FIRST AND FOREMOST:
The movie was good. I want to say that right out the gate, for any hater who thinks otherwise – I expected mediocrity and was totally taken by surprise.
This is hands down the MOST actually detective-y Batman I’ve seen since Adam West. That alone should say a lot. For a character known as “The Dark Knight Detective“, it’s kind of sad that so many film-makers failed to focus time and again on that core aspect of the character.
The actors were all largely pretty solid – though just going to say, Andy Serkis was wasted imho. Zoe Kravitz was super-hot and we got painfully few but very well crafted action beats for her – the movement and physicality were what made her Catwoman. But didn’t like her Selina Kyle all that much, the character didn’t engage with me much. Oddly enough, I had a similar reaction to “Bat-Pat”, he was very surprisingly solid as Batman and had a presence in the suit that was impressive, doubly so since there was (for many fans I daresay) more than a bit of baggage with Robert Pattinson from his older movies. He looked waaaay better as Batman than I would have thought and he didn’t even need the growly voice, though a wee bit of something to change his voice from Bruce’s would have been nice. HOWEVER, his Bruce Wayne was genuinely annoying for me – I did not like the emo-boy that he was portrayed as, did not care for the pale, gothic, floppy-haired schoolboy look he had going, nor the whiny-ness; could do with an evolved version in a sequel.
NOTE: I fully expect and have already gotten whining from fans who keep trying to excuse him and tell me I’m wrong. I say this is just my opinion and I maintain that the dudes got the chops, he just needs something better to work with if there’s another.
For the rest of the cast, there are no complaints: John Turturro is a treasure and he kills it here. Colin Farrell was glorious as the Penguin (a.k.a. Oz) and I want to see much more of him, I miss this dude doing better movies. Jeffrey Wright was an unexpected choice for Jim Gordon, his version is perhaps a bit too understated for some but I liked him, he was so subdued in this hell of a town but he was the guy who quietly does his job, but when he wants to get a bit more intense in his way and power through or be heard, he does it and you listen! Paul Dano as Riddler is decent but over-wrought a bit, parts of it I could have done with a bit of toning back, I mean at the end when he’s “crying”, my friend and I both thought “huh, that sounds like whale-song, I could sleep to this”, which is an odd reaction to that moment imho.
PRODUCTION AND FEEL:
The look and feel was oddly grunge-like yet slick and overall I was fine with it. I could see the influence of Frank Millers’ Batman Year One comic on this in a lot of ways.
In terms of a grim-dark tone, an ongoing sense of dread and tension in the atmosphere of Gotham City, director Matt Reeves has done a wonderful job with his team. The set-design, production values, music, sound and costumes are all very impressive. Kudos to them all.
I frakking HATED the muddy cam, the wet-cam, the fuzzy cam, completely-out-of-focus-cam, the overly lit cam that hurt my eyes and made us all feel like they were trying to strobe us into seizures… genuinely pissed me off and it felt like dumb choices that looked cool to someones idiot brain but did not help the movie be better at all. This too-frequent choice of mucky-camera lenses and terrible light-balancing even killed that entire car-chase sequence for me as several of us had to turn away from the screen and cover our eyes.
STORY AND ACTION: (Some Spoilers Ahead!)
Thankfully the set-pieces were kept to a relative low compared to most big-budget movies. Small mercies. The action was otherwise fairly solid – BUT a big frak-you to whoever decided that unlike all BatMen ever (who do not have some next-level special suits, which this one is never established/stated to have had, like even less than the Lucius Fox-designed-“spelunking” suit from the Nolan movies), this BatMan was slow -moving as hell at random and would keep getting shot! And the amount of bullets he just absorbed like a sponge was genuinely idiotic and every time it happened, it killed my joy just a little… It kept taking away from otherwise perfectly fine action scenes… he got shot so much!
The mysteries themselves were very good in the beginning, but not all as brilliant as the writers might have thought. I wasn’t overtly trying but my friend and I kept figuring out bits well before Batman or Gordon which made it feel a tad silly in moments, it was like these characters were missing the obvious just because the plot was restraining them. Which to me speaks to a core problem in this movie…
…And this is the single biggest complaint that not only me, but all 6 people I was with felt, despite having very varied levels of enjoyment with the movie: ITS TOO DAMNED LONG! You could have excised almost 40-60 minutes out of this thing and made is soooo much better! Many moments of pointless lingering and just faffing along that could have been chopped to shorten scenes and didn’t add anything for any of us.
Honestly, cool as it was, that entire final sequence – that extra special Riddler surprise – could have been hacked off… We could have had his interaction with Riddler where we could have had him confront his own vengeance thing and not want to become like the angry loony murderer before him, reaching the same epiphany he did after the whole obviously-forced-set-piece; we could have had his goodbye with Selina (minus the two bikes up on that ledge for some reason) and I would have been happy. That last bit was so pointlessly shovelled in, dangerously close to over the top and ham-handed in its social commentary (+would have been better in a sequel, especially given the way the Riddler got his new friend in the ending!) plus even the visual of Batman literally being the beacon in the dark and all that stuff… sooooo hammy and cheesy! (and I usually like ham and cheese…)
I enjoyed the movie.
It was too long for it’s own good. It needed a lot of editing. The lighting and camera choices needed to be better. BUT it was a a good movie.
For me, the reaction I came out with when I was leaving was: This movie felt like Batman if Kurt Cobain had made the movie. Which is fine, it’s just not entirely a Batman I care for personally. That’s just me.
There’s a good movie in here if some elements are restrained just a little more and I believe even now that if re-edited and shortened, this could be arguably amongst the best Batman and best comic-book movies made to date. It is far superior in the respect for the source material, the feel, the heart and the approach that anything to come out of DC in years – at least since Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, which I rewatched after this movie and are both still overall better.
This movie is flawed, but very strong and absolutely deserves a sequel – I give major, major applause to all involved for the effort.
I score it what I think is a very fair 3/5