By Emma Weidmann | Staff Writer
NOTE: This review contains a few spoilers.
Compared to Marvel, DC Comics has been known in the past decade to put out movies that simply don’t measure up to the gravitas and impact of “The Avengers.” Director Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” may have just changed that record entirely.
A big part of why recent DC movies like “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016) and “Aquaman” (2018) are such commercial and artistic failures is their tone and style, not to mention cheesy dialogue. DC movies sometimes feel more like comic books than serious films, whereas Marvel movies make an effort to seem as realistic as possible, both in visual effects and in setting.
“The Batman” couldn’t be more different. It’s gritty and dark, showing the seedy side of Gotham City in a way that doesn’t feel cartoonish or overdone. Immediately, the tone of the movie is set from the very first scene. It opens on a bird’s-eye view of Gotham City through the lenses of Batman’s mask.
The operatic “Ave Maria” plays as the audience watches the mayor of Gotham City playfully interact with his young son through a window. Once the little boy leaves, the mayor is brutally murdered by the Riddler, who lurks in the shadows of the mayor’s home office. The juxtaposition of a heartwarming moment between father and son and the grisly murder seconds later is both a jarring introduction to the movie as a whole and a perfect parallel to the murder of Bruce Wayne’s own parents.
This film skims over the circumstances of the murder of Wayne’s parents until the end of the movie, in which Bruce has to dig for information on his father in connection to the Riddler’s attacks on the corrupt elite of Gotham City and their link to the Falcone crime family.
Adding to the feeling of angst is the heavy featuring of Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” as Batman swerves in and out of traffic on a motorcycle on a rainy night in a crime-ridden city.
Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne is another deviation from the previous Ben Affleck and Christian Bale renditions, in that he is far less charming and charismatic than those before. In fact, Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne is antisocial and reclusive, barely filling his role as a wealthy socialite and the son of a beloved former mayor. While his wealth is still a large part of his character and the reason that the Riddler targets Wayne (unaware that he is Batman), he is not an endearing playboy like past renditions.
This movie does a lot of things right. From the masterful disguising of Colin Farrell, who is unrecognizable as the Penguin, to the casting of Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman, “The Batman” is an enthralling three hours.
Admittedly, the movie could be shorter, but there was never a moment that felt like filler. If DC continues to release this sort of hard-hitting, grungy film, Marvel may be in for more competition than it’s seen in more than a decade.