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‘The Batman’ Is No Masterpiece

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It took me a while to see it and that helped to raise my expectations. People whose criteria I respect saw it, liked it and some dared to say what everyone now uses for every movie that does well at the box office: “It’s a masterpiece.” But no, how disappointing.

Matt Reeves’ The Batman, the first installment in a new trilogy of the latex-suited, two-horned mask-wearing avenger, is not a masterpiece. It tries, but fails in too many ways. And what I am going to say will be limited to the cinematographic aspect which, for me, was the weak point of the whole almost three-hour movie. I won’t waste time on the storyline because everything has already been said. The merit of the Batman movies will always rest on which director achieves the best cinematic quality.

During the almost three-hour-long movie, I didn’t feel like I was watching anything new—and, again, I’m referring to the cinematic aspect. The Batman detective feature is fantastic, but it would serve better if it wasn’t an almost exact copy of David Fincher’s Se7en. As for the elements within this detective plot, they would certainly have more value if they also hadn’t been a near carbon copy of Fincher’s Zodiac and a tacky nod to Orwell’s 1984.

The rest (when it doesn’t feel like plagiarism) are cheap references to Nolan’s masterpiece, that Batman trilogy that came to leave the rest of the superhero producers as idealistic mediocrities. In short, The Batman is a collage of things I’ve already seen, which seem to be collected as they were seen, without the slightest alteration or makeup to make the audience believe that this is a reference and not plagiarism.

In some parts, it’s hazy, in others dizzying, and in others too cloying. Many elements were forced in and there is a clear need to appeal to all types of audiences, which is also annoying. Love is overdone, and Zoë Kravitz’s character, with her absurd lines, characterizes Reeves’ attempt to put together the darkest and most twisted installment of the Batman films. The ideological element is unbearable. They want you to believe, and they never get tired of telling you, that it’s all about a crusade of the underdog against rich, privileged white people. They even want you to feel bad for Bruce Wayne, who should be ashamed of himself for being white and a millionaire.

Ah, Bruce Wayne, the worst ever. Robert Pattinson is an excellent Batman, but a terrible Bruce. Incoherent, there is no relation between the character Reeves wanted to draw and the profile of the billionaire and powerful playboy. Reeves’ Bruce Wayne looks, instead, like a teenager depressed because Paramore’s last album sucked, and My Chemical Romance is about to split up. Dejected, wearing dark glasses to avoid the sun, he’s the emo cousin who, at 35, still hasn’t outgrown that stage.

The best thing about The Batman, however, was the villains. Paul Dano was brilliant and injected the film with that twisted element the story was sorely lacking. Riddler was a fantastic character and one is left wanting to know and see more of him. Carmine Falcone, played by John Turturro, is also well done — too bad they tarnish it at the end with the cheesiness of who-knows-who being the daughter of who-knows-who. Colin Farrell was quite good as Penguin and for the first time, Cobblepot is made to look like a serious villain and not a cartoon.

The last scene is disconcerting. A small terrorist attack that brings down all of Gotham City (or New York City) looks as implausible as it is laughable and leaves you with the feeling that things have gotten out of control and even Reeves himself can’t do anything about it.

The Batman is not a masterpiece, but it’s not a terrible film either. It has potential for a promising saga, but it should aim to surpass itself, without the need to put together a disastrous set-up of what we’ve already seen. It has its merits, of course, and it’s irresponsible to set them aside. It’s beautifully made, the music works, the dark aesthetic is fantastic, the costumes are great and the performances are polished — I also highlight Jeffrey Wright as James Gordon.

There are some scenes that are beautiful — like that upside-down shot in which Penguin is resigned to his fate after a chase from which he almost escapes from Batman. It has great well-built characters and a powerful screen presence, and it is also crudely human. It manages to infect you with contempt for a corrupt, corroded society in which, after several minutes on screen, you are already immersed. In the end, you empathize with Batman, with the villains, and with the corrupt. Everyone is rotten, so either no one deserves to be saved, or everyone should be given a second chance. For now, let’s give a second chance to The Batman, which comes with a Joker played by the great Barry Keoghan.

Orlando Avendaño is the co-editor-in-chief of El American. He is a Venezuelan journalist and has studies in the History of Venezuela. He is the author of the book Days of submission // Orlando Avendaño es el co-editor en Jefe de El American. Es periodista venezolano y cuenta con estudios en Historia de Venezuela. Es autor del libro Días de sumisión.

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