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Thread: The Batman (2022)

  1. #1
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    The Batman (2022)

    The Batman (2022) directed and written by Matt Reeves

    Spoiler Alert! DO NOT READ if you haven’t seen the film.

    This is a dark Batman, a different Batman, a complex Batman; told on an epic scale with extreme violence, and a convoluted plot. We understand from the opening narration that this story has a biographical retrospective feel to it. A television is on in a room with a man who is talking on a land-line telephone. The newscaster mentions the rising crimewave in Gotham City despite the appearance of a “masked vigilante,” who apparently is helping the police in investigations. This Batman is not a welcome personality to the Gotham City scene, rather considered a busy-body who often interferes or hinders police work with his presence. No one in Gotham likes him; even Gordon regards him as a necessary evil.

    This film is not like any Batman ever made in the series. This is an epic film told on an epic scale (three hours) that digs deep into the psychology of why Bruce Wayne became Batman. More akin in style to Frank Miller’s “Year One” than it is to any other version, including the gritty Christian Slater versions. This version is grittier, dirtier, and more violent than any Batman every made, and therefore a purely adult film. This is not a film that a child or even an early teen would understand or appreciate in its complexity. There are psychological twists, rampant drug usage and extreme forms of violence intended for adult viewers.

    The criminal element is about and the Batman is nowhere to be found… until a spotlight appears in the night sky, sending most criminals scurrying off in fear. If you haven’t seen any trailers, and you aren’t aware of any plot devices, then as an audience, you are unaware of what is happening as the film opens. To say it is a dark and rainy night in Gotham is an understatement. We land on a scene inside a penthouse suite. We switch to the exterior. The subjective camera looks through two lenses, as if we were seeing the object through the eyes of an old-fashioned set of binoculars. We aren’t certain who this is. The film opens with lightening flashes that reveal the advance of the mysterious person. We hope it isn’t Batman because in the next moment, the figure commits brutal murder.

    The director returns to subjective camera again, this time following Commissioner Gordon (Jeffery Wright) as he enters the crime scene. We see a long line of police officers lining a dark twisting hallway from someone’s point of view (POV camera or subjective camera). Whoever it is, the officers appear astonished and disgusted. Finally, the last police officer, Martinez (Gil Perez-Abraham) steps into the path of the camera. “This is a crime scene,” he blurts. “No place for freaks.” The camera switches to Gordon who walks over to the police officer, argues with him for a moment before the officer lets the person through.

    This is the first time in the film we see Batman (Robert Pattinson) in full costume. He appears as others have in the past with a similar uniform. Other investigators enter the crime scene of higher rank, and again, an argument with Commissioner Gordon breaks out regarding Batman’s presence. While this goes on in the background, Batman surveys the crime scene with a discerning eye. Here he comes across more as a detective in the vein of a Sherlock Holmes than he does as a superhero. He examines small details the other investigators then find intriguing. Though he doesn’t speak, his actions speak volumes about his intentions. He’s there to solve a crime and not seek publicity or self-aggrandizement.

    During this first crime scene, we get all of the most important elements that come to play as plot devices – the murderer leaves notes addressed to Batman, cryptic messages that resemble clues. This is our first indication of what or who we are dealing with as a criminal “mastermind.” To anyone with any knowledge of Batman lore knows, it was/is the Riddler who left notes to Batman about the crime or other crimes he intended to make in the future. While that is not apparent to the characters in the film, the audience knows that Batman’s nemesis is the Riddler. Hence, the reason for the subject camera as well. Not only are the Riddler’s intentions a mystery to Batman, but his identity is kept a secret from us throughout the entire film. We don’t discover the Riddler’s identity until the very end of the movie.

    When it comes time for Bruce to strip off his mask, he doesn’t ride in some fancy car to an underground lair. Instead, he hops on a motorcycle and enters the basement of the Wayne Tower in downtown Gotham. There is no Wayne Manor here. While there are some similarities with the traditional story, this Batman has made several plot changes. Bruce has a dark, messy computer lab, surrounded by bats, of course. Enter Alfred (Andy Serkis), with a more contentious confrontational relationship to Bruce. He’s seemingly concerned more about money and paying the bills than he is about the welfare of his charge. They go tit or tat until Alfred notices the Riddler’s code and offers to use his “war” experience as a code breaker. This reinforces the bond between them that appears strained in the recent past.

    Bruce dons the outfit again and goes in search of more clues to the notorious nightclub run by the Penguin (Colin Farrell). If this isn’t nominated for a makeup Oscar, I don’t know who deserves one better. Farrell is completely hidden beneath this expert mask that appears very real. Even his voice doesn’t sound like Colin Farrell. After Batman fights his way into the club, the Penguin brings him into his private office. During their discussion, Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz) makes her first appearance as an assistant to Penguin. She isn’t in costume, rather wears a sexy outfit, part of which matches photos the Batman has in his clue file. He follows her back to her apartment and finds out she intends to perform a robbery that evening.

    Meanwhile, Gordon uses the famous searchlight to summon Batman. Only this cast-outline has a weird shape to it, more like that of a real bat and not the “logo” symbol Batman wears on his chest. They have several encounters this way – on top of some construction site – where they exchange information, the same troupe used in past Batman iterations. This exchange of information performs two functions for the audience. It reveals the relationship between Gordon and Batman, and slowly unveils important plot points. A good friend called this “maid and butler” dialogue to give the audience enough information that helps drive the plot and explain character motivations.

    This film has a very complicated plot with many twists and turns. To reveal or even hint at them would be a disservice to any reader; like revealing the ending of Citizen Kane. There are many surprises, and what starts to be an ending, only becomes a stepping stone toward an even bigger climax to this epic work.

    Director Matt Reeves took on this project from Ben Affleck who started the project with the idea of both directing and starring as Batman. Affleck dropped out due to personal reasons. While WB considered several directors, Reeves rose to the top due to his commitment to the subject. He threw out the Affleck script and with the help of writer Peter Craig, created a script based on Frank Miller’s Year One that featured a broken Bruce Wayne, driven to fight crime in a corrupt city that killed his parents (their backstory also different). Gone are the trappings of the billionaire playboy living the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Wayne lives in a hole, barely sleeps, and is driven by, obsessed, with crime prevention to the point of distraction. It’s only when Catwoman forces herself on him, does Bruce form any kind of personal relationship with anyone in the entire film. Another trick of Reeves. Prior to Batman’s arrival, we hear his heavy footsteps, Reeves uses the booted-footfalls to foreshadow Batman’s arrival.

    Greig Fraser, ASC, whose brilliant work on Dune gave that film a unique appearance, uses a great deal of subjective camera to emphasize character involvement. In one scene, the screen is entirely black with the characters only lit by gun fire in staccato fashion. The film also lacks the usual symphonic score (used only in just a few important key scenes). Michael Giacchino (Oscar for Up; also scored Spiderman: No Way Home) understated score consists mostly of percussion until only a few key scenes bring in a full orchestrated queue. One key scene at the film’s climax brings out the entire symphony with maximum effect.

    This Batman is a very difficult film to watch… until it begins to unravel as a very complex and profound series of mysteries, not just Riddler’s puzzles, but the whole personality of Batman’s character. This isn’t just a talking mouth underneath a cape and cowl. Pattison’s Batman brings depth to a role mostly superficial in the past thanks to a heavy costume and short brusque lines. Three films are planned for the series. This first one is, perhaps, the greatest Batman film of all time, elevating the genre to a new level of excellence and one that Reeves will be loathed to duplicate in its mastery.
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  2. #2
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    MATT REEVES: THE BATMAN (2022)



    Another feather in Bob's cap, a dark one

    Thanks for this, cinemabon. I am out of my element here. You shed light, and it's helpful to be taken through some of the key scenes. I'm impressed that you say this may be "perhaps the greatest Batman film of all time," because I'm a fan of Robert Pattinson. This is a new field to conquer for an actor who started as a teen idol and then moved on to offbeat, challenging work for auteurs like the Safdie brothers, Robert Eggers, and the great Claire Denis, with a brilliantly successful effort for David Cronenberg in Cosmopolis, (which he's named as his favorite) and a a lively Down Under outdoors adventure with David Michôd. Closer to the genre involved here of expensive action blockbuster, he recently worked for Chris Nolan in Tenet. He's not just lucky: he has chosen well, and those are two classy blockbusters.

    Pattinson has shown himself to be a real chameleon in this variety. He's a dreamboat who also turns out to be a good character actor, with no desire to go on being a dreamboat (the same is true of his original partner in crime, Kristen Stewart). But since it's the same face and body, it might be worth contemplating the link between Pattinson's Bruce Wayne and his Edward Cullen. They do have something moody-broody in common that sets the two roles apart from Pattinson's other ones and links them together. Not all the roles or the films have been successes like Cosmopolis and The Lighthouse and High Life; the last one before The Batman was Antonio Campos' The Devil All the Time, which is considered to be a flop, and his own performance, though enjoyable, some think too caricatural and out of tune with the rest of the cast. But he's an interesting actor to watch.

    I get that this is considered to be a "noir" reworking of the Batman story with elements from David Fincher's Se7en and Zodiac. But this Bruce Wayne has a lot to do. He's not only playing detective and figuring out riddles, searching for the identity of a serial killer not revealed till near the end of the film, but also drawn into a sexy (but not sexual) flirtation-collaboration with Zoë Kravitz's Selena Kyle/Catwoman. Kravitz stands out in a movie that's overloaded with self-important men and lugubriousness. Her scenes are relaxed, sprightly, a breath of fresh air. In addition The Batman not only engages in problem-solving and flirtation but does a lot of serious kicking butt - reportedly taking on more bad guys in hand-to-hand combat than other movie Batmen have done.

    As noted by many reviewers, this plot devised by Matt Reeves with Peter Craig has many twists and turns. The numerous colorful secondary characters, represented by: Jeffrey Wright (whose Basquiat is still my favorite of his movies; too often, as here, he is little more than a good journeyman); Colin Farrell (but what is the point of a famous actor disguised beyond recognition, except to give a makeup artist a chance at an Oscar nom?); John Turturro (in a plot where most of the city corruption belongs to men with Italian names), doing a good standard gangster drawl; Paul Dano; Andy Serkis, not disguised, for once; Peter Sarsgaard, very frightened; and Barry Keoghan, whom I barely noticed, regrettably, since he was riveting in Dunkirk, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and The Green Knight) - all of these characters, save, for me, Keoghan's, are clearly brought forward. One reason the movie doesn't get out of hand with all this complication is the vary toned-down score, and what for this kind of movie is a fairly judicious use of fires, floods, and explosions, holding the big ones till late in the film, and then almost forgetting before the end that Gotham was drowning. One might add that Gotham this time, in keeping with the general (dark, moody) realism, looks a lot more like New York than usual, and less like the generic, simplified comic-book Gotham we've learned to expect.

    As someone who's so not a fanboy that I'm still confused about the apparently crucial difference between DC and Marvell Comics, by far the main appeal of The Batman (apart simply from its relative restraint) is its visual beauty. I would be prepared to say maybe this movie has the best-looking cinematography (by Greig Fraser, also responsible for the beautiful look kof Dune) of any comic book superhero flick. Every shot, however dark, however complicated, is pleasing to the eyes - beautifully lit, beautifully composed, subtle, pleasingly colored (often with a top note of amber), and sharp or blurry in exactly the right places and proportions. Of course this eye candy aspect of a film can be dangerous, and might be a reason why some, like Richard Brody, accuse The Batman of being shallow and empty. Visuals can be a distracting pleasure and for someone like me who's not deeply engaged with the material risks starting to seem the only pleasure (which it really isn't; if only the images had mattered I'd have fallen asleep, and I didn't).

    I like that the bad guys are more realistic and less grotesque and also liked the absence of the rich playboy paraphernalia. Yes, paradoxically, while like others of the genre this movie seems plentiful very nearly to excess, in retrospect what one admires about it most are all the things it leaves out.

    While you write of the movie's Batsuit that "He appears as others have in the past with a similar uniform, " as some, like Chrishaun Baker, have been at pains to point out, this is a pretty different suit, not only in having a less notable logo (and being charcoal or gunmetal gray instead of black), but in being bigger and bulkier and having much more distinctively the look of leather, not totally new in Batsuits but welcome for those of us who have had our fill of lycra tights.

    Some reviews, such as A.O. Scott's for The New York Times, run through the history of Batman movies - and he notes that this hero "used to be playful," later "was a bit of a playboy." But since Nolan's trilogy (which was much admired, but for me a slog), "onscreen incarnations of the character have been purged of any trace of joy, mischief or camp." Is he saying these movies might just as well be made by the forbidding Hungarian auteur, Bela Tarr? I think Robert Pattinson (who in person is a guy who likes to laugh) carries his gloom lightly enough. But this is the big problem, that these comic book epics have gotten a little too full of themselves. It's not only the famousness of the stories, I reckon, and the weight of being the savior of a city. It's all the money involved, and all the fans' expectations.

    This Batman, as incarnated by Robert Pattinson, and the darkness of things and gloom of mood, brought back memories of 1994 and Brandon Lee in Alex Proyas' The Crow, not only a marvelous piece of atmosphere but a lead character with his long, dank hair and pale Joker-style made up face and haunted eyes, not so very far from Pattinson's Edward Cullen, and perhaps a distant kin to his Bruce Wayne as well. Sadly, as we know, Lee died from a misfired weapon on set and the film was unlucky in multiple other ways as well, but went on to be a cult film and a lasting memory for those of us who saw it at the time. Could the truly electrifying gloom of The Crow by an influence on the mood of the Nolan and post-Nolan Batmen? Anyway, Matt Reeves' The Batman, whatever its plusses and minuses, is a must-see for all fans of comic book genre films - and of Robert Pattinson.

    The Batman, 176 mins., released in theaters in many countries in the first week of Mardh, 2022, in the US Mar. 4. Screened for this review (with four other customers) at El Cerrito Rialto Theater, Mar. 23, 2022. Metacritic rating (based on 68 critic reviews): 72%. AlloCiné press rating 3.9 (78%) and a rave from no less than Yal Sadat of Cahiers du Cinéma who wrote: "Reeves never gives in to the easy abstraction and celestial antics favored by the competition. The Batman is a earthbound film, harnessed to the exploration of a teeming but restricted map, where Snyder's characters are constantly rushing into infinite and interchangeable parallel dimensions."
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-24-2022 at 01:52 AM.

  3. #3
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    Ok... shots.... shots... shots... of course the most dramatic of all, Batman - who'd been the object of ridicule - elevates his character by leading the crowd out of the flooded Madison Square Garden, the crowd trailing behind grows exponentially with an orchestral queue... I'm ashamed to admit, I wept. The symbolism, fantastic. And the scene where he exits the elevator in the dark, punctuated by only blasts of machine gun fire... the climax of the Penguin chase scene on the bridge, where the tanker flips and Penguin grunts, "I got you! I got you!" only to have Batman's car (more car than stylistic vehicle in the past) bursts out through the fireball... Catwoman slipping into her costume for the first time, sliding it on as if she were donning a bathrobe, it goes over her frame so fast; almost in voyeuristic fashion... I leave the fight scenes to those who like martial arts; I just love how Fraser shot the sky with Catwoman and Batman in their parting... his use of lighting throughout is fantastic, but some of those shots stayed in my mind...
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    You're talking about striking or significant shots; I'm talking about beautiful ones. My appreciation - anyone's - of handsome cinematography is a bit detached and abstracted from symbolism or message, though not totally, as I said, because if the action had had no significance to me I'd be bored. Eventually maybe I was. I acknowledge the significance and power of the leading-he-crowd out of Madison Square Garden shot, which you don't have to apologize for weeping at: this is a film appreciation website and what better appreciation is there than tears?

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