The Batman – A Movie Review (No Spoilers)

I’ll admit that I initially didn’t get too excited by the prospect of yet another new Batman. I happened to like Ben Affleck as Batman and wasn’t quite ready to accept the guy from Twilight as his would-be replacement. To go along with that, I was fully invested in the Snyderverse and didn’t want to switch directions from that, either. Furthermore, it wasn’t the idea of a parallel Earth that bothered me. I’ve been enjoying DC comics since 1980 and am therefore very comfortable with the multiverse plot device. I am fine with a few different Batmans running around in my movies. I just didn’t think I wanted this Batman because it looked as though it would simply be a retread of Nolan’s films.

Let me say this clearly and in all caps: I WAS WRONG.

The Batman depicted the comic book character we know and love more closely than any other version I’ve seen on screen. Also, the film was dark, gritty, street level, violent, rainy, and seething with noir.

Robert Pattinson, the aforementioned Twilight guy–fantastic. His Batman was physical, cerebral, brooding, and emotionally damaged. Best of all? He wore the costume for 90% of the movie. (It had to be absolute hell for Pattinson to film this thing, by the way. I read somewhere the costume weighed 60 pounds.) This Batman truly seemed detached from his emotions. He didn’t strike me as a rich guy with fancy gizmos. He honestly depicted a man unable to overcome his emotional devastation while seeking solace by beating criminals to a pulp. Yet there was an emotional vulnerability to his Batman as well. Watch closely for his reactions when kids are being impacted by crime. It’s subtle, but it’s there, and also laid the psychological groundwork for how a “Robin” could even be possible in Batman’s world. Speaking of subtle, Pattinson is definitely the strong, silent type. The camera made a point to zero in on Batman’s face often. There Pattinson did his best acting. A flutter of the eyelids. The setting of the jaw. The dead stare daring someone to challenge him. It was remarkable.

Of course, I must give credit to Pattinson’s costars as well. Jeffrey Wright as Jim Gordon proved a force. I never thought anyone could challenge Gary Oldman’s hold on the character, but Wright most definitely has. He and Pattinson delivered an unspoken, unbreakable trust between Gordon and Batman. However, I’m not sure we’ve ever seen a more compromised Jim Gordon. Gordon is constantly vouching for Batman, squirming as he’s questioned for bringing a vigilante to a crime scene, yet totally confident in the masked man’s help and moral center. Again, it’s a complicated balance to accomplish, but they managed to pull it off. It mirrored what we’ve seen in the comics for decades. Have you ever seen Batman investigating a crime scene while surrounded by the police in any other Batman movie? No, but it’s common in the comic books. It was stunning to see Batman, Gordon, and a crowd of police officers crowded in a room studying evidence together.

Speaking of stunning, Zoe Kravitz is phenomenal. She’s charming, physical, and magnetic as Catwoman. She and Pattinson have real chemistry, which is quite a feat considering Pattinson had a mask on for all of their interactions. I do think they could have done a lot more with Kravitz, but here’s hoping a spinoff will further showcase her talents.

Paul Dano was creepy as could be. Disturbing. I don’t want to reveal too much, but they definitely tapped into the Joaquin Phoenix “this could be your neighbor down the street” kind of vibe. His intelligence seemed atypical, but his emotional scarring, his need to lash out, and his misguided social affiliations did not.

John Turturro played Carmen Falcone, a character I have never–ever–cared about … until now. Turturro made him strangely human–even likable–as his character helped with heinous actions.

Finally, though, I must give my MVP award to Colin Farrell. Farrell played the Penguin. This ain’t your previously established Penguin, though. Farrell was completely unrecognizable, and with that came a side of the actor that I’ve never seen. I still have trouble believing it was actually Colin Farrell. This man was boisterous, ugly, loud, and decidedly uncool. The opposite of Farrell in every way. He definitely squeezed every ounce from his character that he possibly could.

Matt Reeves wrote and directed The Batman. Yes, you can certainly trace moments of the film to comic book inspirations, but it also felt uniquely different. On one hand, Batman was in virtually every scene and in costume. That struck a chord with me because I remember in my younger days always wanting more Batman, less Bruce Wayne. It also felt far more grounded and realistic, even compared to Nolan’s films. Furthermore, between the rain, the action, the crowded sets, and the many, many close-ups, The Batman appeared to be a very difficult film to shoot. No angle looked easy; no scene took the simple way out.

As I’m sure you’ve gathered, I highly recommend The Batman. Believe it or not, it’s different from any other Batman you’ve seen before. And while I can’t believe I’m saying it, Robert Pattinson’s performance while wearing a mask and Colin Farrell’s performance while wearing copious amounts of makeup proved to be what I enjoyed most. It’s largely a performance driven film, which sounds ridiculous, but is true. I consider The Batman a victory in every facet.

By the way, my sincere apologies to the 1989 Batmobile, but you’ve been put on alert. The 2022 Batmobile is somehow even cooler and looks like something that could actually function on the roads as intended. I’m not saying it’s replacing the 1989 Batmobile as my favorite … but it is in contention.

Transformers – A Movie Review

Before we begin, let’s just get one thing straight-this movie is based on a toy line from well over twenty years ago.


So, if you’re going into this movie expecting Citizen Kane or The Godfather, please, think again.  If there’s one thing that drives me crazy, it’s people dissecting summer blockbuster action movies like they’re art house films.  They’re not.  And Transformers is as big of a summer blockbuster action movie as you’re going to get.  And it’s based on a toy line.  Repeat: a toy line.

That said, this baby actually was much better than I anticipated.  While the plot was just the sort of thing you’d expect to keep the action going full throttle without any speed bumps (like coherence), there were actually some very strong attempts at giving each human character a very distinct personality.  I actually was surprised by the charm and charisma of Shia LaBeouf who definitely gave this film its heart and soul.  Shia’s parents were a riot, and appearances by legitimate actors like Jon Voight and John Turturro gave the film some acting credence it didn’t really need-but I like the effort.  Bernie Mac also makes a hilarious appearance. 

But, let’s get to what this movie was really about-Transformers.  They were awesome!  I have no idea what a robot turning into a car would actually look like, but what I saw in the movie seemed pretty spot on.  Moreover, I love the fact that the robots were actually to scale.  Meaning, if a robot turns into an eighteen-wheeler, when that baby stands upright it’s going to be pretty big.  Bumblebee, coupled with Shia, stole the movie by far (as I’m sure they were intended to), but nothing beat Optimus Prime voiced by Peter Cullen, the guy who did it back in the cartoon from the eighties. 

Somehow, the digital artists made these robots fit seamlessly into the scenes with the live actors.  It honest to God looked like they were really acting alongside the real folks.  That sort of stuff can drive me crazy if it looks fake and I usually have a good eye for it, but they passed with flying colors.

Now, I realize the old schoolers out there are upset about the modifications made to their favorite cartoon characters, and to them I say, “Get over it.”  It’s a movie based on a toy line.  While they didn’t resemble their former cartoon selves in the least, the upgrades were necessary for the complex age we live in.  And I have to say, those freaky robots honestly looked like they could turn into something.  There were layer-upon-layer of gizmos and parts on them that were always spinning or percolating; it was visually most impressive.  I will give the haters one inch, though, it got kind of hard to tell everybody apart except for Optimus Prime (very blue) and Bumblebee (very yellow).  All the rest, in robot form, sort of blended in with each other.  Hard to tell the good buys from the bad.

I also thought it was sort of funny that there were only three female parts in this movie, and two of them were, as the kids would say, pretty smokin’.  (The third role was Shia’s mom.)  Most of the men, though, were fairly on the nerdy side.  Funny, huh?  Do the marketers know their target audience or what?

Finally, I appreciate a subtle, disciplined, contemplative film dealing with the nuances of the human condition, but sometimes I need those big summer ka-boom action movies.  Transformers director Michael Bay is the Leonardo da Vinci of over-the-top action movies, especially the summer blockbuster variety.  I mean, this guy brought us The Rock, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, and Bad Boys I and II.  Oscar winners?  Well, no; but they sure were fun to watch.

In summary, the Transformers looked awesome (if not always recognizable), the action was spectacular, the acting better than expected, the plot exactly-as-expected (but it kept the action going; it kept the action going), the humor surprisingly well placed, and the charisma of Shia LaBeouf proved a nice surprise (we’ll see more of him in the next installment of Indiana Jones).  If you’re into this sort of movie, you will not go disappointed.  But, for the love-try to remember: it’s based on a toy line.  A TOY LINE!