The Batman (2022) — Detecting, punching, and brooding

“I’m just an instrument, here to unmask the truth about this cesspool we call a city.”

Justin’s rating: Not sure why they brought back the Batusi, though…

Justin’s review: While there have been many iterations and faces of Batman over the years, one aspect that the movies never really took a shine to was the fact that he was, indeed, “the world’s greatest detective.” Bruce’s toys and training were meant to support his efforts to combat crime through actually solving cases. The great ’90s animated series held to this, but we haven’t really seen it as much in the different movie versions of the Caped Crusader… until now.

The Batman offers up a lot of the character’s staples — the Batcave, Alfred, his rogue’s gallery, POW-BIFF-KRAKK fighting — but from the very start, Matt Reeves’ take on the character is that of a young detective quite adapt at figuring out a crime scene and deducing a mystery or two. And that’s a good thing, because he’s up against a gimp suited Riddler, who here is a wheezing serial killer who has a master plan in the works.

This marks the umpteenth reboot for the Dark Knight, landing somewhere near Christopher Nolan’s version but not quite. What I really zeroed in on as I settled down for this three-hour (!) flick was the feel of the city of Gotham and how it informs the characters and stories. Nolan’s Gotham never felt like anything other than normal Chicago. Burton’s Gotham was weird and Burton-ish. Schumacher’s Gotham was gaudy and cartoony. And I never saw any of the DCEU Batman stuff, so I’m not the one to comment there. But here, Gotham feels, well, gothic. You know what it reminded me the most of? The rainy, broody city from The Crow. Both of those reek with grand architecture, seedy corruption, and nary a sunny day.

With plenty of runtime to work with, the movie takes us on a winding journey as Batman investigates a series of murders (and riddles) that put him in contact or conflict with everyone from Catwoman to Penguin to an up-and-coming detective Gordon. I absolutely loved how distinct and well-done these characters were, including Robert Patterson’s titular hero. By putting Batman into the second year of his efforts to clean up Gotham, the filmmakers could skip over a boring origin story while still having this “vigilante” have to work against his inexperience and a police force not willing to back him up. We get far, far more Batman than Bruce Wayne, which may be one of the weaker elements — Bruce is almost a non-entity — but I really like how Patterson plays him and plays off of his fellow stars. Batman and Gordon are a terrific crime-fighting pair, I must say.

I also got right into the mood of this film with the opening narration, which reminded me (as it was probably meant to) of Batman’s frequent inner monologues that would grace the comic book pages. He likes to tell the bad guys that he’s “vengeance” and all that, but that’s immaturity talking. Batman in this movie is going to have to grow up the hard way.

Despite being long — and, at times, it felt quite lengthy — The Batman is packed with nuanced character moments and some amazing setpieces. When the Batmobile finally made its debut halfway into the movie and started revving up in anticipation of a chase, I could feel the bass shoot right up my spine in the theater seat. I was here for it, and it did not disappoint. The Batman also feels like it relies a lot more on practical effects than glitzy CGI, and that gave it a tactile realness that set this apart from other shiny superhero movies.

Probably the strangest thing here is how The Batman flirts with being an R-rated movie without technically crossing the line from PG-13. It’s as hard of a PG-13 as I’ve ever seen, but the true gore and nudity is suggested rather than shown, the drugs are “eye drops” (which is as menacing as putting your contacts in), and Batman tries hard to taken his opponents alive rather than gun them down. Tonal comparisons to Se7en have been made, which seems fair, just a Se7en that’s not going to make you hurl your lunch.

I truly wasn’t expecting a terrific Batman movie with a meaty story — honestly, I didn’t know what I was expecting — but I more than got my money’s worth and look forward to seeing this iteration continue in the future.

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