Plot: What’s it about?
The Summer of 1989 had, in essence, one word – Batman. Tim Burton’s adaptation of the caped crusader was one for the ages with Michael Keaton playing the iconic character and Jack Nicholson as The Joker. Burton would return a few years later with Batman Returns bringing on Danny DeVito as The Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. And then…the wheels feel off in the next two installments. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy gave us, in essence, the definitive version of Bruce Wayne/Batman that we’d ever want. And then we had Ben Affleck pop up in various installments in the DCEU along with Superman. Confused yet? Yeah, I am as well. Regardless, we’ve now got The Batman. Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In) has taken the Dark Knight and made him, and his enemies, even darker. If you’ve got more than a passing interest, and three hours to kill, let’s see how they can once again reinvent the wheel.
I’ll allude to some of the visual similarities below, but there’s also a bit of that movie at play here. A psychopath, The Riddler (Paul Dano), is killing off high-ranking Gotham officials and in the process, exposing their corruption. His first victim is the mayor which spurs Lt. Jim Gordan (Jeffrey Wright) to call in Batman (Robert Pattinson). They put together the clues left by The Riddler which seems to lead them to the mob boss, Carmine Falcone (John Turturro). Things get more complicated when Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz) gets involved.
That doesn’t sound like it’d encompass three hours, does it? Well…it does. The film’s running time isn’t an issue with me, I love movies that can make three hours seem like one. Christopher Nolan’s Batman films weren’t exactly short. What Reeves has done is to give Robert Pattinson a great avenue for his “signature” look. He’s not going to be one to do a romantic comedy. This role was made for him. And it also gives us a look at the darker side of the character as well as those who oppose him. It’s not a perfect movie, of course. Selina Kyle’s role was more of a distraction than a necessity. She could have easily been brought in for the sequel (this movie is part of a trilogy, of course). Still, seeing some darker and, dare I say it, more realistic villains is something of a breath of fresh air. Who’d have thought?
Video: How’s it look?
There are dark films and there’s The Batman. This is dark, I tell ya. But with the titular character being a “creature of the night” it does seem fitting that the color palette (or lack thereof) look like this. Warner’s 2.39:1 HEVC 4K image does manage to impress in spite of lacking some of the primary colors. The closest antecedent that I could think of is David Fincher’s Se7en. So if films like that are your style, this will certainly fit the bill. Being a dark film, it does present quite a few opportunities for errors. There are none. The added benefit (to the 4K disc) is Dolby Vision and HDR which does give a bit more definition to these darker scenes that, quite frankly, appear as a blur sometimes. There are colors in the film, don’t get me wrong, but they’re mainly relegated to the backgrounds like neon signs and whatnot. The disc also has no features on it, so the entire film is on one disc giving it “room to breathe” so to speak. Nevertheless, this earns its perfect rating.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Likewise the included Dolby Atmos track is certainly a cinema-worthy experience. Vocals are well-centered and pitch perfect, though the driving force with this track are the atmospheric surrounds which create a certain aura that’s difficult to describe. There are several fight scenes, a car chase and the like though this isn’t a continuous onslaught of action in every scene. The sound is used wisely and effectively with some robust LFE moments that really crank it up a notch. It’s not the best-sounding track I’ve ever heard, but it’s one of the most commanding. Well done.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Vengeance In The Making – Running nearly an hour (or 1/3 as long as the film itself) this is the most robust supplement in the mix. Nearly every angle is explored from casting to “why do this” to the characters and the actors’ portrayal of them. If you watch only one featurette – make it this.
- Vengeance Meets Justice – Paul Dano, who plays The Riddler along with Reeves and Pattinson, look into their respective characters. Turns out they’re not so different.
- The Batman: Genesis – Reeves and Pattinson explore the character of both Bruce Wayne and Batman, taking another approach to the iconic superhero.
- Becoming Catwoman – Zoë Kravitz talks about her casting as Catwoman as well as what she brought to the role (she’s no Michelle Pfeiffer).
- Looking for Vengeance – We get a look at the “fighting style” of this Batman, broken down into layman’s terms by Reeves and Pattinson.
- Anatomy of The Car Chase – The car chase scene between The Penguin and Batman is broken down.
- Anatomy of The Wingsuit – Essentially that. We get a look at this particular “feature” of Batman’s suit and some of the technology behind it.
- A Transformation: The Penguin – We get a look at the makeup and prosthetics that turned Collin Farrell into The Penguin.
- The Batmobile – The new Batmobile is explored from concept to completion, complete with some cast and crew who chime in with their .02.
- Unpacking The Icons – Essentially a production design feature exploring the visual look and feel of this new film.
- Deleted Scenes with Director’s Commentary – Two scenes, running around 8 minutes, are shown with optional director’s commentary by Reeves. Given the running-time of the movie, these were wisely cut.
The Bottom Line
When I heard that they were making this film my initial question was “why?” And, to be fair, it still is. We’ve had a slew of Batman films in the last few decades, to varying degrees of quality. But, I have to admit, for those that are looking for a darker side to both the hero and villains – this one knocks it out of the park. Warner’s disc contains just enough supplements and packs a one/two punch with perfect audio and visuals.