If you follow the world of film and television, you are certainly familiar with the concept of the “gritty reboot”. It’s become something of a cliché in recent years, this notion that the way to make a product of pop culture taken seriously is to give it a darker sheen, full of psychological depth and angst and so on. So that’s how we end up with a Kristen Stewart doing a gritty reboot of White as snowWhere Steel manthe gritty Superman reboot, or gritty Archie and Veronica on RiverdaleAnd so on.
What might be harder to remember is that, for all intents and purposes, the concept of a “gritty reboot” started with Batman. In the wake of the campy 1960s Batman With the TV series becoming the more familiar version of the Caped Crusader, the character was reimagined with a darker tone by Frank Miller’s graphic novel series Return of the Dark Knight in 1986, which became a template for Tim Burton’s hit 1989 film version. bringing back Christopher Nolan’s trilogy and the Ben Affleck version of recent Zack Snyder films. The idea of ”gritty” now seems so entrenched in Batman, the question of where writer/director Matt Reeves could take The Batman felt predestined like “well, grainierI imagine.”
Indeed, for a large part of The Batmanit feels like Reeves is attempting a parody of the “gritty reboot,” delivering something akin to Seven crossed with Taxi driver Passing by Seen. Accompanying footage of a drizzly and decaying Gotham, we get voice-over narration from Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) informing us that he’s been prowling the streets for two years as vigilante Batman, thankfully avoiding another scene from the young Bruce witnessing the traumatic murder of his parents. He is called by police detective James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) after the murder of the mayor of Gotham, because of a note for Batman left by the suspect who becomes known as Riddler (Paul Dano). And so begins a series of murders that seem built around revealing the deep corruption of Gotham’s soul.
There’s a hint early in this investigation that Reeves might lean into the idea of Batman being a detective, with his powers of observation and apparent familiarity with forensic science becoming as relevant to the case as his ability. to punch people in the face. This ultimately proves to be a little misleading, as the punch in the face gets a lot more screen time and the detective cuts into Batman’s ability to solve puzzles (next new Bat-villain: The Wordler). The plot gets quite convoluted as the three-hour runtime progresses, as Reeves empties Batman’s rogues’ gallery – introducing not only Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), but also Penguin (a Colin Farrell almost unrecognizable) – in a way that doesn’t usually happen in franchise series before late installments.
Considering the length and breadth of the story here, it’s also quite surprising that The Batman isn’t particularly action-y. Reeves finds time for a lengthy car chase sequence – which combines some nifty visual moments with a disappointing lack of geographic consistency – and a big moment where a fight in a dark hallway is lit only by brief bursts of gunfire. automatic weapons. The fact that The BatmanThe main antagonist of is an elusive and not particularly physical figure – with Dano doing his best to bring a high-pitched menace to phone calls and grainy video clues – leading to a relative paucity of fight scenes before the grand finale that takes place in the rafters of “Garden of Gotham Square.”
Still, something about the way the grand finale unfolds seems quite unexpected. Without giving up the game too much, Reeves begins to use The Batman to wonder what the masked superhero’s tormented “I am revenge” identity actually accomplishes in the world, and what the focus on bitter retaliation leads to. Yes, there’s a level at which Reeves tries to get his grainy cake and eat it, but there’s a welcome reflection that the darkest possible version of this character might not be the best possible version. of this character. Uneven and sometimes overloaded The Batman maybe, it’s an attempt at something really superheroic between campy Batman and “gritty reboot” Batman – and, right now, an acknowledgment that getting people to react violently doesn’t really make the better world.