the batman - the riddler 2022
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

[Review] THE BATMAN is a Dark Crime Thriller But Not The Creepy Caper You Might Be Expecting

I am by no means the preeminent Batman scholar of the internet. Yeah, sure, I grew up with Batman: The Animated Series and I’ve been obsessed with Batman Returns for as long as I can remember, but superhero movies just aren’t my bag. I still haven’t seen Spiderman: No Way Home, despite it clobbering box office records amid a global health crisis. What I am, however, is a horror fan won over by promos painting The Batman as a hard-boiled detective story full of creepy, cryptic messages from a masked serial killer on the gloomy, rain-soaked streets of Gotham City.

As an old-ass moviegoer, my brain wants me to complain that too much of this dang movie is in that trailer. Everything that I wanted to see, everything that made this a unique and left-of-center crime-fighter flick was already served to me on a silver screen platter a year ago. The blanks of that two-minute trailer, filled in by this 3-hour action epic is mostly your standard-issue batboy melancholy. On the other hand, as someone who generally skips these kinds of movies, that trailer did make me buy a ticket. So kudos to you, advertising department, for pulling in a hopeful horror fan like me. But shame on you for making this movie’s best-kept secrets nothing more than mob boss posturing.

 

The Batman is exactly the gritty crime thriller it was selling in the trailer, but it’s also ONLY what the trailer was selling.”

 

The Batman is not the creepy caper I was holding out for. Perhaps it was always wishful thinking to assume this would be the Superhero Se7en the trailers seemed to be promising. Yeah, the big bad is slowly making a statement by murdering highly specific folks, and it does seem to rain 99% of the time but that’s about as far as the comparisons go. I really enjoyed the chaos The Riddler brought to this moody mystery but as a film, his inclusion would have been more impactful on that initial viewing if it were completely unexpected. His involvement, as a shadowy figure of frontier justice in the 21st century, is a great backdrop to Batman’s continued efforts to curb crime in the city but expecting him as the main attraction of this psycho circus is where this story runs into problems.

Paul Dano is exceptional as a deranged and disillusioned The Riddler. Now that I’m thinking about it, his apartment is very John Doe-esque (another tick in the Se7en comparison column) but he never reaches the same homicidal heights. Surely The Riddler’s body count is higher but your fear of him is only an extension of a fear you’ve come to know from watching the evening news. The Batman grounds its villains in modern reality, maybe better than any previous picture, but the Taxi Driver adjacent Batman story filmmakers have been searching for, for decades, remains as elusive as ever.

 

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

 

Michael Giacchino’s noir-inspired score does a lot of the heavy lifting in selling The Batman as the somber crime thriller that it is. The atmosphere that it helps create is essential to the grim, gritty world writer/director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) has crafted for his foray into the bat-verse. Even the “scariest” moments are thanks to the piercing strings of Giacchino’s orchestra. It also goes the extra mile to paint Batman’s voyeurism as sexy, making The Batman the closest any superhero is likely to come to having their own erotic thriller. Which brings us to the sexiest character of the entire film: The Penguin.

Colin Farrell (Fright Night) is absolutely unrecognizable as the Al Capone-inspired henchmen of Gotham City’s criminal underworld. He’s given significantly less time than expected to chew scenery but he still delivers one hell of a cartoonishly gruff performance when he’s allowed. The Batman is an introductory piece to his larger-than-life character, operating at the same sluggish pace of every modern franchise film. These dang movies are determined to keep you on a 5 film IV drip rather than shooting you with 100 cc’s of concentrated crime-fighting fun.

 

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

 

Somewhere along the way I’ve forgotten that this is a Batman movie. I’m lost in the weeds of my grumpy old man complaints. Robert Pattinson is a good Batman. He looks great in the suit, his Batman voice is *just* gravelly enough, and he listens to Nirvana when he’s all sad and stuff. Unlike most Batman movies, we don’t get a chance to see him much as Bruce Wayne. That’s not a make-or-break detail but it is a conscious choice from Reeves to explain the obsession of the character and the darker truths about steeping yourself in only the worst parts of humanity to become a symbol of Fear.

Pattinson’s Batman is a victim of his own nature and I hope to see him in the suit again. He is one of the broodier Batman‘s, from a long line of broody Bat Men, but he brings an authenticity to the character that’s visible in his eyes alone. As Bruce Wayne, he scans crowds and eyes people suspiciously, as a Batman would but in the suit, he’s a tortured, traumatized boy boiling with hatred from behind the mask.

 

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

 

Zoe Kravitz’s Catwoman is as agile and alluring as ever and, to Reeve’s credit, she’s given much more to do here than expected. It’s damn near the Cat & Bat show. Her story is a cog inside the larger mechanism that makes The Batman turn but an argument could be made about how integral it is to the film overall. Her storyline mirrors Batman’s journey and The Riddler’s labyrinth but it felt like a hat on a hat at that 3-hour mark. I think Kravitz is going to knock it out of the park in a solo Catwoman movie but I’m not exactly sure what they left for us to explore in her character.

The Batman is exactly the gritty crime thriller it was selling in the trailer, but it’s also ONLY what the trailer was selling. If you were expecting more evil, serial killer stuff from The Riddler, brace yourself. This is not the deep, dark detective story come to smash your notions of what a Batman movie can be. The Batman is just as concerned as any MCU feature with building a universe and laying the groundwork for more films to come. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think movies should not be 2-hour teasers for sequels. Stop trying to get me hopelessly addicted. Just show me a good time and I promise I’ll come back again for another hit if I enjoyed the ride.

 

“This is not the deep, dark detective story come to smash your notions of what a Batman movie can be.”

 

The Batman is in theatres now! Be sure to let us know what you thought of this dark, moody superhero flick over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.

 

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Review: THE BATMAN (2022)
TLDR
The Batman is exactly the gritty crime thriller it was selling in the trailer, but it's also ONLY what the trailer was selling. If you were expecting more evil, serial killer stuff from The Riddler, brace yourself. This is not the deep, dark detective story come to smash your notions of what a Batman movie can be.
Story
60
Villains
70
Score
85
Performances
70
71
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