An argument can be made that anything “Marvel Cinema Universe” is the same movie with 27 different titles. The formula never fails: Arrogant, grumpy, or emotionless hero + desensitizing CGI +/- obligatory love interest + forgettable villain who always possesses one less level of power = box office points.
The DC Comics movies are no different, and I’m not sure how many more Batmans and Jokers and Supermans we need and why their origin stories have to get rebooted ad nauseum. (What about making a movie about Batman nearing retirement and looking forward to babysitting grandbats?)
I know I’m old school. My “Batman” was Michael Keaton in a movie stolen by Jack Nicholson and directed by oddball Tim Burton in 1989. It was okay; kind of cartoony. Danny Elfman’s music was the best part.
I realize these comic book/superhero “theme parks” (Martin Scorsese clears his throat) aren’t going away for a very long time, and some of them can be brainless fun, but human connection is a tough thing to come by when dealing with grumpy men in tights.
Having said that (Larry David clears his throat), I appreciated The Batman in all its grungy, Seven-esque glory. Like, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, it places neo noir over caped schtick. Like Seven (1995), The investigations and clue solving in the city’s dingiest places allure in a guilty pleasure sort of way. We want to see what’s behind the creepy locked door and wince as it’s being opened. If anything, this gumshoe type of suspense – the kind that is often replaced by computer-generated imagery in most superhero movies – is refreshing, and when it is executed sparingly, it makes the epic car chase scene in the Batmobile even grander.
Robert Pattinson as our dozenth Batman is predictably one-toned but successfully holds the weight (and length) of the movie on his shoulders. Paul Dano plays the antagonist in The Riddler with such an ickiness, it reminds you of Scorpio in Dirty Harry – twistedly fun to root against. As per usual, Gotham is a gigantic shower and whispery gravel voices are required by all actors and actresses. This was all to be expected.
What isn’t expected is Michael Giacchino’s incessant film score. At times, it cleverly incorporates themes from Schubert’s “Ave Maria” into both the drama and the action. At other times, its Batman motif fringes on being one interval away from John Williams’s “Imperial March.” (Darth Vader becomes a second villain in the audience’s subconscious, and Giacchino tears out the page in the dictionary that contains the word, “plagiarism.”)
The last 30 minutes aren’t expected either. No movie needs to be 176 minutes long. That is an insult to movies of this trope, The Godfather, and all human butts.
Other than these flaws, The Batman still has wings. It’s nothing original, and it’s no Dark Knight, but there’s enough entertainment with one bathroom break to fulfill a 21st century movie theatre experience. This Batman might be too dark for some, but the lack of campy appeal and CGI actually contribute to a more relatable, human connection than most comic book/superhero movies out there. I think the DC Comics movies have a leg up on the Marvel movies, but I also don’t think that’s saying much.
The Batman ***1/2 out of *****