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Monday, February 26, 2024

Review: ‘The Batman’ proved us wrong

Remakes can make old films new and superhero movies can be good

By ANGIE CUMMINGS — arts@theaggie.org

Like many, I went into “The Batman” for the primary purpose of seeing the unlikely pairing of Edward Cullen and Zoe Kravitz fight people in all-black outfits. Much to my surprise, I came out of the theater with my not-very-positive opinion of superhero movies thrown up in the air.

“The Batman” (2022) is at least the 10th (relevant) feature-film iteration of the DC Comic character — this is of course excluding the countless cartoon and video game versions of Batman. Because of this fact, it was fairly hard to be optimistic that this movie would provide anything but another brooding white guy in a plastic suit and his latex-clad, femme fatale Catwoman strutting down the streets of Gotham. 

Robert Pattinson provided us with an altogether fresh (yet greasy-looking) version of a young and incredibly reclusive Bruce Wayne, which not only made his whole burdened vigilante schtick make a lot more sense but is apparently incredibly faithful to the comics this film was based on (I personally didn’t know this when watching but it seems to be very appreciated by comic fans). Pattinson’s awkward and borderline paranoid version of Bruce Wayne melds so perfectly with his nocturnal, morally ambiguous alter-ego, making the ultra-suave, playboy bachelor Bruce we have been seeing for the past 20 or so years of seem oddly disjointed from who he is with the mask on. Rather than being a thriving, handsome philanthropist, the 2022 Bruce Wayne looks like he needs a few weeks of sleep (and a shower) and needs to put sunglasses on to shield his sensitive hermit eyes from the morning sun — he’s relatable (I’m slightly joking). 

Opposite this perfectly pathetic Bruce Wayne is Zoe Kravitz’s mind-blowingly sultry yet badass rendition of Catwoman. From her consistent thigh-high lace-up leather heels to her many perfectly-set wigs, Kravitz delivers big on the one thing all Catwomen must do — slay the visuals. Of course, it’s 2022, so being a pretty face is not enough (sorry), but no worries there for Kravitz because she brings her signature cool-girl sarcastic tone along with Selina Kyle’s (Catwoman’s real name) emotional backstory. Major kudos to the creators of this film for having a female vigilante with an actually fully formed character behind all the high kicks and little smirks; it really isn’t something you see every day. 

Perhaps the only solid critique I’d have for this film is the letdown of the “chemistry” between the “bat and the cat.” By the looks of all the press tours and photoshoots, and the general hype around the film, you’d think there might be a danger due to the high voltages of electricity between the co-stars… but that was sadly not the case. Although the scenes Pattinson and Kravitz shared were in no way teeming with passion and chemistry, the two characters definitely complimented each other well (not to mention their matching pointy-eared masks). 

While we may have been put through close to an “A Star is Born” (2018) level of co-star chemistry, it seems this could have all been a (very successful) marketing tactic. Because in all honesty, it wouldn’t even make sense for this version of Batman to be capable of having chemistry with anyone, let alone perhaps the hottest woman he’s ever spoken to (and maybe the only one he’s ever kissed). 

There’s no discussion of chemistry in “The Batman” without talking about Riddler (played by Paul Dano) and Batman’s “anti-chemistry.” There is absolutely no doubt as to how they feel about each other — Batman absolutely despises Riddler, and Riddler is Batman’s number one stan even though he wants Bruce Wayne dead. Even though Dano notoriously gets beat up in the majority of films he’s in, the Riddler remains untouched… perhaps the most annoying thing he could have achieved. 

The one breakout star of the film that I truly was not expecting (and who I truly hope to see a lot more of in the next one) is Colin Farrel in full-body prosthetics as the Penguin. Not only was this loud-mouth mobster the best form of Italian-American representation I could personally ask for, but he was hands-down the funniest person over the course of this three-hour gloom fest. I’m not usually a fan of excessive prosthetics on actors that completely change their appearance (looking at you, Jared Leto in “House of Gucci”) but shout out to the special effects makeup team here because it was truly so seamless. Penguin, I’m rooting for you to cause much mayhem and destruction in the imminent sequel — he really didn’t have much of a chance to shine past the role of comic relief in this one. 

Last, but certainly not in any way least, I must give some major praise to the soundtrack. Nirvana’s “Something In The Way” (1991) has now essentially become an emblem of the movie, with an entire TikTok trend revolving around users brooding with a dark filter and this song playing as they delineate the ways they are the Batman in their own lives. This of course is due to it being an amazing song that is exactly something this version of Bruce Wayne would play through all hours of the night. The rest of the soundtrack captures every bit of the film just as that one does Bruce — complete with both an amazing original score by Michael Giacchino and a top-tier selection of new and old songs. This includes pulsating club music each time we see the sleazy Iceberg Lounge, some classic sappy love songs (including the iconic “Volare” by Dean Martin) to bring in some fun contrast to the dark (and violent) scenes they backed, and riveting classical music to connect everything in between. It’s a wholly entertaining three hours of a pasty emo man brooding around town, fighting crime, solving riddles and either fighting or working alongside his cool new friend Selina. 

Written by: Angie Cummings — arts@theaggie.org

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