March Film Reviews

Harry Moore

The Batman

With a new decade comes a new interpretation of the Batman (and it’s safe to say this one does not dance) in what may be the darkest big screen adaptation of the character yet.

An elusive serial killer (Paul Dano) is murdering the elites of Gotham City, leaving riddles at the crime scene addressed to the Batman (Robert Pattinson) that tease the identity of the next victim and threaten to reveal a conspiracy involving the city’s most powerful figures. With the help of Police Commissioner Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and the seductive cat burglar Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), the Caped Crusader must work to catch the killer before he completes his twisted game.

There have been a lot of varied and radically different depictions of Batman on screen, but all of the previous film iterations have shied away from utilizing one of the character’s key features—his abilities as a detective. And for many long-time comic book fans, the best Batman stories are the detective stories in which the Dark Knight must solve a mystery and outwit his foe.

But at long last, on his 13th live action outing, the “World’s Greatest Detective” finally gets to earn that moniker in theaters.

Matt Reeves, the filmmaker behind Cloverfield and the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy, brings a strong amount of real world grit to the film. This is by far the most grounded version of Batman and the Gotham underworld, with everything from the villains to the Batmobile feeling more at home in a “based-on a true-story” crime drama than in a superhero epic. Reeves isn’t coy about bringing his influences to the fore of the film, drawing from decades of crime cinema: with a score that’s reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann’s work with Alfred Hitchcock, a police force straight out of Serpico and a Batman that acts more like a Bogart-esque detective than your usual battler of evil doers. And as others have noted, the film has many shades of David Fincher’s work, particularly Seven, Zodiac and the Netflix series Mindhunter, with a brooding nihilistic tone and methodical serial killer psychologically assaulting the detectives who are after them.

The darker approach is one that will likely divide some audience members. This isn’t a breezy crowd pleaser like what comes out of the Marvel production line or even Christopher Nolan’s comparatively whimsical Dark Knight trilogy. There are several highly intense and borderline disturbing sequences, and the action sequences are brutal and sparse. Though there are some undeniable comic book influences, such as a voiceover that reads like it came straight off of a panel on a page.

However, if you can stomach spending three hours in Gotham’s grim underbelly, you’ll find that The Batman is a phenomenally crafted piece of filmmaking and a lovingly faithful, yet individual, adaptation of the character and his world.

With the story set during Batman’s second year as a vigilante, Reeves manages to skip the origin story but still have a relatively novice hero in the lead. And Pattinson is well suited to playing this version of the character, having grown into an incredibly versatile actor over the last 10 years. Playing a Batman who is both intimidating and relatably human, the actor taps into the simmering rage of the character that boils to the surface when doling out his version of justice to the city’s crooks and thugs. Pattison also looks the part when wearing the suit. His Bruce Wayne is similarly rage-filled but wounded and vulnerable still intensely grieving over the (thankfully not portrayed) murder of his parents and taking his pain out on his loyal butler, Alfred (Andy Serkis). Kravitz is perfectly cast as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, creating a modern version of the femme fatale and sharing a smoldering chemistry with Pattinson’s Batman.

The remaining cast is also very strong, and thanks to the extended runtime everyone has a moment to shine. Dano is terrifying and excellent as the Riddler in a villain performance that feels tailor made for our modern era. Colin Farrell is unrecognizable as he chews the scenery as the Penguin, doing a sort of imitation of Robert De Niro, with John Turturro playing menacing mob boss Carmine Falcone.

The Batman is an anomaly in the superhero movie landscape. The movie is more in line with the kind of films that cinephiles love but audiences rarely flock to in droves. It feels as though the studio, Warner Bros, is freely rolling the dice but knows they are loaded by the weight of one of the most enduring characters of the last 80 years. Instead of a fight to save the world, we see a grotesque murder mystery being solved by a violent weirdo dressed as a bat. Here’s to many more.  Out now in theaters.

Fresh

Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is a young woman who has endured the worst of online dating—from dick pics to dinner dates with condescending bros lacking any decency. Just as she’s about to give up on finding a partner, she runs into a charming guy at the supermarket named Steve (Sebastian Stan). After a few dates, she agrees to go on a weekend getaway, where he reveals a hobby to be more horrifying, and to some degree enthralling, than anything she could have ever anticipated.

This horror comedy is packed with unexpected revelations and turns that should be experienced as the story unfolds.

The narrative is reminiscent of Get Out, and much like that film, Fresh has more on its mind than just thrills. The film is a cutting satire about modern dating, patriarchy and the 1% that is held together by an inventive original script from Lauryn Kahn. Seemingly every man in the film is awful in some capacity, but it never feels overwrought and is agreeable thanks to the consideration put into her writing.

Director Mimi Cave balances the film’s various tones with aplomb and knows which moments of gore should be shown or simply alluded to, creating plenty of scenes that will have you one the edge of your seat with your skin crawling.

Edgar-Jones is charming as the lead and immediately sympathetic. While Sebastian Stan shows immense range in the film, adding another entry to his string of strong performances in several independent films. Overall, Fresh is an engaging and original thriller with a sense of humor and copious amounts of body horror. Available on Hulu.

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