The Movie Guru: ‘The Batman’ an epic worthy of the iconic character
Grade: Three and a half stars
The Movie Guru
When Robert Pattinson was first cast as Batman, there was a lot of outrage. Many thought he would ruin the experience for those who knew Batman well, creating a movie only casual fans could appreciate.
The results however, are exactly the opposite.
A dark, sprawling epic that clocks in at just shy of three hours, ‘The Batman’ is too much to take in if you don’t already love the character. If you do, however, it’s an immersive, richly detailed story with a solid respect for the comics and the most emotionally nuanced Batman we’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s still long, but it sucks you in so thoroughly you might not even notice.
Opening this weekend, the movie shows us a Batman who has only been fighting crime for a few years. He leans heavily into being a figure of fear and mystery, but the crime in Gotham is getting worse no matter what he does. When an equally mysterious figure calling himself the Riddler starts killing corrupt officials, Batman and Detective Gordon must work together to stop him before the city falls apart.
In addition to Gordon and the Riddler, we also spend time with Selena Kyle (aka Catwoman), Oz Cobblepot (aka the Penguin), and mob boss Carmine Falcone. While non-fans may feel like this is too much (my designated casual fan felt like ‘The Batman’ was at least two movies stuffed together), it leads to a Gotham that feels more fully realized than ever before. Here, like in the comics, the city isn’t just a backdrop. It’s an entire dark, magnificently gothic world.
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The characters that populate that world feel more alive than ever. Zoe Kravitz as Kyle and Jeffrey Wright as Gordon are particularly inspired casting choices, bringing a world-weary grace that matches their respective tones perfectly. I love Michelle Pfeiffer’s iconic Catwoman performance with all my heart, but Kravitz’s version of the character felt like she stepped out of the comic books. Wright as Gordon exemplifies everything that’s best about the character, who here is more of a true partner to Batman than the hapless sidekick he’s sometimes reduced to.
The best casting of all, surprisingly, is Pattinson himself. Though some have called him ‘emo Batman,’ those familiar with the character know that the best versions are at least a little bit emo. Pattinson’s Batman is also desperately trying to save the city, cares deeply about Alfred even though he has trouble admitting it, and can grow and change when he realizes what needs to be done. He relies more on actual detective skills, and the help of others, than the usual complicated collection of Bat-toys. He’s awkward, depressed, and isolated, but his heart is always in the right place.
He’s also got a wonderful connection to Kravitz’s Kyle. They’re electric together onscreen, and underneath is a quiet tenderness that comes from the fact that they both recognize each other as strays. I was invested every moment they were together, and I would love to see their relationship develop over future movies.
In fact, I want to see as much of this Batman as I can get. His world may be dark, but there’s so much here worth coming back for.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at email@example.com.