By Daniel Paiz
Buckle in for the return of film reviews in 2022, as Cypher Flicks reviews The Batman. Based on events and characters from Batman: The Long Halloween, these 2 hours and 56 minutes do not feel that long at all. There are several reasons for this, and that’s due to giving DC movie goers what they’ve been needing for some time: character development. This film doesn’t give us characters during the prime of their careers (looking at you, Justice League and Batman vs. Superman).
Finally, viewers like me get what we’ve been craving for in more ways than one.
*WARNING: Minor Spoilers Below*
The Batman delivers a new caped crusader
Giving viewers something to build off of is a great place to start, and that doesn’t solely mean the plot lines. For starters, this film gives us a younger Batman (Robert Pattinson), a honing her skills Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz), and a detective Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright). Plus, we even get a younger Alfred (Andy Serkis). Year Two is where The Long Halloween picks up, which is such a nice shift from previous Batman films. These are flawed characters, growing and learning. The best part might be how Gordon instinctively trusts Batman while hunting for clues and the next steps of the mystery.
This leads to one of the best parts of this film aside from character growth: we get detective work. For too long we’ve been given Batman the fighter, Batman the cynical veteran, etcetera etc. There are so many stories where Batman largely focuses on finding out what’s next and finally the silver screen reflects that. The action parts are necessary to highlight where in the mystery things are. The capturing of faces with camera contacts serves a distinct purpose other than being cool Bat technology.
Each clue and line of thinking is good detective work as multiple possibilities are considered. The path of clues might change due to interpretation and when mistakes are realized. There are consequences for mistakes, but they aren’t gratuitous. They reflect the level of the mistake. It didn’t feel like that same kind of scale existed as much in The Dark Knight trilogy.
The Riddler (Paul Dano), The Penguin (Colin Farrell), and Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) all play their roles splendidly, highlighting each part of Gotham’s crime element. These characters add to what has happened in Gotham and what’s to come. The villains do so well without stealing the show, which is a nice change of pace for DC.
Incorporating contemporary issues without being preachy
Domestic terrorism has been a growing issue in the United States for longer than I can remember. The Riddler doesn’t exactly gain supporters because he’s seeking power. The online audience he grows believes in his cause, and they believe in ideals that are bigger than themselves. The biggest riddle Batman doesn’t solve until it’s almost too late is what those followers are willing to do because of their ideals. That’s a powerful thing, belief in “real” change.
Occasionally when tying into what’s happening in society and popular culture can get preachy or pull the audience too far away from the plot. This balancing act between reflecting society without plot distraction is done very well. There’s also another reflection of society done quite gingerly, as Catwoman is the only voice who effectively ties in class and race issues.
This is paraphrasing, but Catwoman aka Selina Kyle states “why are we so focused on all of these wealthy white men, and the Waynes; I would’ve thought you’d be on The Riddler’s side.” Gotham has Black, Brown and more underrepresented groups in its population. However, the central plotline focuses on white men in positions of power who are being murdered; never mind those who are poor and not white who are continuously ignored.
This cleverly ties into ongoing discussions happening across the United States (and globally) with regards to critical race theory, protesting police brutality, etc. without giving us a monologue. The Riddler falls into the group of people who are continuously ignored, adding to the patented DC tool of creating understanding for the villain in spite of their actions.
Detective Comics is what DC stands for, but honestly this feels like the first time the detective mystery aspect is front and center. This film does a great job when it comes to pacing and balancing dialogue with action. There are no self-congratulating monologues or boasting about what somebody uncovers; instead, the newly found info is acted upon, and the mystery gets one step closer to getting solved. There are action scenes that feel like they’re pulled directly from a comic panel. My favorite example of this is when Batman drops out of hiding and proceeds to fight henchmen in the dark. The gunshots are the only light showing the action; it’s so visually pleasing it might be my new favorite bit of cinematography.
Like anything written about in Cypher Flicks, you are of course encouraged to go and see the film and draw your own conclusions. Keep these two things in mind when sitting down to watch this newest DC film: go in with no expectations of connections with previous films, and all of this praise is coming from a decidedly bigger Marvel fan. Enjoy the show!