A Brief History
In January of 2017, Warner Brothers had The Batman in development, with Ben Affleck set to direct and star. The screenplay, written by Affleck, focused on the events after Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) with the villain as Deathstroke, played by Joe Manganiello. The story followed Deathstroke putting Bruce Wayne through a gauntlet of mind games, once discovering Bruce’s alter ego was Batman, taking inspiration from The Game, the 1997 film by David Fincher. As the year went on, Affleck decided to step down from the director’s chair to focus on portraying the caped crusader. To fill the directing position was Matt Reeves, the director who re-imagined the Planet of The Apes. Fans and critics were hopeful, despite the disappointment of Joss Whedon’s 2017 Justice League that had not even been released yet. Throughout negotiations, Reeves told the studio (Warner Brothers) that he wanted full creative control. This demand included having the ability to re-write the screenplay. It was no secret that Warner Brothers had desired a younger actor to play the titular role, but kept Affleck hanging on until early 2019. Before the release of Affleck, Reeves completely re-wrote the script with Peter Craig and Mattson Tomlin, taking inspiration from such films as Zodiac (2007) and Se7en, both also by Fincher. While in the middle of adapting the beloved comic book hero, a picture titled Good Time (2017) was premiering at the Cannes Film Festival in France. That film just happened to star the next recluse billionaire, Robert Pattinson. Once viewing the Safdie Brothers anxiety filled thriller, Reeves decided that he was going to cast the young heart throb, Pattinson. Regardless of what the studio said, Reeves wrote much of the screenplay with Pattinson in mind. In 2019, Affleck announced he would not be reprising his role in The Batman. Later that year, during the filming of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, Pattinson was cast as the Batman. The cast was rounded out with the likes of Zoë Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell, John Turturro, and Paul Dano. The film was shot over various cities in the United Kingdom, as well as Chicago, Illinois, between 2020 and 2021, with production halting twice in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film was originally scheduled for a June 25, 2021 release, but after delays was finally released nationwide on March 4, 2022.
Before this portion of the review, I would like to caution the reader for a SPOILER ALERT.
Backstory of The Batman
Year two. After roaming streets of Gotham City for the last two years, Batman has become a warning to all vigilantes. Throughout his time, he has also earned the same title, vigilante. None of the GCPD (Gotham City Police Department) trust the masked bat, except for Lieutenant James Gordon. On Halloween night, Edward Nashton, an anarchist by the alias “The Riddler”, murders Mayoral candidate Don Mitchell Jr. This murder sends a shockwave through Gotham, as no one of substantial power is safe. At least, if you are corrupt. The Riddler goes on to murder (and attempt to murder) several other leaders in Gotham, while sending The Batman and Gordon on a quest to find “The Rat” of the Gotham Police Department. With a full proof plan to cause chaos in the city, The Riddler has built a cult-like following through a form of social media and uses it as fuel to bring those who are immoral, to the light.
Riddle Me This?
Watching Nolan’s The Dark Knight in 2008 changed my entire outlook on watching movies. As a young boy and avid Batman fan, I remember begging my mom to let me go with my brother and aunt to see the PG-13 rated film. For my sake, she allowed me to go with them. To see Heath Ledger steal the show as the Joker, and Aaron Eckhart at his best, The Dark Knight was easily my favorite super hero movie. The supporting characters of Lucius Fox, Jim Gordon, Alfred Pennyworth, as well as a well-crafted story in three acts, made it that much more special. Cut to nearly thirteen years later, that same avid fan geared up to go see The Batman; however, this time I did not need my mom’s permission to see the Rated PG-13 flick. After sitting through the two hour and fifty-six-minute runtime, twice, I could take away three things. First things first, the length of the film is not a negative. We were able to look at the corruption of the GCPD, as well as delve into each character. This film is not another Batman origin story, yet this story is still early in Bruce’s story. We get a raw, brooding, miserable billionaire, as he navigates through balancing his mental state, dressing up as a silent protector. Secondly, Greig Fraser has been on a roll these past two years, and it does not seem like he is cooling down. After coming off the success of Dune (2021), Greig has composed a multitude of innovative shots in The Batman. Greig has shown he is one of the best Directors of Photography in the game. Music is such an important piece to any motion picture. The way a score is arranged all depends on the action of a scene. From As Good As It Gets (1997), to Gladiator (2000), to Inception (2010), Hans Zimmer has produced some of the most immaculate scores in modern-day cinema. This film is no different. Throughout each fight sequence, there was a moment where I thought the score amplified each combat move. The music complimented the scenes perfectly. Using the song “Something In The Way” by Nirvana also was a strong choice by Reeves. What made the choice brilliant, was using the song during a powerful moment, when Batman locks eyes with a young orphan who lost his father to violence.
I could go on and on about the acting throughout this film. Turturro as the power-hungry mob boss, Carmine Falcone, shows off his character acting, and plays a condescending, manipulative gangster. Serkis gives us some of the more emotional driven scenes in the movie, as well as a scene that makes the audiences’ heart sink into their stomachs. Farrell is unrecognizable as Oz, or The Penguin. The make-up department spent three hours a day applying prosthetics to Colin, which added to his mafioso façade he put on in The Iceberg Longue. Kravitz as the cat owning heroin, Selina Kyle, has a sense for danger and does not have much of a moral compass, like Batman. Kravitz does a phenomenal job of showing the trauma Selina went through during her youth, and how that fuels her to find her friend after she goes missing. Wright plays a gritty Gordon that we have not seen since Gary Oldman put on the badge in 2012. (Not that J.K. Simmons had a say in how much screen time he got in 2016.) The actor I was most excited for, was the actor from Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and There Will Be Blood (2007), Dano. Deriving from the Zodiac Killer, The Riddler plays games with his victims, much like the character “Jigsaw”. One of my favorite scenes was when The Riddler was on a video call with Batman and the district attorney. With a bomb strapped to the District Attorney’s neck, he had to answer three riddles in under two minutes, before the bomb detonated. Unlike the quirky and comical Jim Carey performance in the Joel Schumacher Batman Forever film (1995), Dano plays an awkward psychopath, hell bent on getting revenge on the city’s corrupt leaders. The final scene with The Riddler introduces The Joker (played by Barry Keoghan, billed as “Unseen Arkham Prisoner”), when the prisoner tells the riddle “The less you have of them, the more one is worth.” The answer is: a friend. After The Riddler figures it out, the two maniacally laugh, then later potentially plan their escape. Yet, my favorite performance of all, was by the one that everyone was doubtful about: Pattinson, also known as, “that guy from Twilight”. After watching the film, The Lighthouse (2019) by Robert Eggers, I was completely sold. Pattinson has shown through independent films how versatile he is. Everything from the voice, to the way he dawned the cowl, showed that he did his homework on this character. Many critics will say “Robert Pattinson did not play a convincing Bruce Wayne” and “There was no change from Batman to Bruce.” You must understand all this twenty-something year old kid has been through. Losing both of his parents to violence, and not caring for monetary possessions, he lives to avenge the loss of his parents. The end of the film sent a powerful message of how even though evil will rise again, the city of Gotham will show resilience and integrity. The Batman will be ready when that light hits the sky, because it is not just a signal, it is a warning.
Finally, I have a riddle for you all: Slayer of regrets, old and new, sought by many, found by few. What am I? HINT: Pattinson found the answer after starring in The Batman.
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