The Batman, to the extent that you even remotely care about the conspiracy, begins with the assassination of Gotham’s mayor in his own home. The movie starts out spooky enough by making us his monitor watching through windows until his family departs. His body confronts The Batman with a murder mystery that quickly turns into a paranoid thriller: we know the Riddler is to blame, and he has embarked on a vendetta against Gotham’s true, hidden villains.
The film offers more suspects than the last episode of Midsomer Murders, starring high-profile actors Peter Saarsgard, John Turturro and Colin Farrell being paid to undergo various levels of humiliation. The Batman gains a female ally (and potential love interest, not that he’s capable of feeling anything) in Zoë Kravitz, who is also of—guess what? – Revenge is motivated.
Didn’t Quentin Tarantino and Liam Neeson squeeze every last penny ante of “justice” out of this trope? uh huh Reeves and co. therefore seek to amplify such base impulses by emulating the moral imperatives and social commentary of an earlier generation’s “B” films – the more resonant film noirs.
Oh, The Batman missing a righteous hero, a fighter for fair play, a good guy with a tool belt. His alleged champion is so lost in his own head, so fixated on his father’s reputation and legacy, that he has abandoned the grand struggle against corruption, exploitation and injustice for selfish, petty causes. Gotham is drowning and Bruce Wayne dusts and arranges the family pictures in the foyer.
The Batman is a tedious, humorless drudgery, so I amused myself however and where I could. All-purpose butler Alfred (Andy Serkis replacing Michael Caine) enters with a cane and an English accent; for a hot second I thought up Bates Downton Abbey got a job in America. (Come to think of it, it would be a hoot if Maggie Smith’s Lady Crawley was given full license to showcase her inner supervillain. Paul Dano has the dubious credit here.)
The jokes are few and far between The Batman (hence the urge to write my own), and the laughs are even rarer. My great regret is that Ingmar Bergman is not alive to refine the script, improve the dialogues and add some humor.
That’s a cheap shot and I apologize. Bergman had a great joke, and his most serious films contain a few wry giggles. He could even make fun of himself on occasion. Until The Batman can do that, he’s just Batman to me, no matter what his business card says.