Movie review: “The Batman” (2022)

It’s dark. It’s gritty. It’s three hours long. 

Surprisingly, “The Batman” is also very good. Unlike other attempts DC has made to grittyfiy its already fairly gritty universe, “The Batman”‘s Gotham feels like a genuinely dangerous place, an unhinged crime-a-palooza where the only thing more inevitable than the nightly mugging you’ll get on the subway is the rain which will drip down your collar as you endure it. In the middle of this semi-feral cityscape is The Batman, whom the police seem to tolerate looming around their crime scenes on the principle that he can’t possibly make anything worse. 

Robert Pattinson has the jawline and the presence and the ability to keep his mouth shut that the role requires: thankfully, he also has Andy Serkis as caring butler Alfred; a snorting, low-to-the-ground Batmobile that appears to be made out of cast iron and live ammunition; and a thrillingly nebulous flirtation with Zoe Kravitz as Selena Kyle, a Catwoman for whom any red-blooded man would happily disembowel himself. Everyone in this cast acquits themselves well, from Jeffrey Wright’s weary Commissioner Gordon to Paul Dano’s soft-spoken Riddler, who kills using a variety of upsetting methods, much like Kevin Spacey’s murderer John Doe in “Se7en”. Come to think of it, this movie owes quite a lot to “Se7en”, with its grungy aesthetic and its “old cop / young punk” pairing–just as in “Se7en”, the killer’s eventual dénouement requires that the hero confront the ugliest side of his own persona. You won’t feel the three hours as they pass, though you will feel your stomach and your spleen switch places a few times, most specifically when duct tape, Saran wrap, and old carpet appear on the scene for some dirty work. This Gotham smells moldy; clinging; airless. When a real rain finally comes to wipe the scum off these streets, it feels long overdue. For a long time, Batman movies have been regular, one indistinguishable from the next, a long continuous chain. Then suddenly, there is a change.

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