Monday, 26 February 2024

A brooding darkness engulfs ‘The Batman’ in grim violence


You don’t have to be of a certain age, because of streaming options, to be familiar with the ‘60s camp classic television series “Batman” to appreciate the comical times of the Caped Crusader’s battles with evildoers like the Penguin, the Riddler and the Joker.

Frank Gorshin’s Riddler, clad in a green suit adorned with question marks, offered riddles for his nefarious deeds. Burgess Meredith’s Penguin, who had an affinity for umbrellas, waddled around in a tuxedo imitating the namesake bird.

Cesar Romero’s clown-faced Joker was a villainous prankster leaving behind jokes as clues to his crimes. For Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” there are no cartoonish characters. Even the Joker is nowhere to be found.

This reboot of the DC universe’s crimefighter takes a different turn with Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne/Batman, as he is not the billionaire playboy of old, but rather a reclusive figure who causes a stir when making a rare public appearance without the costume.

More than ever, Gotham City is a putrid cesspool of violent criminals, corrupt politicians and morally compromised police officials. The crime-riddled streets are populated with the dregs of society who look like they escaped from a “Mad Max” movie.

“The Batman” is a nocturnal journey through the rain-soaked streets of the metropolis, the habitat for Batman who observes in one of many voiceovers, “They think I am hiding in the shadows. I am the shadows.”

In the midst of a heated campaign for mayor of Gotham City, the incumbent Don Mitchell
(Rupert Penry-Jones), the establishment favorite, is challenged by reformer and political neophyte Bella Real (Jayme Lawson) seeking real change.

The amoral mayor is having an affair with Annika (Hana Hrzic), who just happens to be a roommate with Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), and both of them work at the Iceberg Lounge, a nightclub favored by the criminal class and a few city officials like D.A. Gil Colson (Peter Sarsgaard).

Aside from dealing with petty thugs beating up on innocent bystanders, Batman gets called to duty by way of the Bat-signal when the mayor is brutally murdered in his own home on the eve of the election.

One of Batman’s closest friends is Jeffrey Wright’s Lt. Jim Gordon, who is on the crime scene of the gruesome death. To the chagrin of other police officials, Gordon has asked Batman to join him for some detective work.

The friendship between Batman and the lieutenant is rooted in mutual admiration for honesty and rectitude that is woefully lacking within Gotham City’s power structure and law enforcement.

It quickly becomes apparent that a serial killer is on the loose in “The Batman,” and the first slaying is that of the mayor, a gruesome act that is linked to the elusive Riddler (Paul Dano), who taunts Batman with a greeting card message teasing more deaths and mayhem to come.

This is enough to put the brooding Batman, a tortured soul, into a deeper funk. Even his faithful butler Alfred (Andy Serkis) can’t help, and possibly that’s because Batman remains anguished over the deaths of his parents.

Little does Batman know at the initial brush of investigating the death of the Riddler’s first victim that more torment and pain are in store as family secrets come to light in mysterious ways, courtesy of the serial killer.

Circumstances bring Selina and Batman together to pursue leads that fit each one’s agenda, and while they may be at odds sometimes, they make a good pair confronting the Penguin (an unrecognizable Colin Farrell), who reports to his boss, the crime lord Carmine Falcone (John Turturro).

Most of the time it rains in Gotham City, thereby heightening the grim mood that pervades throughout the series of murders and other catastrophes that beset the populace. Yet, “The Batman” is masterful in depicting trauma that even the hero can’t fully fix.

Don’t come to “The Batman” expecting humor or wisecracks to lighten its deadly seriousness. Darkness reigns and daylight never shines on Gotham City. This is as far away as one can get from Adam West’s frivolity, but it seems fitting for the times we are living in today.

Not the typical superhero adventure, “The Batman” is foremost a detective story, with Bruce Wayne’s alter-ego working hand-in-hand with Gotham’s finest detective in Jim Gordon. Of course, it helps immensely that Batman has more tools at his disposal.

A real bonus to appreciating “The Batman” are the soundtrack by Michael Giacchino and cinematography by Greig Fraser, both of which capture the tenor and essence of Gotham’s forbidding chaos.

Compared to other Caped Crusader films, “The Batman” is a modern film noir, where the flaws and foibles of the main characters, even those of the hero, are on full display.

Unlike other indestructible superheroes, Batman’s humanity and emotions make for a more compelling hero. Everything adds up to making “The Batman” one of the best DC adaptations, and it is definitely worth seeing on the big screen.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

Upcoming Calendar

03.02.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Special Olympics Polar Plunge
03.03.2024 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Pianists Benefit Concert
St. Patrick's Day
Easter Sunday
Easter Monday
Tax Day

Mini Calendar



Award winning journalism on the shores of Clear Lake. 



Enter your email here to make sure you get the daily headlines.

You'll receive one daily headline email and breaking news alerts.
No spam.