“The Batman:” Enchantingly Aesthetic, Lacks Humor

“The Batman:” Enchantingly Aesthetic, Lacks Humor

I would like to start this off with an important disclaimer: I am not a DC Universe follower. If I remember correctly, the only other DC production I’ve seen was Aquaman a few years ago, so I’m not well-versed in the characters and their antics (I tend to lean more towards the Marvel Cinematic Universe). However, as a (kind of) first introduction into the DCU, I can certainly say I am pleasantly surprised by “The Batman.” 

For a little background for those of you who haven’t experienced this film yet, The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves, is set, as usual, in the dreary fictional Gotham City, and features the classic characters of the Batman/Bruce Wayne, the Catwoman/Selina Kyle, along with the classic villains of the Riddler, the Penguin, and even hints at the Joker. Unlike the original storyline, though, Batman’s teenage sidekick, Robin, is evidently absent from the movie, although Batman’s alliance with Gotham City Commissioner James Gordon is steadfast. In this reworking of the franchise, the Batman, aided by Gordon and eventually Catwoman, takes on an alarming case involving the Riddler and a maze of crimes as he targets the city’s corrupt politicians and leaders. This all ends up being a much bigger, prolonged scheme relating to Bruce Wayne’s parents, Selina’s partner, James Gordon’s previous drug-bust success, and the origins of the Riddler. 

The first aspect of the film that stood out to me was the actors, specifically Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne (Batman) and Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle (Catwoman). Both of these actors, besides being extremely charismatic and captivating, play their respective roles very well. Another disclaimer – I haven’t seen much of these actors in other movies (besides Robert Pattinson’s Edward Cullen in Twilight). That being said, both actors did an amazing job at embodying their roles. Without spoiling, The Batman/Bruce Wayne is a dark, broody character with an even darker backstory, and Pattinson does an excellent job at taking on the borderline-emo personality of his character: he rocks the dark makeup, can pull off all of the costumes, and gets a gold star for never cracking a smile for the entire movie. Seriously, the (bat)man has a stone face the whole time. This leads me to his more expressive counterpart, Selina Kyle (a.k.a Catwoman), played by Zoë Kravitz. 

Kravitz’s character is captivatingly mysterious from the first time we meet her as Batman is conducting an interview (of sorts) with the Penguin (Colin Farrell). Kravitz’s character is, arguably, a bit more complex than Pattinson’s. Selina, we learn lives in a bit of a shabby apartment with her Russian female partner, and we don’t get much of her backstory other than she occasionally becomes a stealthy cat-woman and has a motorcycle that matches the Batmans’. The romantic tension between these two characters is undeniable, and many would probably say inevitable, which I agree. If there are follow-up productions, I am curious to see how their relationship unfolds, especially because Selina ironically doesn’t seem to be as smitten with Bruce Wayne as she is with Batman. 

Moving on, I would like to talk about the production itself, namely the aesthetic of the film. The movie takes place almost exclusively at night because of Batman’s nocturnal tendencies, coupled with Gotham City’s rainy disposition which makes for a very dark-toned movie. Some critics have said that this is a cliche metaphor for Batman’s dark inner turmoil, but even so, many can appreciate the gloomy mood that results from such a metaphor. 

Additionally, I’ve heard much talk of the soundtrack to the film, more specifically the song “Something In the Way” by Nirvana which is played at various times throughout the movie. This song most definitely fits with the darker connotations of the setting and Batman’s everlasting mood, and although it was played at least twice during the film, it might even have been milked for a third playing at the end of the movie. I hope to see future “The Batman” movies continue to use the Nirvana-esque sound – maybe even their song “Heart-Shaped Box” – as it encapsulates the goth-like spell over Gotham City. 

Another well-done aspect of this film is the suspense. The action scenes, in contrast to the almost sleep-inducing environments, keep you on the edge of your seat. The Batman’s dance that he does with the Riddler (Paul Dano) is intricate and deliberate, but the Riddler’s plan and objectives are also frustratingly obscure. The Riddler keeps the Batman running all over the city, solving complex puzzles in order to figure out who the new victim is – ultimately forcing the Batman to be his puppet – and each new situation seems to be even more nail-biting than the last. It’s also worthy to note one particularly intense car chase scene occurring between the Batman and the Penguin, where the Batmobile flies through an explosion, as it actually used no CGI; it was a stunt performed live without any editing. This is a pretty unique production decision, as many superhero/action movies (insert any MCU film here) use a lot of CGI, so the fact that this was a real shot is very surprising, and makes you appreciate the scene a little more. 

The only real negative remark I have about this movie is its lack of humor. Although it’s full of irony, and the Penguin does have a particularly sarcastic line that could provoke some chuckles, the production basically has no comic relief. Now, this could definitely have been purposeful – after all, there seems to be a recurring theme of never-ending gloom and doom. However, it is precisely for this reason that it’s missing the humor. With such dark and heavy colors, moods, violence, and suspense, it would have greatly benefited from the occasional light-hearted aside. And it wouldn’t even have to have been from Batman, I can understand the importance of his stoic persona, but there are plenty of other characters that could easily portray a more laughable personality at the right times. Plus, when you consider the personality of the original Batman character, he was much more comical (literally). From what I’ve heard and seen in a short episode of the 1966 Batman TV show, the Batman and his comrades used to get themselves into humorous situations, with even the bad guys providing some funny moments throughout the episodes. Overall, it really just could be that much better with a little bit of humor to relieve the continuous tension and suspense that is central to the film. 

If I had to rate it on a five-star scale, I would probably rate “The Batman” a solid 4.5/5 (guess where they lost the half point), and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to a friend. It’s definitely worth a viewing (or two?), if not for the thrilling plot or mysterious aesthetic then at least for the mesmerizing characters. Maybe Matt Reeves would even consider putting a spin on the old Batman theme song next time – think the Spiderman franchise, if you will.