MARCH 12 ― For anyone who’s been paying attention, ever since Marvel and DC started making their own movies, the internet has been filled with fanboys of both.
It’s even gotten to a point where it seems like their very identity and reason for being depends on it, at least judging from the way they pride themselves in supporting one brand and dissing the other.
Marvel fans often crow about how well planned the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) is and how consistent the quality of the movies in it have been, which is quite true because out of the 27 feature films already released in the MCU, now in Phase Four, there are very few you can call outright stinkers.
The same thing clearly can’t be said about the movies in the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) which, despite only having 10 films released to date, can already boast having two absolute stinkers in its ranks ― the first Suicide Squad movie and the initial version of Justice League.
But what DC fans can clearly boast about is how much darker and “realistic” their films are (at least in the context of a world where superheroes exist), and how less cartoonishly pop they are when compared to Marvel’s entertainment machines, which is also quite true, because the DC movies have mostly been characterised by their darker, more brooding qualities.
If you asked for my opinion, whether the movies are dark or colourful, they’re still pretty much two sides of the same coin, both are equally valid populist ways to appeal to our emotions.
Just take a look at mainstream, popular music for the easiest examples ― the two most common emotions that you can find in pop songs are happiness and sadness/anger, which are the most basic of emotions, and no matter what people may try to tell you, both happiness and sadness/anger are equally valid as emotions, and there’s no such thing as one being better/cooler than the other.
Which now bring us to the matter at hand, the latest Batman film, this time called The Batman, directed by none other than Matt Reeves, who’s responsible for the awesome Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, War Of The Planet Of The Apes, Cloverfield and the underrated Let Me In and with Batman played rather powerfully by former Twilight heart throb Robert Pattinson (who’s been proving himself quite the formidable actor in films as varied as Good Time, The Lighthouse and High Life).
Taking a leaf out of the MCU playbook by situating their superhero characters not in the usual superhero movie genre, but in other genres completely (see Spider-man in a high school movie in Homecoming, in a Euro trip movie in Far From Home, or Thor and Hulk in a buddy comedy in Ragnarok), Reeves and co-screenwriter Peter Craig have decided to put Batman in what looks and feels like a mixture of 70s gritty crime dramas (á la The French Connection and even Taxi Driver) and David Fincher-esque serial killer movies (á la Seven and Zodiac).
Despite how dark-looking the previous Batman movies may have been, whether they were directed by Christopher Nolan, Tim Burton or Joel Schumacher, what you’ll be witnessing in The Batman is in a whole different genre altogether ― this is a detective/crime film that happens to have a superhero called Batman in it.
The crime in question is a series of murders involving important people in Gotham committed by The Riddler (whom we’ll only see when there’s probably less than an hour left of the film, but Paul Dano still manages to steal the show anyway!), who might as well be the Zodiac killer, judging from the way the victims were killed and left for the police to find, with Batman roped in by Lt. James Gordon to help with the investigation.
How this one really differs from the previous iterations of Batman that we’ve been served over the years is that this version of Batman is still in its early years, two years to be exact, and Bruce Wayne is still an angry young man with emo hair, not the slick millionaire playboy that we’ve been accustomed to all these years, with Batman even saying “I am Vengeance” when we first hear him answering the question of who he is, followed by Batman gleefully, and uncomfortably, taking a bit too much pleasure in beating up bad guys.
In the simplest of terms, this is a movie that illustrates how this particular Batman character evolves from the one calling himself “Vengeance” at the beginning of the movie, into the one who provides hope for the city of Gotham by protecting its citizens, from vigilante to superhero, and that’s the heart and soul of the movie, albeit wrapped in a police procedural plot for more than two-thirds of its running time.
Whether Reeves is justified in taking three hours to tell this story, or taking an epic, almost operatic approach to do so, is something that people will be debating for years to come.
For more than two-thirds of the film, I thought I was witnessing something truly special, but the final third of the film, in which we see The Riddler’s grand plans fall into place (and during which the film finally takes the conventional form of a superhero movie, in which a climactic grand finale is a must) is a bit of a momentum/tension killer (despite how brilliant it must’ve seemed on paper to have Batman “baptised” and reborn/transformed from vigilante to superhero during this climax), which takes away from the movie’s shine slightly, but not enough to erase the awesomeness of its first two plus hours.
It’s not perfect, but it’s still in my top three of the best Batman movies ever, even if technically it’s not really a Batman movie at all and more of a crime/detective film.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.