Batman holds up a red flare


I feel like I saw that first movie trailer for The Batman about a decade ago. It looked cool, but maybe a little washed-out. It stayed on my radar, I think due to the great Nirvana song. The movie utilizes that song well. Everything about The Batman, in truth, is done well. The lighting by Greig Fraser is incredible, the aesthetics are wild, and the plot felt circuitous on purpose. There were multiple points where I cringed, which in itself is sort of an unexpected delight.

And that Michael Giacchino score… what a doozy.


1. The Batman is really, really good.

Let’s start with a simple one. We enjoyed the hell out of this movie. The cast was even better than expected, particularly Colin Farrell as The Penguin and Jeffrey Wright as Commissioner Gordon. We talked about the movie all the way home, which is pretty standard, but then I thought about it last night and again today, which is rare. But it is justified; the movie goes in directions that I didn’t expect. This brings us to our next point.


2. It’s actually a detective story.

Who is the serial killer known as The Riddler, and where will he strike next? The Riddler doles out clues, but even without his riddles and spraypainted diatribes, the heroes of this movie follow leads, stake out suspects, connects the dots, and close in on their prey.

Compare to some previous villains who were less than subtle in their plots. A golden alien collected some mother boxes (ew) and turned an abandoned nuclear facility into a brown-and-orange hellscape. A few years before that, doofus-ass Bane tricked the entire police force of a 20-million-person city into getting trapped in the sewers, then hid a bomb in a van and drove it around Gotham. Before that, Batman fought Ra’s Al Ghul when the villain came to Batman’s party. Before that, Mr. Freeze robbed random high-profile events and then escaped, and Batman chased him to another high-profiel event, and on and on. Before that, the Riddler had a giant tower with neon green lasers shooting out to every television set in Gotham.

The Batman is a notable deviation from the formula. It is not any more real or any less absurd than the previous films, but the anonymity of The Riddler is his greatest asset. And that is why he is so hard to catch.


3. I’m pretty sure that Zoë Kravitz was doing a Jane Fonda impression.

This one is for the movie nerds out there, but Kravitz, Pattinson, and Reeves all mentioned Alan J. Pakula’s masterpiece Klute (1971) as an influence on the Batman/Catwoman dynamic in this film. The structure is there if you look for it, but I also swear that there were line deliveries that felt like deliberate impressions of Jane Fonda. No complaint here! Fonda’s Bree Danials is a groundbreaking, innovative character and performance. Klute reference or not, Kravitz is far more compelling in this than I found her in the disappointing Kimi (2022), released last month on HBO Max.


4. Set design, location, and cars were excellent.

The Batmobile looks like a combination of the titular Christine (1983) and Mad Max’s V8 Interceptor (1981). His car chase with the Penguin (as shown in the trailer) is quite fun. And I’m not a motorcycle guy, but Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle’s motorcycles are super cool, old bikes… Triumphs or some such?

Gotham City is also filthy in this movie in a way that no previous movie made it. Burton’s two films come the closest, with garbage cans, back alleys, and slush. But The Batman takes it even further, which fits with the film’s Gotham-centric story. Rather than globe-trotting after Darkseid or whatever, Batman punches thieves and mobsters in this movie in grimy streets, on graffitied subway platforms, and within a very scummy-looking secret nightclub.


5. This pushed the absolute limits of the PG-13 rating.

Most PG-13 movies are violent. However, The Batman pushed the limits of the rating for me. This is probably the first movie that I’ve seen of that rating where I thought “I would not take a kid to this.” In one scene, the detectives listen to a voicemail of a woman being strangled to death. The opening scene of the film is someone being bludgeoned to death, accompanied solely by heavy breathing. There is a scene that is far too reminiscent of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol combined with a mass shooting. It’s… it’s a lot, ok. There is also a shocking amount of cursing. The movie gets its one “fuck” out of the way in the first five minutes, and “shit” are everywhere. I’m not a prude; I curse a lot. But the upsetting parts were just a little pushed compared to expectations. I’m sure you’ll be fine.