Batman has always been my first superhero love. I grew up watching the goofy Adam West show. I was there on opening day when Tim Burton’s Batman hit theaters and for the next three installments, although Batman and Robin might have cured me of that if it hadn’t completely killed off that series. (Michael Keaton being a better Bruce Wayne/Batman than George Clooney is something I still can’t get over.)
But then Christopher Nolan’s films, with the villains I could actually imagine being real people for the first time, made me fall in love with ol’ Bats all over again.
(Ben Affleck’s Fratman does not exist in my reality, thanks.)
It makes perfect sense to me that I’m drawn to Batman. He’s dark, brooding, a very tragic Goth-type hero.
And he’s best when he works alone. I know he’s long been a team player in comics, but I don’t care. For the movies, he needs to be a lone wolf with a few trusted people taken into his confidence. The recent crappy attempts to make a Justice League film series to counter the Avengers’ wild popularity just proves my point.
Last week, I finally got to a theater to see The Batman. I’d been genuinely surprised by the outpouring of positive reviews it’s had; I guess it didn’t have a hard act to follow thanks to the Batdreck that immediately preceded it.
And I agree with the majority: I enjoyed it even more than I expected to. Although it’s set in the present day, it’s got an odd 90s “The Crow” sensibility that really worked. There are points when it’s downright frightening in a way that even Nolan and Burton’s films never were.
A lot of that is down to the Riddler, who is two decades and light years away from Jim Carrey in a neon-green bodysuit. Rethinking the Riddler as the Zodiac (right down to some of the cards he sends to Batman, which were based off cards the Zodiac sent to newspapers) was a stroke of genius. And Paul Dano is almost too good in the role.
As for the new man in the cowl, Robert Pattinson is a fine Batman. I’ve enjoyed him in most of his non-Twilight roles, so I wasn’t surprised. At first, though, I was not sold on his Bruce Wayne. “Overgrown emo kid who reminds me of Brandon Lee in The Crow” is a take on Bruce that I’ve never seen in the movies. This is no dashing billionaire playboy.
But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. This Bruce has seen some shit, and everyone can tell he’s seen some shit. And he’s also an irresponsible, gloomy asshole who keeps neglecting his Wayne duties, to the point that Alfred has to nag him about it. This Bruce is completely relatable to me.
The rest of the cast is awesome too. Zoe Kravitz is a natural as Catwoman. Colin Farrell is unrecognizable, but recognizably excellent, as Oz, aka the Penguin. And it’s so nice to see John Turturro in a decent part again.
The three-hour running time has been raising eyebrows. My take on that: It’s a fast-moving three hours, although there was a part when things seemed to be wrapping up and I realized we had yet to see that scene from the trailers of Riddler getting caught in the Nighthawks-style diner. At that point, I thought Whew. This is a long-ass movie. But that was the only time I realized how long I’d been sitting there.
If you’re a Bat-fan? Highly recommended.