REVIEW: ‘The Batman’ is unapologetically dark and gritty

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Photo Courtesy of Warner Media
By William L.G. Stephens

For a film where its main villain is a madman obsessed with leaving riddles like blood dipped breadcrumbs, the theme is without a hint of crypticness.

Here “The Batman” has succeeded where other D.C. films have failed lately — It knows its tone. And it’s going to take you for a ride that may not be as pleasant as you like.

Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” immediately and unapologetically sucker punches you in the face with a dark, cold depiction of a city infested with corruption, refusing to pick you back up.

Unlike its predecessors, Reeves daringly incorporates the “detective” Batman persona in the film as Robert Pattinson aids Commissioner Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) in his investigation of political figures who are being picked off one by one. 

It’s a bold move that is outdone by refusing to tread lightly over the mental health undertones of the man responsible for picking off those figures.

In a time where other big studios are nervously avoiding backlash for films about certain topics, Warner Bros. clearly didn’t get that memo. 

Leave it to a movie about a billionaire-vigilante dressed up in a batsuit to send a message about the current state of the world.

Even with this underlying commentary, the film still has the grit to tackle a subplot about organized crime. The attempt would be superficial without the unrestrained presence of The Penguin played by Colin Ferrell in one of the most convincing performances I’ve witnessed.

We have seen five actors take on the role of Batman in the last 33 years. What’s tainted all five of those fine actors is the part where they have to pull off playing Bruce Wayne as well.

Never have we had a version of Batman like this. If Pattinson was exonerated of his “Twilight” days with the 2017 film “Good Time” then his performance in Reeves’ “The Batman” is his resurrection. 

What interests me is movies with protagonists who clearly have their character faults on full display. This particular Batman/Bruce Wayne is filled with them.

You might even find yourself not liking Batman. I’m certain Wayne doesn’t like himself. 

In one particular scene, after a horrific murder takes place, Batman sees a little boy who is now without a father talking to the police, just as he did as a child. Pattinson’s eyes fill with a color of rage that, as strange as it sounds, makes for something beautiful.

I’m still having trouble deciding which portrayal of the character in this film was darker. Is it the Caped Crusader, obliterating henchmen and degenerates with his fist? Or, the reclusive prince of Gotham digging up the sins of his father? Both nocturnal animals seek vengeance in two worlds, where the on/off switch is getting harder to find. Because even when he’s just Bruce Wayne he’s still Batman, and when he’s Batman, he’s still Bruce Wayne. 

Each of these personas collectively carries a burden of aggression they are so desperately trying to suppress, with or without a mask on. That aggression is bound to boil over at any given minute. 

Some of us are looking for braindead action flicks to take us out of this complicated place called Earth, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, to the contrary, this is a 155 minute examination of a dirty world with a fine-tooth comb and clear lenses. It’s difficult to imagine a film I’ve seen recently that had such a distinctive look separating itself from everything else coming out these days.

You’re either going to love it or hate it. But you cannot deny it takes you to a place where no Batman film has gone before.

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