Updated: Jun 10, 2022
Welcome back all. I am so glad you decided to stop by today. In fact, I am changing into my cardigan and sneakers right now, so I can be a better host for all of you neighbors who have come to visit today. I know I haven't finished my "List of Favorite Animation Characters", but I have been busy working on book 2 and have not had the time to blog. As you know my day job requires a lot of time and energy, so I am limited in the mental and physical resources I have to give to my writing. Book 2 will be taking precedent for the foreseeable future, so my blogging will most likely be very limited.
So, taking a break from writing about my favorite characters I decided to write another film review. I had been putting off seeing this film for a while because of the mixed reviews I have read or been given about this newest edition to the Batman cinematic universe. Today I finally had enough free time and I trekked down to my favorite Regal theater to watch it. I got my popcorn and soda and sat back to a hopefully enjoyable experience being lost in the DC universe. This review will contain Spoilers, so stop now if you haven't seen the film.
Well, I can't say I hated the film. In fact, I quite enjoyed the first 2 hours of the 2 hours and 56 min movie. So first off, the one thing that bothered me about this film was that it was too long. I know that long movies have become the standard fair now a days, but this film should have ended about a half hour to 40 min before it did. In fact, I feel that the last act of the film was unnecessary, and from a writers standpoint, completely out of character for the main villain and made no sense for the character. The only thing it served was to be an incident that made the ending seem less anticlimactic.
For the first 2 hours of the movie we are given a true Batman detective story. This was a very refreshing take, since every other film centered on him being a superhero or vigilante. This film gave us the detective and I found that very enjoyable. He was, however, a day late and a dollar short pretty much through out the entire film. Yes, his deductive reason was on par with Sherlock Holmes, but his success rate was not. The Riddler, who was a serial killer who murdered corrupt officials, was always two steps ahead of him. Now that may have been good for setting up dramatic tension, but by the end of the film it just makes Batman seem sad. Yes, he is a very young Batman, but he is a very inept Batman and that is not true to the character.
For me, both Gordon and the Batman were pretty bad detectives. They never prevented any of the murders and they didn't even catch the Riddler. In the end, he simply sat at a diner waiting for the police and the Batman to come arrest him after he kills the last of the corrupt villains in plain view of the police and the Batman. I can understand why people like this film, but for me, this version of the Bat is not accurate. You could make the case that it is more accurate to Year One Batman, since Bruce is very young and inexperienced. But, I have the same problem with this version as I had with the Batman in the final installment of Christopher Nolan's series, Batman is too much of a failure. There is a reason that the term "because I'm Batman" has become a part of the pop culture vernacular. The reason being, that he always finds a way to win. Not in this movie, though, he fails to stop everything the Riddler does or plans.
So, now since I have established that the Batman is a pretty bad detective in this film, I will move on to the second problem I had with this film. The Riddler changes his stripes and motivation at the end of the movie. For the entire first 2 hours of the film he is a bad guy killing serial murderer who is driven to bring all of the corrupt politicians and crime bosses out into the light for all to see. In fact, when we finally meet him face to face and Batman talks to him, we find out that he sees himself as the same as Batman. The brains to his brawn. I loved this twist on the Riddler and they gave him a frightening almost Jigsaw-esc feel.
But, once he is unmasked, he is nothing more than an accountant who decided to become a vigilante. He has no ties or relationship to the people he is killing other than he is an orphan who feels like the establishment gave him a raw deal. This makes him completely unfulfilling to me as a character. There is no pay off in anyway for his involvement in the story. He is simply a psychopath who wanted to make a name for himself and nothing more. His motives are pretty week, but they were enough for me, that is, until he completely changed in the last act. Once he gives himself up and talks to Batman, you find out that he still has one last riddle that wasn't solved. What is that? It's that he is going to destroy the city and unleash an army of right wing NRA nuts that have been following him on social media.
No really, this is the big final act. He is going to destroy the sea wall around the city and flood it. This will then force a lot of people into Gotham Gardens, a Madison square Gardens rip off, where a political rally for the new mayor, an uninteresting token African American woman with no back story is giving a rally. Of course, he figures this out just in time to NOT PREVENT it from happening. He does, however, show up just in time to prevent the white male conservative Riddler army from killing everyone. He beats up a lot of guys and gets beat up just as much and of course needs to be rescued by Catwoman at the end.
Now comes another problem I have with the film. He unmasks one of the cannon fodder and asks him his name. He says he is vengeance. That of course is Batman's line. This makes him suddenly have a change of heart realizing that fighting crime is not how you change the world, but by becoming Superman is instead. So, what fundamentally makes Batman Batman is looked at as bad. Again, the character is completely changed in an instant with no real reason for it. Just like the Riddler, who goes from being a violent vigilante who is trying to clean up the city to a crazy serial killer with no motives other than to be remembered; Batman goes from a vigilante being driven by the need to not allow anyone else to go through what he did, to a glorified fireman.
This is lazy and horrible writing that completely took me out of the film. If they had simply ended the film with the catching of the Riddler and him telling Bruce all about why he did it and Bruce telling him that he is nothing like him, it would have been a better film. But then again, we wouldn't get the sometimes not so subtle social justice commentary that was forced in at the end of the film. Rich white people bad and are responsible for all of the woes of the world. Also, police and superheroes bad, unless they are doing nothing but saving people from disasters and such. Stopping crime and enforcing laws is problematic and adds to the problems of the world instead of helping to alleviate them.
So why did I give it such a high grade if I have so many problems with the film. Well, because the first 2 hours of the film were good and kept me engaged. Catwoman is a very good rendition of the character and Zoe Kravitz does a fantastic job with her. Collin Farrell's depiction of the penguin is simply masterful. He is not the traditional penguin, but you don't see Collin at all in the character and that is fascinating and he gives a master class on acting. I wish we had been given more of him in the story, but they did hint that he would play a big part in the next film. If there is a next film that is. Jeffery Wright was an ok Jim Gordan, but his usual slow almost retarded delivery of his lines was kind of annoying to me in this movie. We only got a few scenes with Andy Serkis as Alfred and he was good, but not as good as Jeremy Irons in my opinion. And of course, John Torturo is always good and he is his usual menacing self as Carmine Falcone.
All in all, it was a decent film that had the potential to be a great film. If the writers, editors and director had made a few better choices, I feel it would have been on par with the Dark Knight, but it isn't even on par with The Dark Knight Rises, which was the weakest of Nolan's films. In truth, for me it is probably one of my least favorite Batman films. Yes it is better than the last two of the 90's films, but not as good as any of the others. It certainly isn't as good as any of the animated films and I would recommend all of them before I recommend this film. All in all, it was Hollywood's meddling and a complete lack of understanding about the Character of both Batman and Bruce Wayne that made this film less then what it could and should have been.