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“The Batman”, Review: Eh, It’s Fine

by Stewart Cole

It’s the occasion for a modest celebration of the fact that “The Batman” achieves, for much of its nearly three-hour run, a basic line of art: it is extremely capable of sitting. There is a category of movies that was Hollywood’s share of the trade, which a dear departed relative used to call “brain cleaners” —one goes back, time passes with some radical interest, some excitement, some curiosity about what will follow. . For the first two hours or so, “The Batman” largely fulfills its commitment to be attractive and smart. His ingenious director, Matt Reeves (who co-wrote the screenplay with Peter Craig), conveys the impression of the substance where it can hardly be found. The film is good with an asterisk — an asterisk the size of the financial interests at stake in the franchise. As free as Reeves was to make the film according to his own lights, he exhibits an element of guardianship, even fiduciary responsibility. It may well win the favor of the studio, the ticket-buying audience, and the critics who rate their enthusiasm for box office success, but it prevents the kinds of transformative interpretations of the characters that would make the difference between a basic movie and an authentic one. free and original movie.

Batman is a vigilante working with the police, projecting a bat sign into the sky, with a bright light, as a call to him and as a warning to the criminals waiting for him to dive. However, as he lands on a subway platform and lies down a gang of young naughty Joker-style assailants attacking an Asian, the victim is also struck with fear and begs Batman not to hurt him. Batman describes his troubled role as avenger — indeed, as he puts it, as revenge — in a voice that gives hope that the superhero will be endowed with at least an average level of subjectivity and mental activity. No such luck: this voice could very well be part of the Explanatory Notes to the Press for all the insight it offers into the protagonist’s thoughts. However, the accidental interception of street crime in the chaos of Gotham City focuses strongly on a criminal, Riddler (Paul Dano), who, in the first act of his criminal spree, actually calls him.

Riddler horribly kills the mayor of Gotham and sticks a greeting card for Batman and other clues to his motives and to his next victim – the conspiracy he has discovered and the perpetrators he is targeting. By mocking Batman by giving him knowledge, Riddler also makes him a reluctant but inseparable ally, forcing him to take part in the same struggle and informing him of the underlying and general truth about Gotham, of the social order that revenge The masked man is devoted to. defense and conservation. Riddler has learned that many of the city officials, especially those involved in law enforcement, have accepted gangsters (I avoid spoilers here and everywhere). Prosecution decisions are tainted by the self-handling of politicians and the police.

Batman becomes even more entangled in the confusing conspiracy when he accidentally meets another masked avenger, Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), who, as Selina Kyle, works at a nightclub run by a gangster named Oz, nicknamed the Penguin. (Colin Farrell), and were frequented by other criminals, such as a mobster named Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), and corrupt officials. When her roommate and lover Annika Koslov – whom Riddler linked to the conspiracy – disappears, Batman helps her investigate and she helps him untangle the web of corruption that Riddler has identified and arrest Riddler himself. Batman, meanwhile, works closely with a police detective named Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), who, in pursuit of the Riddler, plays the dangerous game of exposing corrupt colleagues and superiors.

The reason we dwell on these details is pleasure. The complexity of the film’s interconnected plots has a simple and straightforward effect that encloses the movements on the screen like an architectural frame, and Reeves adorns this frame with an intense variety of visual twists and dramatic rhythms. The opening scene, in which Riddler spies on the mayor before putting him in, includes a telescope that Reeves (collaborating with cinematographer Greig Fraser) imitates with a telephoto lens, while, in the soundtrack, masked Riddler whistles with tremendous despair. outside of David Leeds. The best gizmo in Batman’s high-tech bay bag is a pair of contact lenses that are also camcorders that transmit their signal to the devices of their choice. The design of the film also offers a handful of spicy touches, from the infinitesimal points of the Catwoman mask ears to the zipper of the cable that Batman unloads for quick rescues and escapes. (Batmobile, however, is definitely out of date vintage black corvette in which Bruce Wayne, disguised, appears at a funeral.)

There is a car chase that, if not very original, at least transfers its obvious motifs to stretched precision images and culminates in the film’s monetary plan, which brings it to a radical conclusion with an impressively clever and simple reversal of visual logic. There is a battle scene in a dark room at night where the only light comes from gunshots. there is a jolt of superhero vulnerability when Batman takes a wrong step with his plane. In a humorous film, a moment comes to her with a happy surprise, as the gargling Penguin comes off with an indignation that attacks Batman’s language skills. That’s as good as it gets, though. the list of moments that pops hangs in the frame as if hiding its essential emptiness.

The crucial indicator of the film’s false seriousness is the visual darkness – the film takes place largely at night (explained in part by Batman’s own night’s habits), which provides the gentle metaphor, or cliché, for dark acts. The elegant foreground of the elaborate but functional design does not resonate with symbolic power. has no loose ends for the free play of the imagination. Its consistency is impressive, overwhelming – and deadly. The energy of the directorial intention does not reach off-screen – it does not imply anything other than action. (It is the kind of alluring visual beauty that conveys above all the kingdom of power that Kogonada challenges in “After the Yang.”)

The gap below the film surfaces reflects the gap of the characters it depicts. are reduced to a handful of features and a story, defined solely by their function in the plot. Although the title character has two identities and lives a double life made of meticulous and elaborate tricks, “The Batman” does shockingly few things for Bruce Wayne. Robert Pattinson’s interpretation provides the only hint of substance: in both faces, it retains a stone face everywhere. The utterly repulsive expression that lends them could suggest anything, from self-discipline to existential anguish, although I see it as a superhuman effort not to burst out laughing at the simulation of seriousness, of any personality. The film’s robust dramatic architecture is virtually uninhabitable — “The Batman” is a movie house inhabited only by ghosts without a trace of complicated psychic life.

The indifference to the characters as sentient beings and not as pawns in a plot emerges in a reversal that is a long-term indicator of the triviality of the action film: the revealing chaos. Avoiding spoilers again, the Riddler not only targets individual high-level villains in Gotham, but decides the whole city deserves to go with them. (The possibilities, with its biblical implications, are endless — and remain untapped.) . The add-ons, either live or digitally created, are anonymous collateral damage in a city that “The Batman” presents only as a scene for the conflict of its protagonists. The film’s inability to imagine superheroes and superheroes with any real psychological identity is part of the failure to imagine ordinary people with any degree of individuality. Nothing that distracts from suspense or excitement, no personality detail that prevents superficial identification with flattened heroes, nothing that suggests a world of possibilities beyond the closed limits of the screen, is allowed to penetrate the film compact and opaque surfaces. The triumph of superficial pleasure is creepily triumphant.

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