Andrea’s film review – The Batman

The Batman ⭐⭐⭐ Review by Andrea Carnevali

When the Riddler, a sadistic serial killer, begins murdering key political figures in Gotham, Batman is forced to investigate the city’s hidden corruption and question his family’s involvement. Out in cinemas now.

As I often do for ‘event’ movies I opted to watch The Batman on opening night (in fact at a midnight screening) in a packed cinema, together with hundreds of fans. The experience of watching these types of blockbusters surrounded by a crowd of nerds and geeks is unbeatable and to me is part of the fun. In the case of the recent Spiderman No Way Home, the cheers, gasps and applause during the screening actually made the film infinitely better.

This time the reactions from the audience throughout this latest incarnation of the caped crusader were rather muted, which doesn’t necessarily mean people didn’t like, but for better or worse it certainly speaks volumes about the different kind of superhero movie this tries to be.

Something as far away as possible from the Batman pantomime from the ‘60s, less jokey than the Tim Burton’s movies from the ‘80s and ‘90s and less bombastic than the latest over-the-top CGI-centric and muscle fest from Zak Snyder’s recent movies.

Courageously the film is also less interested in the wink-wink / tongue-in-cheek playfulness of many of the huge blockbusters from Marvel, aiming instead to evoke the much darker, grittier and more grownup approach to the characters and the world of Gotham City itself from the Batman trilogy by Christopher Nolan, a series which has set a benchmark so high that it’s now very hard to come back from.

But while the intentions are certainly very noble, they do come with some limitations: I found the film pretty humourless and its air of self-importance became much too heavy for my taste after a while.  The Batman is so drenched in misery that it actually ended up being a rather joyless experience. I mean, it’s a superhero movie, for crying out loud!

Ironically for all this mood, the film actually left me pretty cold and I didn’t care a bit for anyone on the screen, whether they lived or die.

Even Robert Pattinson’s version of crime fighter is so dour and sulky that I times I just wanted to reach out to the screen, shake him and shout “Wake up dude!! Smile!!”

Even the sexual chemistry (if we can call it that) between him and Catwoman feels a bit fake, coming out of nowhere, crowbarred and basically not earned at all.

Not a smile, nor a joke to counterbalance the gloomy dark mood throughout.

And for a film that lasts for almost three hours (did it really need to be sooooo long?), that’s a lot of misery to take in one go.

At times, especially in the first (better) half, the film felt like an extension of David Fincher’s 1995 classic Se7en, which surely must have been a point of reference for both the cinematographer and the director.

Gotham City, mostly shown at night, glowing in red and orange, is constantly drenched in rain, and even when we don’t see the rain, we hear it pounding through the back speakers in many of those green-lit grungy interior scenes.

Even the plot itself resembles the murder mystery / cat-and-mouse construction of Fincher’s thriller, with those dark crime scenes and the coded messages left by the murderer. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but while in Se7en it was all leading up to a wonderful finale, which is still giving me the creeps 27 years later, here the mystery ends up becoming secondary to the plot and after a whole build up is soon forgotten and cast aside.

Bizarrely, a few hours after watching it I’m already struggling already to remember any standout sequence.

The fights are pretty generic, probably hampered by the fact that despite all the darkness this is still a PG-13 movie (15 here in England). The action set-pieces (that’s why we come to see these movies) are often confusing, over-edited, un-inspired and overall not very exciting.

And all this is topped off by a fairly weak script, with flimsy backstories, poor attempt at social commentary and characters’ motivations which are so paper-thin that if you blink you might just miss them. And incidentally why is Batman narrating the story? Who is he talking to? Weird choice…

Not to mention some dreadfully cheesy lines like “I am the shadows” or “I am vengeance” which might be taken from the original comics but don’t quite gel with the realism that the film is trying to sell.

And did I mention the three hours length!? Yes, I did, but it’s worth repeating again: THREE hours!!

In the end, you’re left with is a film which feels and looks a lot better than in fact it is, but once you break it down you realise it has very little new to offer and yet it’s still a mesmerizing experience, promising and frustrating in equal measures, but which at least tries to aim high even if it fails more often than I would have liked.

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick.

The Batman is out today in cinemas everywhere.

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See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali

See also: Theatre review – Running with Lions at the Lyric, Hammersmith

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