The Batman

After a bit longer than I’d have liked, I finally got to see “The Batman.” I’ve been reading comics since the 80’s (yes, I’m old) and Batman is among my favorite characters. DC Comics has had a very hit or miss (mostly miss) track record with movies over the last several years, so, even though the movie has gotten a lot of rave reviews from professionals and fans, I went in with some reservations.

I didn’t need to. The movie was damn good. Possibly not as good as so many have raved about, but I really enjoyed it. And, of course, that’s just my opinion. An informed opinion, given my background with comics and the movies and shows based on them, but not necessarily the definitive word on the movie.

This is Batman in his second year. He has a relationship with Jim Gordon, currently a Lieutenant, not yet in his lofty perch as Commissioner. A lot of Bat-tricks are shown, but not the final, refined versions of his weapons and vehicles, and even his fighting skills. He’s a great fighter, but gets hit more than more experienced versions of the hero would. And I thought that worked really well.

Gotham is its usual, dark, dismal, corrupt self. Batman’s war on crime has started, and he’s not dismissed as an urban legend, but he also doesn’t exactly have a great working relationship with most of the police or city officials. We see Batman dealing with some random crime throughout the city, and he also hasn’t established the reputation that makes all criminals fear him yet, although they’re learning. One interesting bit here was that someone Batman deals with is played by actor Jay Lycurgo, who some fans might recognize as Tim Drake in season three of HBOMax’s Titans. I guess he can’t stay out of Gotham.

The main plot kicks off when powerful figures in Gotham start getting killed off in very theatrical ways, with clues left behind. Obviously, this gets Batman’s attention. As this mystery develops (and I love that the movie plays up the detective skills of Batman, often overlooked), we meet some familiar names from the Batman mythos, including the Riddler, Carmine Falcone, and the Maroni crime family. As things move along, we see versions of Catwoman, the Penguin, and, of course, Alfred. It’s a very complicated story with a lot twists and turns that go back to Batman’s origins, as well as a few major events in Gotham’s more recent history. Things escalate to a major threat to the city, and Batman realizes he needs to change how he operates, which is something else a lot of movies ignore.

None of the characters are in what you could call their final forms. You can see who they’ll all eventually be, but they have a ways to go. I like that things are recognizable, but not fully developed yet. Batman is very much a work in progress, as are most of the other characters. There’s a different version of the Batcave (actually, thematically somewhat similar to the one on the CW’s Batwoman) that made a lot of sense and worked nicely. The story hits a lot of good notes, and, while there are a lot of characters and events, it doesn’t feel like they’re trying to do too much at once. They also do some decent set up for possible future stories in this movie, especially in the final scene. I don’t know if this is planned as a series or not, but I’d go see another one.

What I liked: There are no bad performances in the movie. From Batman down to a recurring cop whose name I’m not even sure of, all the portrayals were good. The chemistry between Batman and Catwoman was great, and that’s not always a given. Jeffery Wright was a very different choice for Jim Gordon, and it worked wonderfully well. We got the feel of Gotham; the darkness, grimness, and corruption came across. While it has a long running time (175 minutes), it didn’t feel long; none of it dragged. I can be picky about a lot of details, but the vast majority of this worked for me, down to the new Batmobile. Batman’s final speech about changing his mission was a very nice touch that raised the movie in my overall opinion. They avoided what I think is a big flaw of many movies from Keaton’s first Batman forward, including a lot of hero shows (no specifics for fear of spoilers).

What I didn’t: Pattinson’s Batman was great. In my view, his Bruce Wayne maybe needed some work. I get using it for a symbol, but in the era of encrypted cell phones, texts, and various messenger programs, having the Bat-Signal as the only line of communication between Gordon and Batman was a bit odd. I’d really have liked some kind of hints about a few more characters who might be coming later, like Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson. Near the end of the movie, when Bruce is puzzling something out, he does something that really put his secret at risk and seemed pointless, or at least a bad choice, given some of the other things we saw earlier.

I’m not as in love with this as a lot of people have been, but I really enjoyed it. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5. If they do a sequel, I’ll happily go see it.

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