Combustible Celluloid
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With: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Colin Farrell, Peter Sarsgaard, John Turturro, Andy Serkis, Jeffrey Wright, Barry Keoghan, Rupert Penry-Jones, Alex Ferns, Con O'Neill, Jayme Lawson
Written by: Matt Reeves, Peter Craig, based on characters created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger
Directed by: Matt Reeves
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong language, and some suggestive material
Running Time: 175
Date: 03/04/2022

The Batman (2022)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Social Enigma

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This excellent, riveting new take on Batman is refreshingly focused more on a detective story than on action, although it does offer that as well, as well as complex characters and relevant themes.

It's Halloween night, and the Mayor of Gotham City is murdered in a most brutal way. The killer leaves a clue behind for the Batman (Robert Pattinson), who is still in the early years of his career. The clue is a riddle, revealing that the Mayor had a secret mistress. Batman finds the woman under the protection of Selina Kyle, a.k.a. the Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), but the woman is nonetheless kidnapped.

To try and find her, Selina helps Batman infiltrate a secret night club where politicians and criminals are entertained. There, Selina catches the attention of the District Attorney (Peter Sarsgaard). The killer, known as the Riddler (Paul Dano), strikes again, killing the D.A., leaving more clues for Batman and Lieutenant Gordon (Jeffrey Wright). They learn they must find "the rat," or someone that has been leaking sensitive information. But even when this mystery is solved, can the Riddler be trusted?

Directed by Matt Reeves (Let Me In, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, War for the Planet of the Apes), The Batman makes wise adjustments to the series in just about every respect, finding a solution for Christian Bale's aggravating growl/whisper line delivery (Pattinson speaks softly, but he never strains) and for the soulless, gray color scheme of the Zack Snyder movies.

Reeves's movie is dark, and often rainy, but he bathes the images in a warmer brown tone, with orange and yellow highlights, bringing a weariness and a desperation to it. And, while there are many villains in this one, it — unlike the 1990s sequels Batman Forever and Batman & Robin — never feels cluttered. The Riddler, Catwoman, Penguin (a completely disguised Colin Farrell), etc., each occupy their own space in the story.

Moreover, Batman is more human and vulnerable here, "oofing" at the impact of blows and occasionally getting winded. Blessed with a wounded, armored performance by Pattison (but with an unfortunate goth-style haircut), this is arguably the most interesting character arc we've seen in a Batman movie. At the start, he sees himself as an avenging angel, but as the story goes on, he learns that things aren't that simple, that there are gray areas. There are consequences.

A third-act climax touches on the dangers of misinformation and social media, and parallels certain terrifying real-life events. Reeves needed a lot of time to lay all this out, as well as some much-needed downtime to build characters and relationships, and The Batman clocks in at a jaw-dropping 2 hours and 55 minutes, but it honestly never feels too long. It's arguably the most confident and mature Batman film yet, and one of the best.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment's Blu-ray release is a three-disc set, with the movie by itself on a single disc, various bonus features on a second Blu-ray, and a bonus DVD, as well as a digital code. The transfer, highlighting the film's unique brown-shaded darkness, looks good, and the audio (a Dolby Atmos track) is excellent. Bonuses include a feature-length behind-the-scenes doc, "Vengeance in the Making," as well as nine shorter featurettes on things like the Batmobile, the Wing Jump suit, fight choreography, etc. The one on Catwoman reveals that Kravitz had to continue training on her own after COVID hit, and the Penguin one delves into the astonishing makeup plastered onto Farrell. Finally, we get two deleted scenes, one of which gives a better look at Barry Keoghan's role. Highly recommended.

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