The Batman: a thought-provoking, insightful MOVIE REVIEW from a different perspective.
Noir is a genre that I find hard to distinguish and pinpoint, but the moment the screen opened for The Batman, I knew it was Noir. With the announcement that Robert Pattinson was the new Caped Crusader, the hype and the criticism were equally on the extreme ends of the spectrum. The hype was cemented by that eerie trailer and the criticism: rather baseless negative comments crowding the internet because he is Robert Pattinson, heartthrob of Twihards. If you are still judging him because of his Edward days, shame on you. As a lifelong Twihard, trust me, I know that no one mocks Twilight more than Pattinson himself, and us Twihards. The Twilight series was intended for teenage girls, it made lot of money, and none of those teenagers who are now adults actually care about your dislike for glitter bomb vampires.
Anyway, the focus here is The Batman. Let's talk about visuals. This Gotham is dirty, littered with filth and rubbish, and among the shadows of this kingdom of ruins lurks The Batman. The story begins on 31st October, Halloween, aka Dia De Los Muertos, with a high-profile murder just before the mayoral election. It is also the perfect day for a masked vigilante to move around the city. From there, it becomes a thriller. The Bat-signal flashes into the cloudy sky, as Lieutenant Gordon asks for The Batman’s assistance (I liked that the creators of this movie did their best to build curiosity up until the reveal of the vigilante). It's raining, it's so dark, it’s slimy, and there is racism-infused delinquency happening in a certain subway. Gotham is a once-prosperous city now totally in decline. It is truly a kingdom of ashes. Among this kingdom of ashes lives a thirty year old, moody, city prince named Bruce Wayne in a beautiful, grey, gothic tower with crypts and a graveyard.
I have not read many volumes of Batman comics, but the few I have read always use his inner-monologue to give an insight into how his mind works. Monologues are stage specific craft and tricky to put on screen, as the inner-monologue tends to become a tad bit annoying if not done well. And it can easily become fertile ground for the unreliable narrator trope (example Rue from Euphoria, Eliott from Mr. Robot, and Amy from Gone Girl). But here, the inner-monologues of Battinson (Yup, we are calling him Battinson) are his diary entries, which made me very happy. He wears lenses that record everything he sees, then he writes them down to remember; although his handwriting is terrible. He has been doing the vigilante job for two years, and he has become sort of an urban legend who can be summoned for help with the Bat-signal. He doesn’t discriminate between big criminals or petty goons, but it seems obvious he is exhausted of the never-ending crimes in this city.
Our Battinson gets summoned by Gordon, and soon they embark on the crime-solving journey. Battinson is already emotionally suffocated, a recluse refusing to participate in business affairs, and almost angsty as he is a Zellenial like me, so I couldn’t help but imagine him growing up watching Sauske vs Naruto clips on YouTube, wearing black clothes, putting on eyeliner, and listening to death metal, and relating to them hard. So when Battinson’s painted eyes underneath the mask land on the clearly afraid son of the dead politician, there is empathy for the child, but also the cluelessness of a loner.
Murders follow like dominoes, one after another, and each murder comes with a riddle. They are simple, but when watching them being read on screen, it’s not easy to answer. Now, many people are discovering actor Paul Dano (The Riddler) for the first time, but I have seen him in War and Peace and countless indie movies he has done, so I know his range. Despite being masked for 90% of the movie, his voice and sparkling eyes behind the glasses did the job for him. He dominates his screen time, and also creeps out people. The Riddler’s motivations are fuelled by the same concerns as Battinson, but despite us viewers thinking that their paths of vengeance and total wipe-outs are different, they are not. Both are disillusioned, intelligent white men, from two sides of the city— extreme rich and extreme poverty— and they both have followers. They are witnessing the failure of socioeconomic political systems, the welfare programs that are meant to help poor people in need, but are crumbling as it they have been hollowed from inside. Battinson is unable to grasp the whole story because he has the dumb rage of a privileged teenager, and the Riddler, fuelled by anger is unable to change the system because he has no agency. It is an interesting collision of two extremes, who are actually not different from each other. Battinson is unable to find the source of the corruption, while Riddler has already understood every nook and cranny of the hollow system.
Enter Catwoman, solely motivated by friendship and money. Zoë Kravtiz’s Selena is the dream girlfriend, who is way out of my league. She is smart, much better at sneaking and collecting information than Battinson, and she feeds strays. She has her own plot of extracting money from Falcone, and imparting knowledge to help Battinson. I did not like that Battinson, who was following her, watched her change clothes with binoculars! No matter how noble your cause and how beautiful Selena is, Peeping Tom behaviour is not acceptable, and on top of it, his lenses record it! 100 points deducted from Hufflepuff for this behaviour. But they team up, and then Battinson, like the brat he is, forces her to dig deeper into the drug problem called Drops. Battinson and Catwoman have chemistry, their actions are well done, and their love for bikes: gorgeous. And I think our handsome Battinson is a virgin, because he malfunctions after the first kiss.
I don’t know how to talk about Alfred; he more of an estate manager than a butler, but he is skilled at solving crossword puzzles and cryptic messages from The Riddler. He also taught Battinson hand-to-hand combat, and they had a “You Are Not My Father” moment, too. I found it hilarious that Alfred’s comment on The Riddler's inadequate Spanish is later cemented by Penguin, who throws a frustrated tantrum when Battinson and Gordon try to find the meaning of The Riddler’s message from him. I laughed in quadrilingual. Falcone and Penguin have layers of criminal activity going on, and they are the king and bishop of Gotham’s underworld. Falcone is as repulsive as Black Mask from Birds of Prey, and Penguin addressing Selena as “Sweetie” or “Dear” gave me the creeps.
The best action in the movie was the insane car-chase! It was over the top, totally stretched-out, and gripping. But it really didn’t contribute much to the story other than to show the glorious Batmobile! The scene that got my attention for its intensity was when a fainted Batman is locked inside the police station and is swarmed by policemen ready to unmask him! By the way, I really wish we had more of Gordon doing his own thing instead of just being buddies with Battinson.
Other action scenes were also well-done: The jump from the building with the batsuit was well done; and despite my constant complaint of DC movies being so dark, I appreciated how they used the dark in the elevator-corridor gunfight. It fades from chaotic emergency red to pitch black, and the only time we get to see the combat is when the area gets illuminated by the machine gun shots!
I really had fun watching this movie, but a Batman movie cannot exist without comparison to its predecessors. I will not even try to compare it with Nolan’s rendition. I will say that Pattinson’s Batman is a much better than Ben Affleck’s; even though this Batman is immature compared to all his predecessors, and he needs to read a lot more, and engage with society and socialise. Generally, it is a hectic task to maintain the image of Bruce Wayne, the playboy-philanthropist-billionaire, and his secret identity The Batman. Battinson has to learn the game of power that is played by the society he belongs to; he has been Rapunzel in the tower for too long. The Riddler exposed how Bruce Wayne’s disinterest in his own wealth and legacy formed a perfect vacuum for his ignorance as Batman the detective. Had Bruce mingled in high society, he would’ve figured out why The Riddler was murdering people left and right. So I would love to see where Bella Reál (played by Jayme Lawson) comes into this grand scheme of rebuilding Gotham, because she is the public face of Gotham, who needs financial aid, is slightly naive and idealistic, hence ends up taking a bullet for the common people, too. She is the first one in the story who tells Bruce Wanye that he can do a lot more for the community, and he can as Bruce Wayne. As The Batman, he can fight criminals in the dark, clean up Gotham’s scum, beat up the corrupt, and hand them over to Gordon. But as Bruce Wayne, he can do much more... but right now he can start by paying his taxes.
Aritra Paul is a book editor and digital marketer from India. She enjoys reading manga and webcomics and aspires to be a comic book writer. But mostly spends her time writing fanfictions and uploading pictures of her cat Gucciko, food, and books on her Instagram.