The Batman

The Batman ★★★★

by virtue of being the 7th live-action iteration of batman in such a short span of time it can't help but feel like a bit of a derivative remix of so much what's come before. how many times can we see these same characters and situations molded to wrestle with the same ideas: what are an individual's power in the face of overwhelming large, corrupt institutions? is fear a useful tool? is it a political one? can real heroism or justice still be that when accompanied by violent revenge? after over 3 decades it feels like we've stripped all the meat off the bone on this stuff. however, that being said, look, i'm not gonna pretend that even coming too late that this version of this specific character isn't something i was basically in the bag for and that i've wanted to see since i was a teenager listening to 90s altrock and devouring the long halloween, year one, all the scott snyder runs, etc and it's a testament to reeves' skill as a for-hire style engineer that despite finding some of the writing here a bit rudimentary that most of my qualms with it were pretty much pounded into submission by the pure, sustained brooding tone.

unlike so many comic book adaptations that play coy dress-up with their influences while not actually taking on any of their formal elements this movie frequently and genuinely feels like the dour conspiratorial procedurals, gangster crime sagas and serial killer noirs its indebted to. it has legitimate cynicism and voyeurism built into it, and the mournful, downbeat register is consistently alluring rather than dull. it's very wet and slow and seedy and eschews quite a few of the commercial demands made on previous entries to make this character into an action blockbuster hero in order to really savor the time spent on the grimy streets of gotham; observing the imposing gothic architecture and beautiful, ominous skies as our paranoid, watchful protector rummages through filthy alleys and night clubs following up the various leads that leak out of the gruesome crime scenes and jigsaw traps set for him around the city. there's a lot of subjective perspective to the compositions and i appreciated the incredibly cinematic focus on eyes and screens and shadowy, low-light locales intruded by rain-smeared lenses and glaringly bright headlights/flares.

pattinson excels at this kind of wounded, awkward, hunched, almost ghostly physicality and his hard-boiled pulp diary narration funneled through emo angst philosophizing was exactly what i was hoping for. (haven’t seen this much antisocial silence out of a protagonist since basically any performance in a refn movie.) almost every periphery performance bouncing around him is a total blast. farrell and dano seem to be getting the most attention for the cartoon fun they're having but kravitz upstages them both (nearly destabilizing the power dynamics with pattinson with just the way she looks and a moves in a scene), and i was especially impressed by turturro and sarsgaard who reliably slime things up.

so despite the fact that i do think the structure isn't perfect and it doesn't have what i would describe as the... firmest grasp on all its threads that try to update some of the thornier elements of the material, it is the most stylistically engrossing and faithfully grim depiction of this insanely silly character. a character that could never in a million years be used as a tool to provide coherent, ethical solutions to poverty, crime, corruption, etc (which makes it even funnier that the movie even tries) because that stuff has only ever simply been an effectively ugly backdrop to an angry, grieving rich kid who tries to solve his internal moral conflicts by externally staging them as an act of sheer violent might: barely pumping some blood back into a suffering city that's been a mud-caked corpse for most of his life and probably long before that. say what you will of that image in all its reactionary dumb-guy pretension it's a striking one that lends itself well to gloomy genre exercise, and i think reeves just got the closet to it.

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