Fear is a tool... 🦇
Welcome to Pop ‘n’ Pizza, a weekly newsletter highlighting what’s new in pop culture and pulp fiction. This week, I’m talking about THE BATMAN, the neo-noir psychological crime thriller directed by Matt Reeves. 🍕🥤
Genre: Crime Thriller
Release Date: March 4, 2022
Running Time: 176 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros.
Behind the Scenes
Directed by Matt Reeves
Written by Matt Reeves & Peter Craig
Cinematography by Greig Fraser
Music by Michael Giacchino
In Front of the Camera
Robert Pattinson (GOOD TIME, TENET)
Zoë Kravitz (HIGH FIDELITY, BIG LITTLE LIES)
Paul Dano (THERE WILL BE BLOOD, LOVE & MERCY)
Colin Farrell (IN BRUGES, THE LOBSTER)
Jeffrey Wright (THE FRENCH DISPATCH, NO TIME TO DIE)
What’s It About?
“Batman ventures into Gotham City's underworld when a sadistic killer leaves behind a trail of cryptic clues. As the evidence begins to lead closer to home and the scale of the perpetrator's plans become clear, he must forge new relationships, unmask the culprit and bring justice to the abuse of power and corruption that has long plagued the metropolis.” — Warner Bros.
Why You Should Check It Out
Created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, Batman debuted in 1939’s Detective Comics #27. Since then, the caped crusader has become one of the most iconic pop culture characters, recognized worldwide for his signature cowl and his colorful coterie of supervillains.
On the big screen, Batman (and his alter-ego, billionaire industrialist and playboy Bruce Wayne) has been portrayed by several talented actors — Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck — each with their own distinct take on the character. Now the cape and cowl belong to Robert Pattinson (THE LIGHTHOUSE), who adds yet another layer of intrigue to the brooding vigilante who strikes fear in the hearts of criminals.
Co-written and directed by Matt Reeves (LET ME IN, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES), THE BATMAN takes the grounded realism of Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY (2005-2012) and drapes it in the gothic theatricality of Tim Burton’s BATMAN (1989), making for an atmospheric, psychological slow-burn that captures the essence of the character and the crime-ridden cesspool he protects.
Drawing inspiration from neo-noir crime thrillers like David Fincher’s SE7EN and ZODIAC, THE BATMAN is, first and foremost, a detective story. Here, the Riddler (Paul Dano) isn’t a spandex-wearing schemer with an affection for alliteration — he’s a sadistic serial killer targeting Gotham's corrupt elite, leaving cryptic clues behind for Batman and Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) to decipher, whose rookie/veteran relationship mirrors Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman’s in SE7EN.
The Riddler’s proclivity for puzzles sends the World’s Greatest Detective on an investigation into Gotham’s seedy underbelly where he encounters the equally enigmatic Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), the Penguin (Colin Farrell), and crimelord Carmine Falcone (John Turturro). More intriguing is that the Waynes are at the center of Riddler’s mystery, forcing Bruce to question his family’s legacy. Are they pillars of society or further proof of its corruption?
THE BATMAN is a darkly compelling and magnificently composed story about a young Batman — in year two of his self-appointed role as Gotham’s embodiment of vengeance — who is seething with rage. Pattinson’s Batman is violent and, perhaps more unsettling, he’s nihilistic. He doesn’t think Gotham City can be saved; he’s fighting a hopeless battle, caught up in an endless cycle of violence. He hasn’t yet become the symbol of hope Gotham City needs him to be. It’s hard to see a brighter future when you live in darkness, after all.
Pattinson is fantastic as Batman, his dynamic performance effortlessly conveys the war that rages within Bruce at all times. His voiceover narration, reminiscent of Robert De Niro’s in TAXI DRIVER or Jackie Earle Haley’s in WATCHMEN, furthers the film’s noir vibes and allows the audience to occupy the same headspace as Bruce in a way previous films have not. It captures the experience of reading a comic book, where internal monologues are delivered via thought balloons.
Wright, Kravitz, Turturro, Dano, and Andy Serkis, who plays Alfred Pennyworth, are all great in their roles, but it’s Farrell, wearing impressive prosthetics designed by Mike Marino, who really shines. As the proprietor of Gotham’s nightlife hotspot, The Iceberg Lounge, Farrell’s Penguin is a bit of a showman; more of a Fredo Corleone than a Michael. The mid-level gangster is something of a joke — a punching bag — but under the surface is a ruthless, cunning kingpin waiting to be unleashed.
THE BATMAN is a gorgeous, mesmerizing piece of filmmaking. Cinematographer Greig Fraser (LET ME IN, ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY, DUNE) conjures some wondrously macabre imagery. In concert with production designer James Chinlund and Oscar-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran (1917, LITTLE WOMEN), Fraser shows us a Gotham City we haven’t seen before — one that shares more in common with the dystopian cityscapes from films like BLADE RUNNER, AKIRA, and DARK CITY than other superhero movies. The city feels as brutal and inhospitable as the hero who protects it.
Reeves is a great director — his body of work speaks for itself — and THE BATMAN may be his finest work yet. Like the aforementioned ZODIAC, it is the work of a filmmaker at his peak, utilizing every skill and tool he’s picked up along the way. Despite its three-hour runtime, the film’s length is never felt. As Batman digs deeper into the Riddler’s mystery, the plot steadily burns away like a fuse leading to a powderkeg of a finale.
And then there’s the score, composed by Michael Giacchino (SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME, DOCTOR STRANGE). It’s elegant and affecting, pulsating with dread, and feels as definitive to Reeves’ vision of Batman as Danny Elfman’s score was to Burton’s. Weeks after seeing the film, I can’t stop listening to it. Listen for yourself on Spotify or Apple Music. Also, Reeves’ usage of “Something In The Way” by Nirvana is so disquieting and oddly moving.
Thoroughly entertaining and engaging, THE BATMAN is the best bat-movie since 2005’s BATMAN BEGINS. Reeves has set the table for a new trilogy that will explore different aspects of the iconic hero and his rogues’ gallery, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Slices (Out of 5)
You May Also Like…
If you dig this, you may also enjoy:
SE7EN (Amazon Prime Video)
ZODIAC (Amazon Prime Video)
PRISONERS (Amazon Prime Video)
BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN (Amazon)
CATWOMAN: WHEN IN ROME (Barnes & Noble)
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS (Amazon Prime Video)
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