The first thing I noticed about Robert Pattinson’s take on Batman in “The Batman” was his walk. I don’t think there’s ever been so much emphasis put on his walk. When I picture Batman moving, I think of him swooping on a rope, or maybe running in place like he and Robin did in the opening to their 1966 TV show. But the whole “intimidating walk” thing is unique to this version. It’s emblematic of it, really. It’s well-shot and grounded, for people who like to take their comic book movies seriously. But at the same time, do we really need a take on Batman that’s this realistic? It’s a guy in a ridiculous costume up against one of the most colorful rogues galleries in all of entertainment. Can’t he be allowed to have fun and do some swooping?
Other characters are lacking in fun as well. The Penguin (Colin Farrell – unrecognizable under an undeniably-great makeup job) is just a balding gangster with a nickname. The Riddler (Paul Dano) is a Zodiac knockoff with a little Jigsaw thrown in, though not the part with the creepy puppet. Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz) embraces her gimmick the most, taking in several stray furballs and often utilizing her long fingernails, I mean, claws. Strangely the Big Bad for much of the movie is not-even-nicknamed gangster Carmine Falcone (John Turturro). He’s destined to be the person another villain kills on their way to the top (think Jack Palance in the 1989 “Batman”), but he’s given a lot of backstory and screentime for a character that isn’t going to sell any tickets.
The story sees Batman and Lt. Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) trying to stop serial killer Riddler, who is systematically knocking off public officials in Gotham City and promising to reveal a conspiracy that will shake the city to its core. Frankly I think the citizens of Gotham would be more shocked if it turned out their public officials weren’t corrupt, but sure, let’s say the average Gothamite isn’t cynical. Finding The Riddler means finding the next victim, which forces Batman and Gordon to uncover the conspiracy for themselves, which means finding out exactly what business the victims had with various gangsters. It turns out the gangsters had business with someone close to home, which gives Andy Serkis as Alfred the butler a chance to shine. Catwoman has business with one victim and one gangster, so she’s a wild card. The story is pretty taut until we learn that one of the villains has a secret bonus scheme that really drags out the final act of the movie. I get that the movie wanted to end on a certain note for Batman, but it takes a long, convoluted way of getting there.
A big question (not a riddle, a question) surrounding this movie is how well Robert Pattinson fits into the role of Batman. He’s fine. Physically, he’s a bit on the lanky side, and he does himself no favors in scenes where he wears eye shadow outside of his batsuit, which reminds snickering audience members of his fame during the late-2000’s Guyliner era. But I never once got the impression that he was cast strictly for his star power, no matter how much sense it makes for a former vampire to play a bat.
I know it seems like I found fault with “The Batman” at every turn, but I really didn’t. I especially loved how the cramped Gotham City seems so much like New York City that it feels like this movie could be taking place downtown right now. Or a nearby turnpike, in the case of a car chase that serves as the best action sequence in the movie. Maybe it’s because I love the Batman universe so much that every misstep in this movie seems so glaring. And for some reason, Batman takes a lot of steps in this movie.
“The Batman” is rated PG-13 for strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong language, and some suggestive material. Its running time is 175 minutes.
Robert R. Garver is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at New York University. His weekly movie reviews have been published since 2006.