Here’s a review I wrote for “The Collective,” a space hosted by @Brianfalduto
Movie MonGay on a SunGay #17 – “The Batman” by Matt Reeves, available for screening in a theatre near you.
Rating out of five ’s-
It’s hard to make Batman relevant and surprising without satirizing the material or banking on nostalgia. The latest Batman adventure by Matt Reeves avoids both potential pitfalls while plunging the viewer into a terrifying and tantalizing mystery. The entire movie feels like an elaborate, giant puzzle box comprised of intrigue and answers at every corner. This is possibly the first proper Batman detective story we’ve seen in a live-action adaptation, and it’s about time too. Bruce Wayne, played remarkably tortured by Robert Battinson, also narrates this time around. As within the origin comics that preceded any onscreen interpretation, they go a long way<br> towards helping us understand what makes this sophomore Dark Knight tick.
Paul Dano’s absolutely eerie Enigma of a villain certainly understands Batman on a deep, dark level. Much of the movie is about Batman being sucked into the Riddler’s psychotic game of murder and mayhem. As many have pointed out, the setup is very “Se7en”-esc, so whereas past Bat-flix honed in on action and set pieces, this one devotes significant attention to solving crimes. It’s much more than just the crimes themselves though. I think crucially, this movie, more so than any other (The Riddler can’t stop riddling. I can’t stop comparing.) develops the repressed soul of Gotham city as a character in its own right. You get to know how it works, or rather why it doesn’t, and the answer to “IS THIS A CITY BEYOND SAVING” isn’t as black and white as it was in “Joker.” That Todd Philips film, which I love and did a great job of calling out corruption and greed, laughed a very clear YES! The thesis of “The Batman,” along with nearly every character motivation, is grey and gripping, designed to make you think, as opposed to presenting a morality that is easier to digest with your popcorn. It’s not hopeless like “Joker.” It’s not hopeful like “Spider-Man.” It’s just… bleak and real with a dash of potential. What’s great about this movie is that the bleaker it gets, the more often characters rise to the occasion, thus allowing us as an audience to believe again.
I thought the cast was stunning. Colin Farrell in particular was, wait… COLIN FARELL!? Seriously, I didn’t know that was him until I watched a review channel post-viewing. It’s much more than makeup. He embodies the Penguin and is quite charming in his own roguish way. Jeffrey Wright is a standout as Gordon. He brings a knowing weight that is measured with an impressive patience surely required of someone who chooses to remain good while working within such a corrupt system. Andy Serkis brings a poignant punch to Alfred, and in one crucial scene, brought my gay ass to tears. Kravitz and Pattinson have something sexy going on as “the cat and the bat.” It’s hard to put a claw on it, but there’s this connection they have when he guides her towards the light in these moments of darkness that were very endearing. The physical language between the two is baterrificaterrific! Pattinson brought a protectiveness that’s laced with dominance to their scenes, and it was some of my favorite stuff. No, it doesn’t feel like “Twilight.” AT. ALL.
The score, which I’m sure is already in your head if you’ve seen one of the many trailers, is an absolute triumph. The Riddler’s rally for war slowly stretches around Gotham City as the music compels us to unease. But Batman’s presence echoes with specific chords, dim when he’s far but as a billowing blast when he’s near, so the clash of both vigilante and terrorist feels alive in every sound. You start to predict where Batman is based on lighting and camera angles too. He’s a man of the shadows, as we know, and the camera teaches us how he operates within them. You’ll find yourself following the staging of his various criminal takedowns, rare as they may be, and the value of their specificity is felt when you see the toll these trials have on the man behind the cowl.
Bruce is a tormented tangle of moppy hair and smudged eye concealer when he isn’t being forced into a comb over by Alfred. He’s also not a super man, which is like, the whole point. But I bring this up because, while he proves himself capable time and again, he isn’t perfect at the job. With this unseasoned Batman comes mistakes. Those mistakes, as he mentions to Catwoman at some point, have consequences. The inertia of this thing is impressive!
How gay is it-
Charlie and Max Carver, those adorable twins we know and love, pop up as two of Penguin’s henchmen. Charlie is gay in real life, so it was nice to see him in a movie where his sexuality wasn’t the whole point of his character. Catwoman is most definitely bisexual and nobody bats an eye (heh heh). Nobody points at the screen and says look, this is a bisexual and empowered multiracial woman of color. All of the magic she is speaks for itself. I feel like this Batman could be bisexual. Hard to tell. He’s kinky for sure. And speaking of kinky, don’t even get me started on this Riddler. I’d woof, but truthfully it’s an oof, cuz baby boy has some unresolved issues (understatement of the GD century). I have limits.
Why you should see it-
Well, if you’ve lost faith in Batman or superheroes and you’d like something a little less crowd-pleaser than “Spider-Man,” which of course there’s a place for, then check this out. Hell, if you like mysteries, this is a good pick. Batman-Schmatman. It’s a neo-noir, through and through, equal parts disturbing and romantic. You’ll want to learn about Bruce and the city and the villains. The themes are clearly executed and well thought out. It shines a different light on responsibility than “Spider-Man” that’s a little more nuanced. “With great power comes great responsibility,” sure. How about that plus “power corrupts absolutely?” If power corrupts absolutely, then can anyone in power truthfully be responsible? Because of this juxtaposition, the film doesn’t let us off the hook with a one plus one schtick. Matt Reeves is saying something about privilege in all its forms. It feels close to home while all the terrible news about Russia in Ukraine fills our airways. Even in those headlines we are learning what kinds of people are valued before others. Who gets favorable treatment? Why? This is one of the many things about how we’ve formed our societies that “The Batman” challenges. I was proud, as a lifelong Batman fan, to be in an audience while these conversations played out.