Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Froemming picked “The Batman.”
The Movie: “The Batman”
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright
Director: Matt Reeves
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) When the Riddler, a sadistic serial killer, begins murdering key political figures in Gotham, Batman is forced to investigate the city’s hidden corruption and question his family’s involvement.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 85 percent
Froemming: We are back, and back with a vengeance. This week, Brown and I are discussing a modern detective noir featuring a young hotshot detective and a grizzled veteran looking for a serial killer who is leaving them clues at the scene of all his disturbing, brutal murders.
And when this killer is caught, we get a big twist before the third act is finished!
Wait, no. No we did not watch “Seven,” despite the fact during the viewing of the movie we did watch, I felt like we were dangerously close to being one step away from hearing this song:
Anywho, we are ready to kick some Bat-Ass™ this week with a shot in the arm these (REDACTED) DC movies needed: A good movie. A watchable movie. A movie Zack Snyder has absolutely nothing to do with.
A movie in which we finally do not have to see Thomas and Martha Wayne eat it in Crime Alley. Which, if I were a billionaire, I would have avoided an alley named after what exactly happens in it.
We watched “The Batman,” which with the prefix sounds just as silly as when the Joker said it that way in “The Dark Knight.”
Brown, why don’t you give us your first thoughts on this three-hour rainy, gloomy music video for a song by The Cure?
Brown: After watching all those shitty “Twilight” movies, did you ever think we’d get a sterling performance of Batman from Edward (REDACTED) Cullen? I feel like Paul Rudd after watching this:
Since our (well, my) work-life balance kept us off the grid for a while, it felt only appropriate that a superhero movie starring Robert Pattinson felt very on brand for the JOE-DOWN. Just like when I saw the preview of “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” it’s like this was made for us.
Now, where does this fall on the Batman scale between full Nolan and full Schumacher? We’ll get into it.
Froemming, why don’t you get us started while I get out of my guyliner.
Froemming: Much like how “Joker” began, we get a giant title card of the movie, in case someone might have wandered into the wrong theater.
Then we see a gloomy Gotham, which in this iteration has the feel of New York and the suicide-inducing non-stop rain of Seattle.
Brown: And speaking of Seattle, the movie opens with Nirvana’s “Something in the Way,” which acts like a theme song for this film. And this was something, I found out, that … didn’t sit right with you.
Froemming: Well, it opens I thought with “Ave Maria” because we are introduced to
John Doe The Zodiac Ted Cruz The Riddler brutally bludgeoning the mayor of Gotham to death, which put me in a good mood, since I was worried about glittery pedophile vampires going in.
After, we get the (REDACTED) Nirvana song. The older I get, the less tolerant I am for the whiny (REDACTED) of Kurt Cobain.
I really wish, if they were going to use a Nirvana song, they would have gone with this:
Brown: Better than that time when Pat Boone was in a metal mood.
So right away, this movie sets a tone that’s so unlike any of the previous Batman movies, whether it was from Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher or Christopher Nolan.
And I LOVE the atmosphere this movie has.
It leans hard into a noir story and plays more into the idea of Batman as the “world’s greatest detective.” Comparing it to “Se7en” is very apropos.
And the way this movie opens, with thugs and robbers being scared at the mere sight of the Bat-Signal is such a great storytelling aspect to show that Batman’s been doing this for a while and he intimidates the underworld.
Also, by this point, I’ve been so burned out by the Batman origin story in Crime Alley that I thought I was the one who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents. Thank God this movie doesn’t make us sit through that scene.
Finally, when we finally see the Batman in action, stomping around an alley in his heavy boots, he basically takes his intimidation cues from the Bear Jew in “Inglourious Basterds.”
Froemming: The introductions to Batman and Riddler were pretty good. Riddler comes out of the shadows in the mayor’s office like Michael Myers, but then goes all berzerk on the guy, letting us know the Riddler takes as much joy out of killing as Patrick Bateman.
So, we are in year two of Batman’s adventures in Gotham, which is following loosely the concept of “The Long Halloween.” Someday, Batman movies will move beyond “Long Halloween,” “Year One” and “The Dark Knight Returns.” Hopefully.
So after beating the bejesus out of some street toughs, Batman decides to go to an active crime scene, which I think the police there have the correct reaction: WTF?
James Gordon vouches for this weirdo in cosplay, because we are to assume he and the bat have been working together for a while. And while all this is going on, a card is found addressed to our hero from our sociopathic monster with a love of wordplay.
Brown: I feel like with the amount of Wordle people are playing (at least if my social media is any indication), anyone could figure out a cypher at this point.
Also, how hard was this movie leaning into Gordon being Roger Murtaugh in this? Every scene he was in felt moments away from the character uttering “I’m gettin’ too old for this shit.”
Eventually, Batman is kicked out of the crime scene because OF COURSE HE SHOULD BE! Like, he’s not arrested on site? He’s a (REDACTED) vigilante.
But, this Batman is a good deal better at being a detective than literally every detective on the Gotham PD payroll.
When Batman goes into the Batcave – which is an abandoned underground subway in this version – we see what Bruce Wayne has become in this iteration of Gotham.
This time, Bruce Wayne has clearly been listening to a LOT of “The Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance.
Froemming: We also meet Alfred, which for my own sanity, I will assume is Andy Serkis playing a CGI version of Andy Serkis. He is trying to get Bruce to take an interest in the Wayne estate, but Master Wayne is a whiny little bitch like Cobain, so nothing much comes of it.
Which brings us to an issue with all Batman movies: You either have a good Bruce Wayne or a good Batman, but almost never both being good.
- Michael Keaton: Shit Bruce Wayne, fantastic Batman
- Christian Bale: Fantastic Bruce Wayne, shitty Batman
- Ben Affleck: Gas leak has prevented me from remembering him in either role
Brown: I feel like we’re missing a couple. I recall something about a Bat credit card or something…
What do we have in “The Batman?” Kind of a crappy Bruce Wayne, fantastic Batman.
We also find out Batman has these crazy contact lenses that record everything he sees. Which given how boring most of any day truly is, would be a lot of mundane crap to sit through to get to the interesting stuff.
But I could never wear those. The idea of touching my eyeballs grosses me out too much. So when it comes to eyewear in this move, I am on #TeamRiddler with his glasses.
Brown: I’m #TeamBatman because contacts have never bothered me. Plus, I don’t kill people with rat traps.
Brown: See, we get another Riddler killing via a “Saw”-like trap with hungry rats. And now, Riddler is also sending videos on social media and the news to show his handiwork.
Is it as spooky as when Heath Ledger did it in “The Dark Knight?” No. It has moments of panic, but the Riddler’s outfit makes him look like the Gimp from “Pulp Fiction” survived the sword attack from Butch.
Froemming: He also looks like the Zodiac killer from another David Fincher movie.
Brown: The Riddler looks like Ted Cruz’s dad?
Froemming: No, Cruz’s dad killed JFK. Cruz was the Zodiac. Learn.
Much like “Joker” was heavily inspired by Scorsese, this one wears the Fincher inspiration on its sleeve. Which is not a bad thing, I enjoyed it, but it did get a little distracting to me.
The rat trap was used on a crooked cop, who is on the payroll of the mob. Basically, Riddler is getting Batman and everyone to connect the dots to the corruption of Gotham, much like Charlie with Pepe Silvia in the mailroom.
Brown: Deciphering the Riddler’s first cypher to mean thumb drive (which led to the mayor’s thumb being attached to a USB drive because this movie gets DARK), Batman eventually makes his way to the Iceberg Lounge. See, a waitress works at the lounge, which is a seedy nightclub that hosts Gotham’s biggest criminals, including crime boss Carmine Falcone and his right-hand man, the Penguin.
I’ll take this moment to acknowledge that I knew very little about the cast of this movie going in other than Edward Cullen as Batman. I had no damn clue until afterwards that Falcone was played by The Jesus. Or that Penguin was Colin Farrell under a lot of prosthetic makeup.
Froemming: I could have sworn the Penguin was Richard Kind.
Also, Farrell really channels his inner De Niro in this. A very hammy De Niro. And I really enjoyed it.
Brown: After slugging it out with club security, Batman interrogates the Penguin, who isn’t very helpful. Instead, Batman follows a panicked waitress, who turns out to be Selina Kyle.
From here, Bruce Wayne is spying on Selina like he’s Bart Simpson with a broken leg. All we needed was Jimmy Stewart calling Bruce Wayne a sinister-looking kid.
Froemming: Him spying on her changing was creepy, right?
And then he follows her as she hops on her motorcycle, really pushing that stalker vibe even further. It was here I took a piss break in the theater, so I just saw them coming back and finding that Selina’s roommate, who was caught in photos and whatnot from that thumb drive with the mayor and Penguin, had vanished.
I feel like I did not miss much.
Brown: Yeah, you’re fine.
Basically, they think the roommate is in danger because she was around the district attorney. And it turns out that the DA is a regular at the real underground club at the Iceberg Lounge.
Batman has Selina, who’s revealed as Catwoman, go into the underground club with his magic contact lenses. And the DA, he sings like a canary to any attractive woman. It turns out the cop that was in the rat trap was on Falcone’s payroll. And, there’s a rat in the underworld that led to the arrest of mobster Sal Maroni in the GCPD’s biggest bust to date.
Brown: But Batman’s view into the club ends when Selina gets flustered when Bruce keeps badgering her about her relationship with Falcone.
The DA tries to console Selina (or, you know, follow her outside because he clearly wants to hook up with her). His advances are turned down. But he’s not leaving alone, because the Riddler is waiting for the DA in his car.
Froemming: Everyone in the movie is doing a drug called drops, which looks like an opiate they drop in their eyes. I think Matt Reeves has an eyeball fetish like Tarantino has a foot fetish.
Anyway, we now head to the mayor’s funeral, where Bruce Wayne shows up looking and acting like a 14-year-old who just discovered Joy Division. He sees the son of the mayor and relates to losing a parent, but his stares last an unsettling long time. And he overhears some regular, blue collar, everyday Americans complaining about the elites who run the city. People don’t talk out loud like this, they talk like that on the internet.
Well, in the middle of all this a car comes crashing into the church, plowing over the pews and people and crashing right into the altar, as if the car was being driven by the Blues Brothers.
The DA comes stumbling out of the vehicle, with a bomb on his neck and a cell phone taped to his hand. And Bruce just happened to bring his costume to the funeral, so he is able to change into it and apply his guyliner just in time to confront this situation!
Brown: But Froemming, didn’t you get the heavy-handed symbolism in the opening scene where Bruce is dressed as a normal person on Halloween? The Batman is his REAL identity!
Froemming: If I had never seen a Batman movie or read a comic or had zero idea who Batman was, that might have been effective. Plus, why would Bruce Wayne cosplay to a funeral? That would seem borderline offensive. Almost as uncomfortable as this funeral entrance:
Brown: Anyways, Batman answers the call and it’s the Riddler with, you guessed it,
Frank Stallone some riddles!
With Batman’s help, the DA answers two of the riddles. But on the third, the DA needs to reveal the GCPD’s rat to live… and he won’t do it. So, he gets blow’d up. And Batman is literally in front of him during the explosion, getting knocked back.
… And he also has no lingering injuries after being, you know, at point-blank range of a (REDACTED) explosion.
Froemming: He is also lucky nobody thought to take off his cowl while he was knocked out from a blast that should have killed him. GCPD are pretty stupid.
Brown: Yeah, Batman beats up a bunch of cops to escape custody. He gets help from Gordon to escape, which I’m sure will go over well at the next police union meeting.
Let’s also mention that Batman is bulletproof in this movie. Throughout this entire thing, goons are shooting Batman at point-blank range and the Bat is only affected when the plot demands it at the climax.
Normally, I’d ask what’d happen if Batman got shot in the face. But considering he survived an explosion to the face, I’ll go ahead and assume Batman entered an invincibility code.
Through the Riddler’s, ahem, riddle, Bruce and Alfred deduce that the Penguin was the police informant. So, we’re off to the docks that only exist for drug deals in action movies.
Froemming: At these docks, Batman spots Catwoman there and they both find the corpse of her roommate in the trunk of a car. Which, I mean she has been missing a few days, that smell has to be unbearable at this point.
Selina is able to loot some of the Penguin’s money while Batman gives chase in his 1970s muscle car? Yeah, he is basically Stuntman Mike in this part of the movie:
This chase scene was pretty awesome, poor Penguin looking like Tony Soprano and speaking like De Niro, just can’t get away from this maniac in cosplay.
Brown: That car chase sequence was (REDACTED) bonkers and I loved it. Though it really cranked up the anxiety I get when driving next to semis on the freeway. And the image of Batman slowly stalking his way to Penguin’s car afterwards really drives home the terror that Batman has put onto the underworld.
Froemming, you mentioned before how the Riddler came out of the shadows like Michael Myers. But really, Batman pulls from Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees just as much by being that trudging monster that doesn’t need to go fast because he’s that menacing. Only, it’s a different perspective as an audience because it’s the good guy doing this.
… Although in some way, I suppose Jason Vorhees was a good guy, trying to prevent teen pregnancy and all.
Froemming: Batman and Gordon interrogate Penguin as he is tied up on the street. He is not their rat, though, because Batman goofed up the riddle thinking the bird was a penguin and not, you know, a Falcon…
What. Falcone has an “e” at the end. Riddler is really stretching this one.
Also, who do you think is more into riddles, Riddler or:
And they just leave Penguin there on the street. Which was a nice moment of levity in an otherwise pretty dark movie.
Brown: Batman and Gordon head to an orphanage that was built by the Waynes as part of a city-wide effort to revitalize Gotham when Thomas Wayne was running for mayor. However, Thomas Wayne was assassinated nearly 20 years ago during that mayoral campaign. I’m sure it was after an opera or something. Thankfully, this movie avoids doing that scene like every other (REDACTED) Batman and Batman off-shoot (See: “Joker”).
On an overhead projector, there’s video of Thomas Wayne speaking. And that’s when Batman discovers that Bruce Wayne is the Riddler’s next target.
However, it’s Alfred who takes the brunt of that. See, Alfred sees a letter addressed to Bruce and opens it, revealing a fireproof envelope.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you don’t open other people’s mail. That’s a federal offense, Alfred.
But don’t worry. Apparently point-blank explosions don’t penetrate plot armor, because Alfred survives this.
Froemming: On top of everything else, Riddler drops a video alleging Thomas Wayne had a journalist murdered to cover up Martha’s mental illness issues (she, I believe, is the Joker in the Flashpoint comic, so this feels like a nice nod to that). With this and “The Dark Knight,” I am pretty sure only in Batman movies are insane criminals allowed to air snuff films and propaganda pieces on the local nightly news.
So Bruce goes to Alfred’s hospital room to be a whiny little bitch to the man who raised him.
Brown: Alfred’s reaction to Bruce: Yeah, Falcone killed that journalist for Thomas Wayne. But Thomas didn’t want him to kill the journalist, just, you know, put the fear of God into him.
… What the hell did you expect in enlisting the help of a career criminal?
Froemming: In my opinion, Thomas Wayne is as guilty as Falcone in the murder of that reporter — who may or may not have been the Riddler’s father. I suspect he was because of how personal Riddler has taken this part of the story. It also seems to coincide when he was put in that horrible orphanage.
Thomas Wayne (REDACTED) around, he found out.
Brown: Speaking of (REDACTED) around, Selina reveals that Falcone is her dad, though Falcone doesn’t know it. But now that she found out that her roommate died because of Falcone, she’s ready to commit parricide. So she heads into the Iceberg Lounge to confront Falcone. Her intent is to pull out a gun and pull the (REDACTED) trigger ‘til it goes click.
However, she can’t finish the job because Batman and Gordon show up just in the nick of time. Falcone is arrested and it seems like justice will be served as Falcone is brought into the light….
Only for Falcone to meet his end by a sniper rifle.
Yes, Falcone is assassinated. Was it the Riddler in the apartment across the street? The shady fellas on the grassy knoll? CIA with Castro?
Brown: It was Ted Cruz’s dad.
Well, they find the apartment and it is filled with journals of insane ramblings and cyphers and whatnot, just like in “Seven.” And a witness saw someone leaving that very apartment, flee down and into a cafe across the street.
And inside the cafe we see some nerd drinking coffee and stirring a question mark into his beverage, which to me seems like a difficult thing to do.
Brown: It turns out the Riddler is *checks notes* the well-hung nerd from “The Girl Next Door?”
Froemming: Also friend of AJ Soprano.
Brown: I mean, I could see that kid being bullied to the point of being a one-man Qanon.
So Riddler is Edward Nashton, a forensic accountant and former orphan who laments about no one caring about him once Bruce Wayne became an orphan.
But in the Batman, the Riddler found inspiration in targeting the corrupt. He goes so far as to offer a partnership with the Batman, who doesn’t go for it for a second. Riddler is dejected until he finds out that Batman still hasn’t solved his biggest riddle yet.
Trying to figure out what the Riddler meant, Batman goes to Edward’s apartment and discovers the most important clue via *checks notes* a cop with blue-collar relatives?
Froemming: The Riddler murdered the mayor with a carpet tucker, and ivory castle Bruce Wayne had no idea what it was, because he never worked a day in his life. Well, that cop tells Batman what it is and Batman pulls up the carpet to find a bomb plan written on the floor. Much like when Batman tried to figure out riddles on his floor. Neither Riddler or Batman seem to respect wood.
The plan is to blow up all the breakwaters and flood the city. Like when God flooded the earth and whatnot. And the Riddler wanted Batman and himself to watch from Arkham Asylum, because that is above sea level?
Brown: And he’ll get to watch it with a friend. Next to Riddler’s cell is a mercurial man with a distinct laugh that looks like he plays guitar for Social Distortion.
… Yep, we’re teasing the (REDACTED) Joker.
… I think Peacemaker had a point about Batman.
If Joker is in the next movie, he better say this line:
Brown: Not only did Riddler have the plan to flood Gotham, but he apparently has 8chan in on his plot. They’re discussing where to buy Riddler outfits and guns to execute people that head to what’s essentially Madison Square Garden in hopes of relief from the flood.
So atop the scoreboard are a bunch of dudes in *checks notes* army issue gimp suits (??) with rifles and shotguns. The main target is newly elected mayor Bella Reál. But any bloodshed is good for these loonies.
The Batman arrives and subdues most of the followers until one with a shotgun finally incapacitates the Caped Crusader. I guess the invincibility code isn’t allowed on the final level.
But a perfectly timed Catwoman appearance saves Batman’s bacon.
Froemming: Well, her AND an injection of pure crystal meth (or the serum Bane uses in the comics), which gives Batman the energy to nearly pummel this hydrox Riddler nearly to death. The guy he brutally beats up? The same guy Bruce heard complaining about class warfare at the funeral earlier in the movie.
Batman then sees an exposed wire about to fall in the water below, so he jumps on it, fries himself, but since he put the god mode code back in, thousands of volts of electricity barely phases him.
He then decides he needs to be a symbol of hope instead of a maniac who beats the bejesus out of small-time criminals, so he leads a bunch of people out of the stadium to…a different flooded part of Gotham? The whole city is underwater, I am not sure leading them somewhere else will do much good.
Brown: Well, Batman’s existence is a constant question of if it’s doing any good. Case in point: Catwoman tries convincing Batman to go with her because Gotham is beyond saving. But Batman hasn’t given up on the city yet. So the two ride their motorcycles side-by-side until going their separate ways.
The movie ends with Batman assisting in the rescue efforts of the flooded Gotham as we get more Nirvana to play us out.
When trying to inspire hope, maybe don’t use a dour song from an artist that killed themselves? I dunno.
Froemming, let’s go to recommendations so I can go on 8chan and talk about eating the rich.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Yeah, it is a good Batman movie. Not my favorite (that would be “Batman Begins”), but a solid movie.
Brown: Oh hell yeah. I loved this stylistic change to the Batman formula. It’s not perfect by any means, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.
Here is what’s coming up for the next JOE-DOWN: