Review – The Cat, The Bat, and The Penguin (“The Batman”)

As much as there was controversy over Michael Keaton’s choice for Batman back in 1989, so was the announcement that Robert Pattinson of the Twilight franchise was going to don the famous cape & cowl. But were their trolls unfounded?

Ah, there’s trouble in perpetually raining Gotham City (when isn’t there trouble in Gotham City, am I right?). Looks like the nefarious Riddler (Paul Dano) is out for vengeance against the corrupt politicians of the city. He’s already brutally murdered the Mayor (Rupert Penry-Jones) and the Police Commissioner (Alex Ferns), leaving behind cryptic riddles, codes, and notes “for the Batman” to solve. It’s a good thing that Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) has had the caped vigilante as his ally for two years now. Batman, aka Bruce Wayne, and his long-time butler, Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis), act like Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson in cracking the codes.

Finding a clue at the Iceberg Lounge, run by crime lord, Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), Batman convinces lounge hostess Selena Kyle (Zoe Kravitz) to infiltrate the club using a sophisticated Black Mirror-ish recording device to help him out. Inside this club, we find Carmine’s disfigured flunky, Oswald Copplepot (Colin Farrell under tons of make-up) that everyone calls the Penguin. More clues of corruption keep popping up until Gotham’s district attorney, Gil Colson (Peter Sarsgaard), gets Riddler’s revenge at a funeral. It’s there that Batman finds out there’s a rat in Gotham; someone who’s pulling all the political strings. . . but who is it?

Batman and Selena (aka Catwoman) team up, but for different reasons: Batman to stop the Riddler’s serial killing and Selena to find out who kidnapped her roommate and make some bucks in the process. More murders and sinister forces play out like Se7en meets a 50’s noir pulp detective movie with a shocking ending. Plus, you get that wicked cool Batmobile which looks like a bunch of car pieces all welded together with a freakin’ jet engine attached! Nice! Directed and co-written by Matt Reeves (Dawn & War of the Planet of the Apes) along with writer Peter Craig (Bad Boys For Life), this reboot is dark, gritty, and disturbing like Todd Phillip’s 2019 Joker.

This movie is, in fact, an eerie mélange of the old TV series Gotham and the movie, Se7en, right down to its plot points, characters, locals, and music. You can easily draw parallels to them: Batman & Gordon are Mills & Somerset while the Riddler is John Doe (Se7en), even down to the creepy, brooding musical scoring, while the sets, city, the Penguin & Falcone, and all the corrupt GCPD are pulled from TV’s Gotham. Throw in the WB’s, The Long Halloween Parts 1 &2, and you’ve got this movie! And what a movie it is! Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne (like Arthur Fleckman in Joker) is emotionally damaged, driven, and almost psychotic when it comes to fighting crime, as witnessed by his opening narration, and Pattinson not only embodies the role but owns it.

His Batman, while not as complex as Bale’s Batman, shows more vulnerability. He and Serkis (who is outstanding, btw) make a great pairing. Then you have Paul Dano, perfectly cast as the insane Riddler. This guy genuinely scared me and that doesn’t happen often. Farrell as Copplepot/Penguin was remarkable; totally unrecognizable and sounding unlike himself. An awesome performance. And both Zoe Kravitz and Jeffrey Wright were terrific and intense. At three hours, I didn’t get bored once as the writing/directing is sharp, fast-paced, has almost no wasted space, and is claustrophobic in filming. Long-delayed, but SO worth the wait!!   

**Now showing only in theaters 

Batman: The Long Halloween (part 1 & 2) 2021

Warner Bros. Animation (WBA) has a long history of producing some of the best animated superhero movies around, ever since their super-cool Batman cartoon series back in the late 90’s. This one, split into two movies, is no exception. This movie is based on the 13-issue comic series of the same name by Jeph Loeb & Tim Sale.

Gotham City is suddenly beset by a string of vigilante murders, but it’s not by any known killer. Dubbed “Holiday” by the press, this shrouded, cloaked assassin only kills on holidays (starting on Halloween) and only targets the two major crime families in town: Carmine “The Roman” Falcone (voiced by Titis Welliver) plus his gang, and wise guy Sal Maroni (Jim Pirri) and his family. Baffled by all the hits made on Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are Police Commissioner Gordon (Billy Burke), go-getter District Attorney Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel) and, of course, Batman (Jensen Ackles) who, in this universe, isn’t “the world’s greatest detective” (as everyone keeps reminding him of that! LOL!).

Batman, partnering up with his on-again/off-again love interest, Catwoman (Naya Rivera), consults an incarcerated Calendar Man (David Dashmalchian), only to discover that the Joker (Troy Baker) is loose again! Could he be the Holiday killer? Nope! After Carmine’s son is killed on New’s Years Day, the Joker was busy trying to murder everyone in Gotham with poison gas. So who is it? Gotta wait until Part Two, which opens with evil Poison Ivy (Katee Sackhoff) trying to snare Bruce Wayne in her clutches. Once Bruce escapes, there’s more bad news: Scarecrow (Robin Atkin Downes) & the Mad Hatter (John DiMaggio) are on the loose!

As holidays keep rolling along (Valentines Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc) somebody (or a whole gang) keeps getting killed and nobody knows who the vigilante is! As Batman is out & about stopping the usual suspects, Harvey Dent is busy at home with his fragile wife (Julie Nathanson), while juggling work and his own inner demons. It all goes south when Maroni double-crosses Dent and splashes acid on his face, turning Dent into the sinister and twisted Two-Face! As a final act of defiance on Halloween night (exactly one year later), a huge fight breaks out with all of Batman’s major foes in Carmine’s office. Will we finally learn who the Holiday killer is?

Only released on DVD and streaming on HBOMax, this two-part movie has a violent and intricately woven gripping story, a body count, swearing, and is not really for the kiddies. Written by Tim Sheridan, who has given WBA two of their top animated films: Reign of the Superman and The Death & Return of Superman. Although this is Chris Palmer’s second-only directorial movie, it has a great feel to it and never gets boring or loses track in the action. I’m a huge fan of WBA’s animated movies and this one is excellent, even though it has some gaping plot holes in it. Matt Reeves said it was Batman: Year One and this movie that were the inspiration for his The Batman movie.

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