Movie Review: The Batman
Like most people, I went into The Batman a bit skeptical. If you’re like me, then the Zack Synder run of the DC universe left a sour taste in your mouth for anything related to that universe, let alone the fact that the Christopher Nolan movies were just so recent. I remember thinking “do we really need to rehash the Batman origin story for the third time?” The trailers and teasers didn’t do much to help, as the movie came off as cringey and try-hard-y to me.
But I decided to give this movie a shot anyways, because I really enjoy the Batman character and was curious to see how Matt Reeves would try to differentiate this adaptation from the previous ones. So, despite my reservations, I went into the theater optimistically, hoping that if it wasn’t a good movie, then it would be a fun one at least.
And, after seeing the movie, I must say that I really enjoyed it. The tone that I found cringe in the trailers turned out to be more mature and serious in the movie, with a sort of gritty, grounded take on Batman. There’s a lot to love thematically about the movie as well; the movie explores Batman’s use of both fear and hope as a superhero and what that means for the people of Gotham. This Batman also stands out from previous movie versions, since this one leans far more into the smart, detective side of the character.
But while I enjoyed it, I would only objectively rate the movie as slightly above average, mainly due to the several plot issues. There are several instances where Batman gets very lucky, to the point where he would have failed or been seriously injured otherwise. Not to mention a particularly jarring instance where he should have flat out been killed. Additionally, the villain’s big plan is confusing at best and downright contradictory at worst.
So, all in all, the movie is flawed but still enjoyable, especially if you have even a passing interest in the Batman character. If I had to put a number on it, I probably say that it’s around six out of ten, five being average. If not for the glaring plot issues, this could have been a seven or even an eight out of ten for me.
But now I want to examine these issues a little more closely, so if you’re trying to avoid spoilers, now’s the time to leave!
Now, I’m not someone who considers every instance of convenience an issue. There are times when it can be used for great effect, particularly for comedy or the premise for a story (that’s a post for another time). However, in this case, there are several conveniences without which Batman would have flat-out failed.
For example, at about the end of the second act, Batman is chasing the Penguin through the winding streets of Gotham. But things turn for the worse when a tanker truck causes a fiery explosion right in front of the Batmobile, and it looks like Batman is screwed. Then, miraculously, the back of a tow truck makes a perfect ramp for the Batmobile to soar through the flames and catch up to the Penguin. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a cool-looking shot. But instead of setting up this shot with clever planning, the movie decides to throw in a convenient ramp, without which the Batman would have been seriously injured.
Another major convenience in the movie is in the final act, when Batman figures out the Riddler’s big plan. He shows up to the Riddler’s apartment, looking for the answer to the last riddle. He seems to be out of ideas and is looking at a murder weapon used by the Riddler when the police officer stationed there tells him that it’s a carpet installation tool. The officer knows this because he had helped his family with some home renovation in the past (or maybe it was his father’s profession?) Either way, without this incredibly convenient comment by the officer, Batman wouldn’t have figured out to check under the Riddler’s carpeting for the big map of Gotham which has the password for a special Riddler broadcast that details his plot. The citizens of Gotham sure are lucky that the one officer who could provide that information was stationed there at the time when Batman showed up.
Of course, this doesn’t matter too much in comparison to the explosion that should have killed Batman about an hour earlier in the movie. I’m not kidding when I say that he holds a bomb – which is strapped around someone’s neck with a big red timer on the front – right up to his face when it blows up. He could have at least sustained some burns or something, but instead he is sent back a few feet and is knocked out. I find this one particularly annoying because of how easy it would be to fix; just have Batman (who can see the timer counting down) push away the man in the last few seconds and turn around. That at least would have been more believable. Then it wouldn’t have been so obvious that he should’ve died from the explosion.
My major criticism centers on the Riddler’s big move at the end, specifically how it conflicts with the Riddler’s established motivations throughout the film. From the beginning, we see that the Riddler is targeting corrupt politicians that use their power and influence to hurt the less fortunate, particular the poor and vulnerable. The Riddler feels like an outcast from society, and so he lashes out against those at the top to get his revenge. As far as villain motivations, it works well. But then, the Riddler’s final stage of his plan is to plant several bombs along the sea wall to flood Gotham, which hurts who? Not the rich and powerful, but all of the poor people that live in the slums. How is this in line with his motivations? It’s already established that he sees the Wayne family as a culmination of the privileged Gotham elite, so why couldn’t he attack the Wayne tower? Or how about setting up another building in the city related to the Renewal Fund? Heck, even just the city hall would make more sense. I think that this decision was made to raise the stakes to a city-level threat, but I think it would have served the themes and the villain’s motivations better if the Riddler had chosen a more fitting target.
Now, don’t get the wrong idea from all this criticism. I really did like movie, even though it felt a little longer than necessary. But maybe that’s why these flaws stuck out to me and why I enjoy discussing them. Either way though, I think that it can be helpful to examine the flaws in others’ work so that we know what to look for in our own.
I’ll be interested to see what Matt Reeves does in the next movie, particularly with how the Joker seemed to be set up as the next villain. I’m a little anxious as to how they’ll try to make the character “fresh” or whatever. It’s hard to do that when Heath Ledger nailed it so well in The Dark Knight. But hey, it can’t be worse than Jared Leto’s Joker, right… right?
Thanks for reading!