The Batman: An Intriguing Approach Undone By a Weak Screenplay (Blu-ray)
Over the last several decades, we have seen a number of different iterations of Batman come and go, from the early days of the serials, to the late '60s with Adam West, to the later film adaptations with Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, and Ben Affleck. And now, Warner Bros. has decided to reboot the series once again, this time with the intriguing choice of Robert Pattinson as the legendary Dark Knight. However, this version, from director/co-writer Matt Reeves, is not only a much darker approach, but it also goes back to the original source material, where the titular hero was a full-on detective. Turning the franchise on its head like this was certainly a fascinating gamble, but would it prove to be the right direction to take the beloved character?
The film opens as the Mayor of Gotham City is murdered by a mysterious psychopath called The Riddler (Paul Dano). The crime is investigated by Batman (Robert Pattinson), aka billionaire Bruce Wayne (two years into his crime-fighting job), and Lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) of the GCPD. A message is left at the crime scene for Batman, leading him deeper into The Riddler's game, ultimately entangling him with Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), a young woman attempting to track down her friend, Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), a major crime lord in Gotham, and Falcone's right-hand man, The Penguin (Colin Farrell), with various pieces of the past coming to light along the way.
It was no secret that there had been a lot of trouble getting the character of Batman up and going again after Christopher Nolan completed his outstanding trilogy in 2012. Ben Affleck was a decent fit for the part, but he just happened to be plagued with some pretty awful writing when it came to "Batman vs. Superman" and "Justice League." In that regard, it made perfect sense to start again from the ground up, which brings us to Matt Reeves' new, even moodier & darker version.
Starting off with the high points, the film is very well shot by recent Oscar-winning cinematographer Greig Fraser ("Dune"). As mentioned, it's a very dark film, but the composition throughout is very skillfully executed, making for a grand visual feast. And speaking of grand, Oscar winner Michael Giacchino provides a suitably epic score to accompany the grand scale of the film. Lastly, if one person had to be singled out of this entire cast, it would have to be John Turturro, who gives the standout performance of the film as crime boss Carmine Falcone, despite having a rather short amount of screen time.
Unfortunately, now we need to delve into what doesn't work about the film, which is, sadly, quite a bit. However, its number one issue is simply that Matt Reeves and Peter Craig's screenplay is rather weak. It was definitely an intriguing idea to go back to Batman's roots as a great detective to explore an area that we don't get to see very much of, but their approach is ultimately very padded out, repetitive, unengaging, and rather dull. At nearly three hours, this is easily the longest solo Batman flick by quite a bit, so it was a particularly strange choice to have the film be this slow and uneventful, and all the while, drowning it in doom and gloom.
It was also rather strange to see Pattinson just kind of grunt all of his dialogue throughout (as Bruce AND Batman), causing him to have hardly any impact as the iconic superhero. Pattinson has certainly proved his acting chops since escaping the awful "Twilight" films by turning in notable performances in films like "The Lighthouse" and "Good Time," so it was a shame to see him practically shut down for such a big, important role. Again, he wasn't given much to work with thanks to the weak screenplay, but even Turturro and Farrell were able to leave a slight lasting impression with their parts.
At the end of these three lengthy hours, there just ends up not being a whole lot that's exciting or compelling about it. With a better story, a detective-focused Batman film could be something incredible. Again, it's not the approach that's the problem here, but rather the misguided execution that turns the film into a dreary, over-long slog. With the sequel already having been announced, we can only hope that Reeves takes a lot more time crafting the narrative next time, while also reigning in the excessiveness. Only then might we finally get a Batman film that does justice to those early days of the infamous Caped Crusader.
"The Batman" comes to Blu-ray in a 2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of outstanding quality. This is a very dark film, but the picture remains perfectly sharp throughout the entire three hours, highlighting Greig Fraser's skillful cinematography. Likewise, the Dolby Atmos-TrueHD audio is fantastic, giving you all of the dialogue (much of which is delivered in a very gruff manner), sound effects, and Michael Giacchino's score in excellent quality. Overall, fans will be very pleased with the remarkable treatment Warner Bros. has given the film for its debut home release.
Looking for Vengeance (5 Minutes): A brief look at Batman's fighting style and the film's stuntwork.
The Batman: Genesis (6 Minutes): A featurette that explores how Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson found this film's version of Bruce Wayne.
Vengeance Meets Justice (8 Minutes): A look at Batman and the Riddler and how their characters are connected.
Becoming Catwoman (9 Minutes): A featurette that delves into this film's pre-Catwoman iteration of Selina Kyle.
The Batmobile (11 Minutes): A featurette all about creating the film's new version of Batman's iconic vehicle.
Anatomy of the Car Chase (6 Minutes): A detailed look at one of the film's biggest action sequences.
Anatomy of the Wing Jump Suit (6 Minutes): A featurette that focuses on Batman's special suit and what it took to bring the sequence to life.
Vengeance in the Making (54 Minutes): An intriguing behind-the-scenes documentary that explores the making of the film.
Unpacking the Icons (6 Minutes): A featurette that delves into the characters, including their props and costumes.
A Transformation: The Penguin (8 Minutes): A fascinating look at the creation of the makeup for The Penguin.
Deleted Scenes (8 Minutes): Two deleted sequences, one featuring Batman visiting The Joker, and another featuring a brief interaction between Selina and The Penguin.
Matt Reeves' "The Batman" features skillful cinematography, an epic score, and a memorable turn or two from the cast, but it's all undone by a remarkably weak screenplay that ultimately turns the film into a repetitive, unengaging, and over-long slog. There was a lot of potential given its fascinating approach to the character, but the execution proves to be rather misguided, making for a surprisingly disappointing and forgettable outing for the Dark Knight.
Available on Blu-ray/DVD starting tomorrow.
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