The Batman

The Batman ★★★★

Wasn't fully prepared to be thinking about Sidney Lumet's dirty cop opus PRINCE OF THE CITY throughout a good chunk of a Batman movie's runtime, yet here we are. A sprawling, overly ambitious pop epic that tackles similar themes regarding corruption, privilege, rage against institutions, and notions of moral relativity, all wrapped up in a muscular, rain slicked beast of a motion picture that repurposes Gotham City into a nightmare metropolis not too far removed from Fincher's SEVEN or Scott's BLADE RUNNER.

Speaking of SEVEN, yes this is a serial killer thriller. It's also a tech noir investigative procedural. It's also an amped up underworld melodrama where John Turturro gets to vamp as a sunglass-adorned mob boss, Colin Farrell goes New Yawk Undercover via mounds of DICK TRACY-esque latex, and Jeffrey Wright's Jim Gordon is one bad motherfucker, floating in a river full of ethically compromised piranha. In short, it's a lot of movie. Maybe too much (the second act definitely drags a bit). But it's also hard to knock something that seems to be flexing a different muscle every fifteen minutes. Hell, it practically becomes De Palma's MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE at one point.

The performances are uniformly idiosyncratic. Pattinson's Batman is a legit detective while his Bruce Wayne is...different, this odd mix of Gerard Way and Howard Hughes. Zoe Kravitz gets the most comic-booky dialogue ("c'mon Vengeance, let's get into some trouble...") but also gets some meaty drama to chew on, becoming a human stand-in for the film's entire tone; this cartoonish take on "gritty realism" that'd almost be subversive if it wasn't taking itself so seriously. Dano's the one who spins off into an alternate universe, his version of The Riddler acting like this giggly Brundlefly hybrid of John Doe and Tyler Durden as Michael Giacchino's thunderous score repurposes "Ave Maria" into his literal theme song, leaving Frank Gorshin and Jim Carrey in the dust of media history as THE BATMAN becomes a story of dueling Rorschachs, possibly only differentiated by their respective lots in life.

If anything, Matt Reeves again proves himself to be a master stylist. Is it too long? Sure. Does it bite off more than it can chew? Probably. But honestly, in an era where an IP event like NO WAY HOME requires almost 150 minutes to tell a story of several Spider-Men paling around the Multiverse, and folks will commit to 8 hours of Hawkeye on Disney Plus just because it's there, it's nice to just have a Capital M Movie arrive in this arena for a change. Will definitely take more viewings to fully unpack the thorny political avenues it decides to navigate during the final third, but I feel confident saying this version of THE BATMAN might actually be in contention for best of the franchise, ranking right up there with Chris Nolan's Mann-aping masterpiece, THE DARK KNIGHT. More words to come, that's for damn sure.

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