Bland and forgettable new caped crusader film

Gotham City just can’t get its act together. It’s been a hotbed of crime and decrepitude for — what? — 83 years now? And try though Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, Ben Affleck and now Robert Pattison might, the metropolis gets worse and worse.

movie review

Running time: 175 minutes. Rated PG-13 (strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong language, and some suggestive material.) In theaters March 4.

In the latest perfunctory film, “The Batman,” Gotham is bleaker than ever. Too bleak, if you ask me. Director Matt Reeves’ downer movie embraces the realism of “The Dark Knight” — the opposite of Tim Burton’s purple-hazed funhouse — only without the payoff of excellent writing and acting. 

There’s an unshakable feeling here of “What’s the point?”

Not to mention the nearly three-hour length. Holy runtime!

Bruce Wayne has been millennialized. Whereas previous iterations hid their crime fighting alter-ego by being charming, tuxedo-clad socialites at parties, Pattinson’s billionaire Bruce is a brooding recluse who stays at home all the time and who many residents haven’t seen since he was a little boy. That’s good, because even with a pointy mask and a cape, there’s no mistaking Rob’s “Twilight” jawline.

Robert Pattison is the latest actor to play Bruce Wayne, aka Batman. ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett CHe still works alongside Alfred (Andy Serkis, making no impression) and Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), who brings Batman to the crime scene of Gotham’s brutally murdered mayor. There’s a letter on the body: “To The Batman.” Inside it — a riddle.

What unfolds is a slowly paced detective noir, with Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz) — aka Catwoman — acting as the not-so-helpless damsel. She wants Batman to help protect her friend, an escort who was having an affair with the mayor. Kravitz is taking a cat nap; Michelle Pfeiffer was way more fun.

Then “The Batman,” for better or worse, begins to resemble the “Saw” films. There’s a series of escalating killings by a mystery assailant known as The Riddler, who uses such unsavory murder weapons as rats, a carpet-tucking tool, bombs and more, leaving a clue on every corpse.

Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle, in “The Batman.” ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett CGoing the old-school mystery route makes the viewer tune out, and our attention spans are tried even more by the acting. The Riddler, Batman, Catwoman, Gordon, Alfred and pretty much everybody else whisper through the entire movie. “Come again?”, you want to repeatedly shout at these aspiring librarians.

They quietly trudge through a banal story that, other than the Riddler (Paul Dano), is a stage for some of Batman’s more boring adversaries. Too much screen time is given to Sal Maroni and Carmine Falcone, basic mafiosos. Batman, in full winged regalia, goes to their dull nightclub over and over again.

Reeves does craft some piercing images. Batman holding a flare toward the end of the film, and a fiery highway chase and a fight by strobe light all make for thrilling imagery. Regardless, it’s the story, stupid.

With not much to sink his fangs into, Pattison is wasted here. Normally, he’s an electric, funny and unpredictable actor — but that’s the opposite of Batman, who hides by necessity. He doesn’t act conflicted, determined or scared — he just seems bored.

Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz) and Batman (Robert Pattinson). ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett CAs for Dano, ever since Heath Ledger won an Oscar for playing the Joker in “Dark Knight,” every actor treats Batman villains like they’re King Freakin’ Lear. His final monologue is grossly overplayed, as though he thinks it’s his own “or else it gets the hose again” speech from “Silence of the Lambs.” It’s annoying.

“The Batman” is the first caped crusader adventure in a while to come off as completely purposeless. Christopher Nolan’s movies reframed the comics as realistic, psychologically complex tales of an urban blight, and Affleck’s Bruce was built to fit into a wider DC universe. “The Batman” is here just to ensure that Marvel has box office competition. 

It’s a shame Joaquin Phoenix’s “Joker” was the one-off and “The Batman” has planned sequels. I’d rather see more Arthur Fleck.

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