comics, des moines, Movies, Pop Culture

#TheBatman earns its genuine article: Best Batman ever

There’s a new Batman movie.

The title is “The Batman.”

The “the,” as in the genuine article, is earned.

Your friendly neighborhood paragraph stacker loves comic books and loves comic book movies, so forgive me as I indulge my obsession with consumed crime fighters.

I loved “The Batman.”

The movie was everything I wanted in a Batman movie and some things I didn’t know I wanted.

I like that Batman works with the police, side-by-side with officers, many of whom are skeptical of his presence.

That troupe is common in comics, but it hasn’t been seen much in movies, except for the relationship Batman has with Commissioner Gordon and the 1966 camp classic “Batman,” starring Adam West.

Side note: West’s Batman will always be my favorite. I watched the TV show re-runs on Channel 5 early mornings when I was a boy. If I need a pick-me-up, the ’66 Bat-flick is one of the five sure-fire ways to cheer me up.

But “The Batman” may well be the best Batman.

I love that this Batman, played by Robert Pattinson, possesses enough self-awareness to question whether he’s making a difference.

I love the score by Michael Giacchino. It drives the film with a constant brass march that softens and intensifies with the plot.

Giacchino manufactures a sense of edginess that pumps up an already intense film.

I love the direction by Matt Reeves and the cinematography. It represents the very best of neo-noir: muted colors, constant rain.

The sun rarely shines in Gotham City; it’s plunged into the darkness, sometimes on the verge of dawn or dusk, but the clouds never fully part.

I love the suit. It looks more like a modified military uniform than something as perfectly manicured as the suit Christian Bale wore in the Dark Knight Trilogy.

The utility belt includes pouches that look like those a police officer.

Batman carries his grappling hook gun like a sidearm rather than something that mysteriously appears when its needed.

I love the car. Nobody calls it the Batmobile, but we all know.

This one looks like a souped up 1970s muscle car, the kind manufactured when gas was cheap and nihilistic movies like “Dirty Mary Crazy Larry” and “Vanishing Point” romanticized the flawed notion that you could get away with anything with a fast car and an open road.

I loved Catwoman, who is not called Catwoman, played by Zoe Kravitz. She’s smart, tough, quick, and more than a match for the big man with pointy ears.

I loved Colin Farrell as the Penguin, who is called the Penguin. If the credits hadn’t told me that was Farrell under that makeup, I would have never guessed.

Farrell succeeds at doing something no other portrayal of the Penguin has done: He makes the man seem dangerous.

Paul Dano plays the Zodiac killer. They call him the Riddler, but his M.O. is 100% Zodiac killer with a social media age twist.

Dano makes the Riddler terrifying; it’s an achievement, because even in most comics the Riddler is a mope.

I loved Jeffery Wright as James Gordon, who is a lieutenant rather than commissioner in this movie. He trusts Batman but is uneasy with the need for a vigilante to maintain order and justice.

Wright’s rendition of Gordon is witty. I loved the exchange between Batman and Gordon when they were on the trail of the Riddler.

“No guns,” Batman tells Gordon.
“Yeah, that’s your thing,” Gordon replies with his service pistol locked and loaded.

I love so much about this movie I could fill up every page in the Marion County Express.

What I loved most, however, was how Batman changed through the events of the movie.

Most Batman movies focus on the villain. They are like horror movies in that way, or the murder podcasts people seem to love so much.

That makes sense. Why go to movies if you don’t want to experience something you would never want to experience in real life?

The Riddler certainly fills that role: a brutal serial killer who uses his murders as clues to darker truths about Gotham City.

The advertisement for sees a guy in clown makeup ask Batman what he’s supposed to be.

Batman knocks him to the ground him and ferociously punches him for what seems like a half hour. The Batman sneers, “I’m vengeance.”

He’s very much that through much of the film. Lots of bad guys get punched, kicked, thrown, and otherwise batter.

This Batman does not kill — a staple of his code in comics, but something other Batman movies have ignored.

“The Batman” shows us he is more than vengeance for his dead parents and crime victims everywhere.

The climactic scene, I’ll not spoil the details, shows Batman’s final, greatest act is to come out of the shadows and defend the innocent rather than avenge them in the darkness.

In this way, Batman becomes a film hero like we’re never seen him before.

So, if you’re into this kind of movie, please take some time and go see it. It’s worth every minute.

Daniel P. Finney writes a weekly column for the Marion County Express. Reach him at newsmanone@gmail.com.


Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
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