It’s af**king drag at this point. People have been making Batman films for what feels like forever. You’d think there’d be enough at this point. But I suppose there is just something about a mysterious detective of the night that captures the imagination of thrill-seeking audiences, not to mention huge box office numbers. Somewhere out there is a voice in a pitch meeting saying, “Let’s make another one,” and that person really needs to shut up.
Matt Reeves’ batman, released on March 4, 2022, is the latest attempt at offering a new take on the Dark Knight, but I keep wondering if it was worth the effort. The film stars Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, and Paul Dano. Before I get to its major issues, I admit there were elements of the film I did enjoy. I thoroughly enjoyed Pattinson in the role of Batman and completely bought into his tortured, creepy, and emotionally raw take on the character. He brought so much gravity and edge to the Bruce Wayne character and delivered a quality of performance to rival any Batman actor prior. The soundtrack was haunting, mysterious, and appropriately fear- or hope-inducing to suit the moment. Costumes, set design, makeup, and prosthetics contributed to the goth aesthetic echoed in the script, not to mention an especially seedy feel for Gotham City. An incredibly talented team of people worked on this film, but were tragically let down by the drab writing and directing of the film’s visionaries.
batman is a three-hour-long film stuffed to the brim with villains and subplots that go nowhere and add no value to the viewing experience. The Penguin, Carmine Falcone, and The Riddler struggle for screen time and the title of primary antagonist, yet none of them ever display a clear motivation for their choices and general villainy. I maintain that Colin Farrell as The Penguin was despicably miscast and an unnecessary addition to the film; constantly playing second-fiddle to a more interesting performance by John Turturro, who plays Carmine Falcone. Paul Dano was great, but his Riddler was so obviously inspired by Heath Ledger’s Joker and the film did n’t even try to hide it. fans of Dark Knight will be crying foul at the near-identical artistic choices for The Riddler’s camera recordings that foretell Gotham’s reckoning, citing everything from dialogue to cinematography.
Dialogue actually accounts for the majority of this film’s embarrassments, with most bits coming across as either cheesy or striving for the pretension of a better film. Incessant voice-overs representing Batman’s inner monologue resulted in tonally dissonant scenes where every plot point is spelled out for the audience. Instead of trusting the filmmaking itself or the audience’s intelligence, everything is spoken as opposed to shown. For a crime thriller, the film is disappointingly liberal with its vocalization of clues and twists, altogether butchering any mystery or angst that could have otherwise been there. I was neither surprised nor inspired by any of the supposedly big reveals of the plot, and frankly, I was continually disengaged by the constant chatter of the characters. The worst of it all was the repeated use of the word “vengeance” to characterize Batman’s motivations for him, reaching a head when both Catwoman and The Penguin use the word to mock Batman. Despite the lack of intentional jokes, the film ended up oddly campy and juvenile, which was especially disappointing considering how seriously the whole enterprise takes itself.
Then there’s the plot, which was contrived and messy. I honestly cannot clearly track the progression of events and am unable to pinpoint what the cause and effect of different things were. Despite Pattinson and Kravitz’s chemistry, their romantic arc felt shoehorned. It distracted from Catwoman’s already packed storyline of seeking revenge on Falcone, finding her friend de ella, stealing a bunch of money, and taking care of her cats. There was so much happening constantly, which is ironic because I was drop-dead bored for a lot of it. The additional consequence of this hectic writing was the dreadful underdevelopment of Alfred and Bruce’s relationship. After two hasty scenes of Bruce mistreating Alfred, we’re somehow supposed to care when the iconic butler nearly dies, and rightfully so. But, because no one expected him to croak so early in a potential franchise, there were no stakes at play for anyone.
The unjustified runtime and rather clumsy execution of this film are symptomatic of shoddy directing. There was a lack of prioritization in both the screenplay and characterization, and a lack of faith in the medium of visual storytelling. Everything was overexplained, overwritten, and ended up being unrewarding and uninspired despite the abundance of talent on this production. If Warner Bros. decides to make a sequel — which of course, they will — a better director needs to helm that project. This isn’t the movie Gotham deserves and is certainly not the one it needs right now.