‘Battinson’s’ first caped crusade a solid first entry

Batman breaks the box office


Batman is one of those fictional characters that since his debut in 1939 has transcended his fictional station to becoming a pop culture icon, if not a mythological figure in a way. Whether you are a comic book fan or not you know about Batman, maybe just because of the osmosis-like permeation of culture or because you grew up with the movies and cartoons, but you know the basic story. There is a boy whose parents are killed in front of him but he survives, and so makes a vow to spend the rest of his life as a crusader, warring on all crime, or sometimes just Gotham City, it really depends on the story and who is writing it. For safety’s sake: mild spoiler warning for the rest of this review.
This boy is of course Bruce Wayne, The Batman, and in Matt Reeves’ 2022 film of the same name the constraint of Batman’s war on crime is clear: Gotham City is the priority, a reasonable choice for this grittier, more grounded version of the character. This movie eschews the common tropes associated with a Batman movie; for example, the audience is presumed to know the overall outlines of the dark knight’s origin, and are spared from having to rewatch Thomas and Martha Wayne’s murder at the begining of the film, as in so many times before — a fate that could not even be escaped in this article. Similarly Batman’s legendary training that allows him to push the boundaries of what “normal” people are capable of as well as his first nights as Batman are skipped. The audience is immediately dropped into the story of the movie which takes place two years into Bruce Wayne’s superhero career, being introduced to the movie’s villain, The Riddler — played by Paul Dano — just as the protagonist is. This Riddler, unlike past incarnations, is incredibly menacing. The character is a blend of the fictional Jigsaw Killer of the “Saw” franchise and the historical Zodiac Killer. His first appearance on screen is jarring and engaging, and indeed every consecutive appearance is equally so. Reeves’ vision for this movie was for it to be a detective story and a serial-kiler Riddler is a great choice for that sort of story. As an antagonist this movie’s Riddler does a great job, but as a villain he strikes me as rather mediocre. His motives and plots aren’t all that original or compelling but the manner in which he behaves, his modus operandi so to speak, is, as is his relationship with The Batman.
Batman’s rogues gallery, or his roster of villains and enemies, is iconic. Besides the Riddler and the various mobster figures such as Carmine Falcone and Salvatore Maroni that make who also appear in the film, there is the Joker, Bane, Poison Ivy, Ra’s al Ghul, Scarecrow, Mr. Freeze and many others, but the most memorable and infamous of these villains are the ones who are in direct opposition to or a reaction to Batman’s very existence, which this movie’s Riddler is. Unlike in other versions of the character this iteration is directly targeting city officials that he views as corrupt, participating in a broken vigilantism that was started with Batman as the inspiration. The implication here is that if Batman had never donned the cape and cowl the Riddler would not have wrapped himself up in plastic and began killing..
This is a theme that is occasionally brought up in Batman’s stories with other character’s than the Riddler being used; an exploration of the question of whether or not Batman’s existence is actually a help to Gotham and it’s people or if the in response to Batman crime simply evolved to survive, breeding a new kind of criminal, one much more dangerous than before.
Is this Batman ready and able to deal with these grave new threats, though? Robert Patinson’s portrayal of Batman, in this viewer’s opinion, could have been better, but was not bad enough to mark it a failure. The actor of “Twilight” fame didn’t do a poor job as the caped crusader, rather he actually seems to really make this particular version of the character come to life quite well. I’d say this movie’s take on Batman is unlike most others in the way that it obliquely acknowledges throughout the narrative that the idea of “Batman” is inherently ridiculous. As a response to trauma and tragedy, a young boy with a massive amount of wealth dedicates his talents and resources to dressing like a bat and beating the shit out of the urban poor and disenfranchised. It is rather silly. However, Pattinson’s Batman, or “Battinson,” really captures the idea that I think lies behind that joking perspective, which is that Batman as a character is fundamentally very sad and broken. He is so emotionally cracked that the only way he can cope is by adopting the visage of a bat and warring on crime. Unfortunately the way that the movie chooses to portray this is by making Robert Pattinson look like the laziest emo in the world.
Pattinson in the costume looks imposing, imperial and threatening, all things that Batman should be. Patinson as just Bruce Wayne looks sad and tired. His voice is hollow, his eyes are routinely covered in grease paint that looks like war paint or a manner of avoiding identification and rather an example of how not to do your mascara, or at least not how Batman should do their mascara. Unlike in other versions of the character, both on and off the screen, this version lacks the multiple faces or personas that Batman usually juggles. He is Batman regardless of whether he is wearing a bow and tie or a cape and cowl, whether he is talking to Selina Kyle, his butler Alfred Pennyworth, or Commissioner Gordon — in this story still just a lieutenant — Pattinson plays Batman as Batman.
On a scale of “I’m going to have to talk about this in therapy,” to “I can’t wait to talk about this in therapy!” I would say that 2022’s “The Batman” earns a very solid “Could have been better, but I wasn’t disappointed and I can’t wait for the sequel.”
Apparently I am not the only one as there is now as HBO Max has ordered a spinoff series centered on Colin Farrell’s character of The Penguin a.k.a. Oswald “Oz” Cobblepot, and hints at an announcement regarding the movie coming on March, 11. Whether this announcement will be one of a sequel or something else is yet unclear but what is clear is that at the time of writing this “The Batman” has made $279,806,394 in the worldwide box office and is certified fresh by Rotten Tomatoes and with the way that the film ended it seems a follow up is all but certain. Of course none of this is convincing to the most skeptical of moviegoers so my advice is to go see for yourself what the hype is about, I can bet that if nothing else you’ll at least have a good time.