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Review

Hercules Has
Little Use For
THE BATMAN!!

 The Batman FAQ

I am – Hercules!!

What’s it called?
“The Batman.”

Who’s responsible?
Matt Reeves ("Cloverfield,""Let Me In," the last two Planet of the Apes movies) directs from a screenplay by Reeves and Peter Craig ("Mockingjay," "Bad Boys For Life").

What’s it about?
Two years into his career as Batman, a twentysomething Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) is remotely confronted by one Edward Nashton (Paul Dano). Nashton hopes to transition from riddle-loving serial killer to riddle-loving mass murderer.

How does it compare to prior Batman movies?
From where I stand it is not as good as “The Dark Knight” or “Batman Begins” or “Batman V Superman.” It is not even as much fun as the lost and lamentable “Dark Knight Rises,” which boasted laudable moments but not enough of them to turn my thumb skyward.

Not as good as “The Dark Knight Rises”??
“The Batman” seems to exist not because anyone had something new or original to say about Batman, but because the character — still Warner Bros.’ most popular superhero property — has not been seen on the big screen since 2017’s (much better) “Justice League.”* The lack of originality stands in marked contrast to last year’s superhero extravaganza “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (the best picture of 2021 if you’re asking me), which has a lot on its mind.

(*Batman : Warner :: Star Trek : Paramount. Starfleet’s overseers seem similarly and quixotically less concerned about ginning up a worthwhile journey than about the fact that Captain Kirk has been absent from the big screen for six years.)

Ben Affleck was going to write, direct and star in a movie titled "The Batman." It reportedly would have pitted the Caped Crusader against Deathstroke. Is Deathstroke in this?
No.

How does Dano’s Riddler compare to famed antivax crusader Jim Carrey’s?
Dano > Gorshin > Carrey.  Though he never once invokes the n-word, Dano does seem to repeatedly channel Mel Gibson’s infamous and breathy “blow me” rant, to chilling effect. And his initial appearance, which opens the movie, is quite well done. For those keeping track, Riddler is the movie’s big bad, and racks up by far the highest body count.

Catwoman and Penguin are not Big Bads?
They are not. Penguin (Colin Ferrell) here is a mere henchman, reporting to non-supervillain mobster Carmine Falcone (an underutilized John Turturro). It is odd that so much effort was (and will be, apparently) expended on transforming Ferrell into Oswald Cobblepot when producers could have simply hired Richard Kind.*

(*The transformation of Jared Leto for “House of Gucci” made more sense because Jeffrey Tambor did not weather the #MeToo blacklist as deftly as rapist Mike Tyson.)

As embodied by Zoe Kravitz, Selina Kyle lands much closer to The Punisher than Eartha Kitt. Given Kravitz’ exceedingly tiny nature (I’d wager Peter Dinklage outweighs her) and the fact that Selina and Bruce team up this time around, it’s easy for this Catwoman to put one in the mind of one of the comics’ more bloodthirsty iterations of Robin.

Does Vampire Boy transform gracefully into a big bat?
Pattinson brings broodiness to bear, and comes off as considerably younger than Christian Bale did in “Batman Begins.” He also narrates the tales, making him perhaps our most verbose Batman to date.

What of the actors portraying detective James Gordon and butler Alfred Pennyworth?
Andy Serkis is not given much to work with and does not improve on Michael Caine or Jeremy Irons. (At one point Serkis indicates his character used to be with “The Circus” but is Serkis’ Circus a real circus or a nickname for some secret British intelligence service?)

Jeffrey Wright sports the traditional pornstache, but is otherwise unremarkable as JAMES GORDON. I imagine Wright signed on not for the unmemorable dialogue but rather for the steady income sequels will bring now that his 007 gig is no more. (Though Gordon is not yet commissioner, he does already have the Batsignal up and running.)

What’s good?
The 2022 movie starts promisingly enough, with the title character introducing himself to a gang of youths terrorizing an undersized innocent on an otherwise deserted subway platform.*

(*The youths all sport familiar clown makeup; is one of them destined to become The Joker?)

The subway scene evokes last year’s superior “Nobody,” which featured an older (and unarmored) avenger who spent the balance of his movie besting some of his city’s toughest miscreants.

What’s not so good?
The 2021 Bob Odenkirk vehicle proved more adept at sustaining my interest. This is at least partly due to “Nobody” clocking in at 91 minutes while “The Batman” lumbers along for 175. The newer film pads its action sequences (some more inspired than others) with an inert mystery plot.

Less successful than the subway scene is an overlong and uninspired Batmobile chase and an extended sequence which pits the Caped Crusader against an armed militia targeting Gotham’s just-elected black female mayor. Though this noisy bit ultimately underwhelms, I did like that it suggested that no Oathkeeper or Proud Boy, even if armed with automatic weapons, would ever have had the opportunity to place filthy boots on Nancy Pelosi’s desk — had a costumed Bruce Wayne been lurking about the The Capitol on Jan. 6.

I warn you not to defy me!

I am – Hercules!!

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