When Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) took over from Ben Affleck to write and direct The Batman, he said he wanted to show the detective side of The Dark Knight. It has been part of Batman’s comic book persona for decades, but when it comes to the big screen we had seen him be several things: zany in 1966’s Batman, weird in the Burton films, silly in the Schumacher movies, a grounded ninja in the Nolan movies, and buff and angry in the Znyder flicks, but rarely smart. The closest we have gotten was in the ’66 movie were Batman solves Riddler’s ridiculous riddles in a blink of an eye, so it was only fitting that The Riddler would make Batman put on his thinking cap once again.
Of course this Riddler is nothing like Frank Gorshin’s classic take on the villain, Paul Dano plays a much more twisted version of the character. A serial killer with a message for Robert Pattinson’s Batman, and while Batman is a able to figure out the riddles, it will take him quite a bit of effort to figure out what they all mean. Even better it will make Bruce Wayne take stock and examine what it means to be The Batman. Giving him an actual character arc, and not just one where we see some pearls and some popcorn (we don’t see any pearls or popcorn) and now he runs around in a rubber suit.
Dano really gets in to this Riddler, and as dark and sinister as he is, his is still somewhat silly. Which was a nice touch. A nod to his past. Pattinson’s Batman is still trying to figure it all out. He has been Batman for a while, but Gotham doesn’t seem to be getting better, and he doesn’t know what it means to be Bruce Wayne. He is more lost than we are used to. Dano and Pattison are not alone, and the supporting cast all stand out. Write, Kravitz, Farrell, and Turturro are all fantastic. Giving memorable takes on their classic characters. Write in particular might be the most relatable Jim Gordon has ever been. Giving Batman a buddy when he needs one.
In style this movie seems like it would fit closer to the Nolan movies, but it is much darker and dirtier, and the movie isn’t a grand epic. It is a street level thriller that is a bit of a slow burn. Now, I know what you are thinking, a slow burn in a movie with a three hour run time is a bit of a red flag, and the movie is too long, but for most of the film’s run time it is quite engaging. It just takes a little too much time here and there, and it has two too many endings, but it is worth it for the other 90% of The Batman. Don’t worry, there are still some well done action set-pieces.
I had a lot of fun with The Batman, not something I thought I would say about a Batman version of Seven, but it did still manage to be fun. Matt Reeves figured out a way to have Batman solve crimes, and not just be a very strange episode of Columbo. I am curious to see what he does with the character next. Reports are that Warner Bros. is quite happy with this movie, so I am sure we will be seeing a lot of The Batman.