TL;DR – Batman learns a lesson about vengeance.
Review (warning: spoilers)
Running on nigh three hours, The Batman is a lengthy reboot into the franchise. For the casual viewer, there will be a belief that tighter editing would have benefited the film overall.
For fans of the Dark Knight, they will enjoy every minute.
Director Matt Reeves has a clear passion for the caped crusader and has delivered a movie that takes you deep into, not only the minds of Bruce Wayne and associated villains, but the origins of Gotham and its founders. The city itself plays a key role in creating an immersive world where desperate people do desperate things, jaded people do jaded things, and practically everyone is barely holding onto their sanity.
The city as a character is portrayed in stunning cinematography by Greig Fraser, and it is the type of film that movie buffs will re-watch in order to absorb all the detail.
However, there have been many, many, Batman films and one has to wonder just how many more times they can depict in movies the character that spearheads DC comics alongside Superman.
From the trailer alone, the look of The Batman is grittier, darker, and more psychological than previous Batman films. But does that make it better?
Suffice to say that it is the story that allows Reeves’s The Batman to make its distinction from its predecessors. Yes, there is the psychological aspect in this story that rivals Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker versus Christian Bale’s Batman was a psychological delight, and in this film, Paul Dano’s Riddler versus Robert Pattinson’s Batman is arguably equal in the psychological thrills department. But in this film, we see much more of the detective element that has always been a central part of Bruce Wayne/Batman’s make-up. It is a side that is often glossed over for more action and fight scenes, but Reeves (like Nolan) doesn’t treat the viewer like an idiot and delves into the intellectual puzzles that Riddler is known for and ensures this is stirred thoroughly well with enough emotional napalm that you know everyone is going to get burned.
The story revolves around the Riddler who appears on Halloween and commences to target and kill political and law enforcement officials. Leaving clues and riddles for the Batman, unraveling the Riddler’s motives drives the story into the dark history of Gotham, which includes two of the founding families – Wayne and Arkham. It becomes evident that crime bosses are also targets in the Riddler’s cross hairs. And Batman seeks to get ahead of the game.
As puzzle pieces come together, Batman realises that Riddler is seeking vengeance on Bruce Wayne and those close to him.
This shakes a fundamental building block within Batman. In the opening scenes, he takes down a bunch of thugs assaulting a civilian at a train station. The thugs ask him who he is, and he responds saying, “I am vengeance.”
This comes full circle. As “vengeance” Batman sees himself as the one to dish out punishment for wrong doing. When he discovers through Riddler’s machinations that his father, Thomas Wayne (who was running for mayor at the time before his murder) was not the upstanding, squeaky clean figure he perceived him to be, he realises that the Riddler is also dishing out his own form of “vengeance”.
This revelation is reinforced in two ways. The first is when Batman confronts the Riddler locked up in Arkham State Hospital (this is a nice way of saying Arkham Asylum for the criminally insane). And the Riddler indicates his belief that he and Batman are the same. That they are on the same team and have the same goal (to rid Gotham of anyone tied to corruption, power and greed).
The second is that followers of the Riddler who attempt to assassinate the current mayor get stopped by Batman and Catwoman, but not before one of them reveals themselves as being the thug at the train station and saying to Batman that he is “vengeance”.
By the end of the film, Batman has had to rethink his idea of what he is seeking to achieve, and how he will transform Gotham in a positive way. It frankly a pleasant ending that is far more hopeful than I anticipated especially given how for nigh on three hours, you think Batman is fighting a losing battle against the darkness of the city.
But every night eventually turns to day…
8 out of 10