The parking lot at the AMC in Burlington, MA was jammed. Finding a space was difficult and my thoughts started going to “will this be sold out?” It wasn’t, this week moviegoers were looking to Channing Tatum’s Dog and other films as well. Got my ticket for the empty front row and enjoyed myself there.
I intentionally stayed away from The Batman as the crowds have been huge. My goal with this review was to let critics and the patrons have their way first, let my thoughts be a “bird’s eye” view after the initial fanfare.
The word “detective” in relation to this film has been bandied about, so I looked on eBay and found a Detective Comics going for $4,000.00 ($3,999.00)
Detective Comics #89 The Promise Collection CGC 9.0 VF/NM WP DC Comics 1944
Robert Pattinson was also a concern. Watching his adequate performance in the first Twilight (2008,) fourteen years ago I didn’t feel his pretty-boy decent vampire display would transfer well to a dark knight. When hearing of his casting my first thoughts were, “Well, he’s not Michael Keaton or Ben Affleck, so it could’ve been worse.” Keaton has redeemed himself of late in Spiderman, older actors get into the groove – practice making perfect, you know? But Affleck should have directed, not starred in, and brought the Batman franchise back to Val Kilmer/George Clooney / Keaton levels.
The good news is that Pattinson makes an excellent Batman, Bruce Wayne not so much (Christian Bale set the high mark there, as Heath Ledger did with his Joker.) But the storyline here, and the acting by Colin Farell (such a wonderful Penguin,) John Turturro – far from Game Show – up there with Jack Palance for mob-boss finesse as Carmine Falcone – along with Andy Serkis as a ground-breaking Alfred (redemption from his less-than Darth Vader stint in Star Wars,) all give Pattinson a foundation to launch from – which he, actually, doesn’t even need.
This IS a detective film, and with that bad-omen pitfall, HBO’s bust with revamping Perry Mason, one did have concerns that the new generation could very well crater a la Justice League. Put your fears aside, this is a very, very good detective story, framed in dark film noir that, heavens have mercy, stops before it fades into total black and white. Though psychos abound, the story would have suffered had it attempted to go near Hitchcock’s masterpiece. All the excessive force of the new HBO Perry Mason is avoided, and what I call the “Three Spidermen and a Bat” approach is what we have here.
THREE SPIDERMEN AND A BAT
With Marvel/Disney bringing three Spidermen together all sorts of opportunities arise. Yes DC has Michael Keaton AND Ben Affleck as Batmen in The Flash end of 2022, with Keaton reprising his role again in Batgirl (2022) copping Marvel’s riffs when Christian Bale would have been the big news. Where Marvel has the luxury of Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland all being stellar Spidermen, Bale, and now Pattinson, have given command performances that movie-goers will appreciate for some time into the future.
A new, stylish Batman in his own universe away from Adam West, Christian Bale, and Lewis Wilson’s initial 1943 first emergence as the Caped Crusader, is what Reeves and Pattinson have crafted. A true Dark Knight, darker than Christian Bale’s American Psycho bat. (p.s. Wilson, of course, being the father of Michael Wilson who is writing and producing 007, for those who like historic links.)
Lewis Wilson as the first Batman, 1943.
We are talking 89 years, on the verge of 90, of a franchise that went from serial to television comedy. Batman and Robin in 1949 to the Adam West/Burt Ward film (1966) – I didn’t need Wikipedia, honest, to give you the chronology, which you can find on Wikipedia
What took the air out of The Dark Knight Rises was the usually excellent Tom Hardy *(a wonderful Venom) couldn’t compete with the utter malice of Heath Ledger’s Joker (nor Ledger’s consummate performance; I don’t care that it is a comic book movie, Heath Ledger’s acting will be hard to touch by any actor or actress in any genre, it’s simply breath-taking and holds up to repeat views.) The Riddler here, if making comparisons, is over-the-top incredible, until he’s unmasked. Paul Dano without the black wardrobe has not the mania of Frank Gorshin in the TV comedy. It’s the dual masks again – Riddler and Batman – that create the mystery…and the suspense. Dano, and the hastily-attached conclusion (think The Dark Knight with the two boats filled with potential victims which sank the momentum that had been built up) deflates what was an amazing “Perry Mason” story with much too much violence, but a terrific ensemble that presents you the puzzling storyline.
Yes, this is a great Batman. But it will stay in the background with The Dark Knight Rises, failing to match Ledger and Bale’s tango in The Dark Knight, simply because the villain had it all, and let it disintegrate. Director Matt Reeves should have known better and kept Dano in Andy Serkis’ ape suit. (*for those not in the know, Alfred Pennyworth, the butler, is played by the actor who is Caesar from Planet of the Apes, Mr Serkis.)
.Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, legendary writer Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a twenty-seven-year-old variety show (established 1995) on cable TV featuring A-list celebrities from all walks of life.