let’s begin with the absolute star of this film. The sound design in this film is insanity. This might be one of if not the best sound design I have ever heard in a film. Bar none. When batman walks, and the sound of his boots hitting the ground, the sound of leather stretching the metallic clang almost as if he had spurs. The sound of every punch. The sound of the Batmobile cranking on like a car from hell, a caged screaming demon, with a jet engine that literally spits flames. The ensuing car chase only capitalizes on the sound design of this film. The wiping blades, the torrential downpour, screeching tires on flooding roads, the impacts, and screeches and explosions. All perfectly syncing up with a score that is to die for.
Michael Giacchino does his absolute best to cement this batman score into the pantheon of great cinematic scores of all time. And damn does it earn its place. The simple and haunting theme of batman plays like funeral horns. It echoes in the darkness of this city. But Giacchino doesn’t stop with just a revelation of a theme for batman, but he does it again for Catwoman, with a noire inspired jazzy soulful piece that perfectly captures the femininity and feline power and mystery of Catwoman in her theme, and he does it again with the Riddler. Echoing the amazing song “Ave Marie” but with its own unique orchestral despair and horror, his theme is tingling in its psychopathy. My favorite piece of his work is without a doubt “highway to the anger zone” the way it cascades and ebbs with the demonic pursuit of that scene is amazing.
Now of course, we need to talk about the cinematography, Greig Fraser, has truly cemented himself as one of the greatest cinematography alive with this piece. It is mind boggling. The level of precision and craft at display. The lighting that he does, the shadows that he casts, the framing and composition. The silhouettes. The placement of the camera. Whether it’s attached to Batman as he is escaping from seemingly hundreds of police officers. Or its bolted down on the Batmobile ripping through a highway or even in the backseat as the penguin’s car flips and smashes through the city. Frasier and Reeves shoot the most beautifully captured batman and Gotham ever. Truly the peak of visuals for a comic book film. Every composition they create together is instantly emotional and recognizable. I love it.
Now we must dig into the performances. I think the entire cast does a fantastic job capturing their characters. Colin Farrell is unrecognizable as the penguin. Gordon by Jeffery wright is perfect casting. Zoe Kravitz is a magnetic force as a Catwoman. John Turturro as Falcone is amazing, Paul Dano as the Riddler walks the fine line of insanity without going over the top of feeling fake. He captures a troubling awkward evilness that is all too familiar in our current age of online trolls making their rage reality on innocent people. And the star of the show is of course Robert Pattinson.
He delivers the greatest (in my opinion) batman portrayal thus far. The way he walks and lumbers around. The way his eyes look, as they scan faces and rooms and situations, the rage that he shows when he screams or when he is in physical altercations. His exhaustion and internal pain. Somehow Pattinson shows it all even under black eye make up and an entire mask and costume. He brings batman to life. many will be bummed we didn’t get the playboy version of Bruce, but hell every single bat flick has had that, I’m glad we got to finally see the caped crusader in all his dark emotionality.
The few other crafts that deserve to be mentioned are of course. The costume designer, set designer/ decorator, the make-up and hair department and the art director and stunt team. All these teams made brilliant work that shows the passion of their craft on screen.
Now to wrap this titanic review up. I must have a small piece for Matt Reeves specifically. What he has done with reincarnation and interpretation is nothing less than breathtaking and stunning. A true marvel. A cinematic thrill ride. A testament to the love of cinema and what It can do when masters all unite to tell one story. I think the biggest challenge of a director is wrangling artists of different skills and crafts together and somehow making a film that feels like it came from a singular vision and singular voice, to get all the unique voices to sing the same song if you will. And damn, did Matt Reeves allow them all to sing. this is a master stroke of tone management and striking artistic merit. It feels like a film obsessed with film, and comics. And I love it. I love how Matt Reeves was able to pull this off in the Hollywood system, and to have it not be hindered by any obvious manipulation and change.
And to think this is just the first part. The origin story. Wow. I truly can not wait for the next film to see how they push themselves even further into this world.
So, in ending,
The Batman = 9/10 Phenomenal
Matt Reeves steers a titanic ship of gothic darkness in The Batman to blistering heights of craft and vision. With Michael Giacchino delivering a defining score, Greig Fraser shooting this film with such precise and beautiful darkness and dread and beauty. And with amazing costumes, make up, sets, action and possibly the new pinnacle of sound design. The Batman is not only Cinema with a capital C it is undoubtedly a comic book film. Finally showcasing the batman has he was born. A dark knight, the world’s greatest detective, unraveling the Riddler’s psychotic murderous plot. An all-star cast with the like of Pattinson, Dano, Kravitz, Wright and so many more. This is, in my opinion. The Best Batman has ever been on the silver screen. With only a few script issues and a few lingering moments. This is a masterful piece of work.