The Batman: An Incredible Reminder of What Comic Book Movies Can Be

by C.J. Delaney, staff writer

Editorial Note: This review is spoiler-free

May 2022 — After 10 years since his last solo film, the Caped Crusader has returned to the spotlight in a reboot directed by Matt Reeves. Portrayed by Robert Pattinson, Bruce Wayne is two years into his career as the masked vigilante cleaning up the streets of Gotham City by striking fear into thugs and criminals. During his tenure protecting the city, he’s developed the persona of “The Batman,” calling himself “Vengeance.”

Official poster for “The Batman” (2022), with Paul Dano as the Riddler (left), Colin Farrell as The Penguin, (center), Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle (right), and Robert Pattinson as Batman/Bruce Wayne. (top and bottom).

With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), he sets out to halt the killing spree of the masked criminal known as The Riddler (Paul Dano), who unveils the truth about Gotham City’s corrupted leaders. All of the moving pieces of this film culminate in what might be the best live-action Batman movie ever made.

Setting this two years into the start of Batman’s journey allows the viewers to jump directly into the action. Origin stories are often the standard for comic book movies, but it’s something we’ve seen with Batman many times before. It also would have been incredibly difficult to beat Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins” in that regard. By skipping the origin, a story risks missing out on a meaningful portion of the character’s personal journey, but seeing Batman at this stage presents the opportunity for a different type of character arc.

This version of Batman is young, reclusive, and vengeful. He’s so completely consumed by his life of crime fighting that he hasn’t developed the party animal playboy persona traditionally seen by Gotham’s public eye in other outings.

This lack of separation between Bruce and Batman has been the center of debate among fans as it can be considered an integral element of the character, but for this movie, in particular, there isn’t a need for it.

Part of what makes this movie so enjoyable is that Batman, suit and all, is in nearly every scene. One of the most significant drawbacks of other Batman films, such as “Batman Returns” and “The Dark Knight,” is that they opt to focus so heavily on the villains that the “main character” ends up being sidelined.

“The Batman,” however, is truly a Batman-focused film, and all the better for it.

Many moments would not have held up as well if it wasn’t for Robert Pattinson’s amazing performance in this gritty and violent role. Many remember Pattinson from films such as “Twilight” or “Harry Potter,” so seeing him put on such a drastically different performance to such high success is incredibly entertaining.  The amount of subtlety conveyed through movements and expressions, even with a mask, completely sells Pattinson as a candidate for best live-action Batman.

A great hero must also be matched with a great villain, and Paul Dano’s Riddler is not only enjoyable to watch but also terrifying at the same time. This version of the character is a far cry from the goofy green spandex-clad menace from Joel Schumacher’s “Batman Forever.” Dano’s Riddler proves that it’s possible to reinvent a character to fit the style of a new piece of media while still retaining the core characteristics of what made them great.

Here, the Riddler is genuinely intimidating from his voice to his mannerisms, and especially in the way he disposes of his victims. The giddy confidence emanating from Dano is as infectious as it is frightening.

There are a few scenes where the Riddler loses his temper and begins to scream as he speaks, and when villains do this, they often come off as childish and unthreatening, (see General Hux from “Star Wars” for reference) but here it made him even more unnerving. That type of over-the-top is perfect for The Riddler.

The zodiac killer was a key inspiration for “The Batman’s” Riddler, and as such, he leaves clues and ciphers behind after every murder to direct Batman and the Gotham P.D. to move his plan forward.  

The Batman sets itself apart in the vast sea of superhero movies by ditching the traditional formula in favor of a detective noir style of storytelling. Unlike its contemporaries, “The Batman” doesn’t have an overreliance on jokes, one-liners, or bombastic CGI action scenes every 15 minutes. Instead, the film is very content to have slower and more intimate scenes dissecting clues and discussing evidence.

Jim Gordon partners with Batman on the hunt for the criminals of Gotham, and the scenes of them together picking apart crime scenes are major highlights of the film. The friendship between these two characters feels so natural. The ease they feel and the way they speak when the two of them are alone make it very clear that they know and trust each other more than any of the corrupt officials around them.

While Gary Oldman left big shoes to fill after “The Dark Knight” trilogy, Jeffrey Wright’s take on Gordon feels very authentic and at home for this story. He also actively takes part in the narrative far more than Oldman’s Gordan did in the first two Nolan Batman films, which is a plus. It’s hard to imagine “The Batman” without him.

One of the issues with this film, however, is that Batman and Gordon are always playing by the Riddler’s rules. Batman is supposed to be “the world’s greatest detective” yet is always a few steps behind his enemies. For a character like The Riddler to work, this is understandable, but Batman should have also been looking beyond the intentional clues given to him and instead for unintentional ones to neutralize the threat. This way, he could trail the Riddler while still exploiting his mistakes, making the chase more exciting.

Instead, we have Batman following the path made for him by the Riddler and not stopping to think that he might be playing into his hands. While it doesn’t drag the film down, it would have made for a more engaging mystery if Batman kept getting closer using his own methods.

“While it has its flaws, ‘The Batman’ excels at what it sets out to do. It proves that comic books and superhero films don’t need to follow the checklist created by its contemporaries.”

C.J. Delaney, staff writer

Selina Kyle, or Catwoman, plays a supporting role as opposed to an antagonistic one. Kravitz plays a much more down-to-earth version of this iconic character with a very convincing performance. What’s particularly notable is the dynamic between her and Bruce on their views of justice, making for standout character moments for each of them.

The romance subplot, however, is incredibly half-baked. It’s not that they don’t have chemistry, but they didn’t explore it from a romantic standpoint until it just happens out of nowhere. The direction they took is understandable, as it’s based on source material, but after it’s all said and done, the romance doesn’t feel authentic.

Whenever he appears on screen, Colin Farrell completely steals the show as The Penguin. In looks and voice, he’s unrecognizable. The crime boss’s carefree gangster attitude contrasts heavily with Batman’s serious demeanor.

Unfortunately, The Penguin does not have as much plot relevance as he should have. He still has a large presence in the film, but only impacts the overall narrative in a few key scenes. It works, but it could have been more.

There’s one action scene that includes The Penguin, which has been praised almost universally, but it’s hard to enjoy as it results in many civilian casualties that no character cares to acknowledge in any way. This is hard to believe as Batman has a strict no-killing rule and values human life. The fact that he would ignore and not try to prevent such collateral damage is out of character, dragging the otherwise great scene down.

The action overall is fantastic. The hand-to-hand combat choreography is a very noticeable upgrade from “The Dark Knight” trilogy. Instead of a close up camera quickly cutting between actors flailing their arms. giving the illusion of a fight, “The Batman” brings the camera back and shows everything.

Watching Batman pumble thugs with his fists and other objects around him is endlessly entertaining as the viewer can really feel the impact of each punch thrown. Even though most fights don’t last long, they feel like they do because of how much is going on during them. It’s fast paced, brutal, and riveting.

As expected, the score by Michael Giacchino ties everything together perfectly. The music elevates every scene with goosebump-inducing tracks making the already dark and imposing city even more immersive. The inclusion of Nirvana’s “Something In The Way” was a strangely good decision as it fits the mood of the hopeless city and has already become synonymous with the film.

While it has its flaws, “The Batman” excels at what it sets out to do. It proves that comic books and superhero films don’t need to follow the checklist created by its contemporaries. It proves that a slow paced character driven noir style can work to great success. It’s grounded while still retaining the feeling of a graphic novel. Thanks to the fantastic acting, writing, cinematography, and choreography, this is the best superhero movie in years and will send a loud and clear message to those in its genre.

Opinion Review

Review: The Book of Boba Fett — A Messy Missed Shot

This review is spoiler free

by C.J. Delaney, staff writer

FEBRUARY 2022 —“Star Wars: The Book of Boba Fett” debuted on Disney+ in December of 2021 as a spinoff of “The Mandalorian.” Jon Favreau returned to write all seven episodes, with the sixth being co-written by Dave Filoni. As the title suggests, the show centers around the legendary bounty hunter turned “crime lord,” Boba Fett (Temura Morrison), and his attempt to protect the city of Mos Espa from the Pyke Syndicate.

Ming-Na Wen as Fennec Shand (Left) and Temura Morrison as Boba Fett (Right) in “The Book of Boba Fett”

During its short run, “The Book of Boba Fett” not only failed to create a compelling story, but also failed to live up to the expectations created by the second season of “The Mandalorian.” It was also unsuccessful in delivering interesting charactersThe plot is messy, confused, and forgets what it wants to be or what it’s truly about after a few episodes.

A sizable portion of the first half of the show consists of flashback sequences to fill in the gaps between the events of “The Return of the Jedi” and “The Mandalorian.” This provided much needed context to Fett’s rivalry with the Pyke Syndicate but ultimately distracts from the current plotline, which, for several episodes, tells a completely separate story. While this isn’t inherently bad, the present narrative suffers by comparison as the flashback scenes tell a much more interesting story.

The present time episodes do very little to progress the plot in substantial ways and don’t convey any urgency in the supposed conflict in which Fett finds himself. Fett’s motivations are incredibly simple and he doesn’t have much to lose, resulting in a story that doesn’t make the audience feel invested. At no point does there ever feel like there is an active threat or obstacle the viewers want our main characters to overcome. There’s no reason we want them to succeed because it’s never effectively communicated why they want to achieve their goals or what it means to them.

“The Book of Boba Fett” falls victim to ignoring the rule of “show, don’t tell.” Throughout the entire show, we are told that the Pyke Syndicate is growing stronger and will soon take over the planet, but we are never shown any of this until the second to last episode.

Whenever the antagonists of a story are an army of goons, it usually helps if there is some leader or individual that represents this faction and personifies their collective personality, goals, and juxtaposition to the protagonist. An example of this would be Darth Vader for the empire. “The Book of Boba Fett” eventually does introduce a character that could have filled this role, yet they are not introduced until the penultimate episode.         

Ultimately, there isn’t enough time to develop this antagonist as a proper adversary to Fett and there isn’t enough reason to truly fear or hate him, unless the viewer had preexisting knowledge of this character. This is a major problem. It would have been far more effective to introduce this character properly in episode three, an episode that was very divisive among fans.

With a strong antagonist, the protagonist could have been given a proper challenge to overcome and add more depth to the story. Without this, it’s just another reason why Fett’s portrayal left many unsatisfied.

While he only had six and a half minutes of screen time in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, and only spoke four lines of dialogue, Boba Fett quickly became a fan-favorite character due to his unique design, intimidating mannerisms, and mysterious aura. Over the past 40 years, it’s been established that he is one of, if not the most famous and feared bounty hunters in the galaxy’s underworld. This was reinforced by his inclusion in “The Mandalorian” season two, where he disposes of a group of Imperial stormtroopers with ease. That season concludes with Fett gunning down Bib Fortuna, who had assumed the position of the late crime lord Jabba the Hutt in order to take the throne. These scenes are completely at odds with the tone and direction of “The Book of Boba Fett” and the way Boba’s character was written.

It’s hard to believe that the writers managed to ruin a character that was barely a character to begin with. The Boba Fett seen in “The Mandalorian” season two is gone. Besides the rather fantastic second episode, Fett has completely regressed from an experienced mercenary into a civil local politician.

Fett was originally introduced as a minor antagonist in the “Empire Strikes Back” and has since been considered to be a morally gray character. However, this has been completely thrown out the window as he’s far more kind hearted and tame than Din Djarin from “The Mandalorian” ever was, a character who was actually meant to be “good.” From the legacy this character has built up, the post credits scene in “The Mandalorian” season two, and all of the marketing, everything pointed to Boba Fett returning in the hardened and gritty manor fans have been waiting for over the past several decades. Instead, we got a pathetic pushover that is only a shadow of what could have been.

This is a fundamental rewrite of this character. It could be defended under the banner of “character development,” but it’s done in such a poor way that it’s very hard to view this as the same character. Character development should show a character going from “point A” to their eventual “point B,” changing due to experiences. “The Book of Boba Fett” immediately introduces us to “point B” without ever showing us “point A.” Its flashback scenes supposedly show how he reached this point, but we never see him during his time before the change begins. During the flashbacks, he’s immediately pushed into the journey between the two points, and even then it still makes no sense how none of “point A” Boba Fett remained.

Multiple characters throughout the show mention to Fett how he’s “gone soft” so this was clearly an intentional decision. If a show is going to have a character “go soft” to the point where in-universe characters go out of their way to mention it, they can’t make the mistake of not showing us what he was like before he went soft. It would have been incredibly beneficial to show Boba Fett in action before the events of “Return of the Jedi,” even if it was only for a few scenes just to show how far the character has come. A character recounts that Boba once was a “cold blooded killer,” but, once again, the “show, don’t tell” rule is completely ignored.

Without seeing the old Fett to make comparisons, this new version seems completely out of place, as if they’ve essentially constructed a brand new character and just called him “Boba Fett.” This is terrible character development because the audience doesn’t know what this character developed from. The final destination means nothing if we don’t know where the journey began.

We see Fett at every turn, incompetent and pushed around by everyone in his way. Everyone around him treats him as if he’s some sort of joke, which he is.. At no point during this show does Fett live up to his reputation. It’s as if his reputation was completely wiped from the minds of everyone on Tatooine. He’s constantly shrugged off or not recognized, which makes it completely unbelievable that this character is the most feared bounty hunter in the galaxy. For calling himself a “crime lord,” there’s an alarming lack of crime being committed. If the writers wanted to change this character as drastically as they didthey needed to include something to remind us that this is indeed the same character.

This unfortunate portrayal of Boba Fett could be forgiven if he was surrounded by strong supporting characters. Unfortunately, he is not surrounded by strong supporting characters. Fennec Shand, played by Ming-Na Wen, stands at Fett’s side as his personal assassin and right-hand woman. During her time in “The Mandalorian,” there wasn’t much to Shand’s character. She served her purpose as a temporary antagonist and as Fett’s partner. There wasn’t much depth to her character and that was fine as she was nowhere near the main focus.

Even after being put at the forefront of a new series, the writers made no effort to make her a remotely interesting or unique character. Barely anything new is revealed about her and she has nothing to her beyond being a “cool assassin.” Her motives are never explored beyond a surface level and her personality traits can be counted on fewer than three fingers. By the end, she was incredibly forgettable.

Wen has established herself as a very talented actor, her lines are hard to take seriously due to how overdramatic and corny the delivery is. Even with that, she’s still somehow a more threatening character than Boba Fett.

Severely underdeveloping characters is something this show suffers from as a whole. The other allies Fett gathers and the enemies he faces (including the leader of the Pyke Syndicate) never really get their moment to shine. It felt like any of them could be replaced with anyone else and the narrative would remain largely the same. This lack of depth with essentially every character makes it hard to get attached to or root against anyone.

There are two recurring characters in particular who were not only poorly written, but also completely insufferable to watch. Both “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett” contain characters who talk in a very nonchalant way that makes them sound like your everyday Joe. This is almost always played for comedy. For some reason, Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni must think that these characters are just the absolute funniest. They are not funny. The mayor’s assistant and the mechanic fall into this category and are annoying to the point where muting the TV is preferable. If they only showed up in a few scenes, then this wouldn’t be a problem, but they’re given far too much screen time despite how unbearable their presences are.

During the latter half of the show, a familiar and beloved character joins the cast: Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) from “The Mandalorian.” Djarin’s presence was a breath of fresh air, but it also highlighted the problems plaguing “The Book of Boba Fett.” He completely steals the show with the best action scenes and most solid writing. The writers even found the need to dedicate two entire episodes to him in a show that’s not about him. While these episodes are great, they have absolutely nothing to do with Boba Fett and the conflict surrounding him. No matter how well made episodes five and six are, they grind the plot to a screeching halt to show us where the real effort went toward.

While Din Djarin is a pleasure to watch, he’s not what this series is about. It could be said that he’s not what fans are coming for, but in reality, he is what fans came for. The previous four episodes (besides episode two) featuring Boba Fett were incredibly dull and lacked substance and plot progression, so when an interesting and established character entered the fray with awesome action and writing, the ratings skyrocketed. It is astounding that “The Book of Boba Fett” peaked when it wasn’t even trying to be “The Book of Boba Fett.”

Using returning established characters can be a great way to excite the audience and reward them for having expanded knowledge of a story. “The Book of Boba Fett” tries to do this but ends up never using these characters (besides Din Djarin) in substantial ways. When the story doesn’t interest the audience, cameos aren’t going to save it. These characters need to be somehow established in this series so new viewers won’t feel as if they need to go do homework to gain basic context. They need to stand on their own.

“The Book of Boba Fett” is, at best, mediocre and at worst, egregiously eye rolling. As this might be the only live action stand-alone Boba Fett project Star Wars makes for the foreseeable future, it’s incredibly disappointing to see it stumble as hard as this show did. The plot is slow and unintriging, the characters are shallow and lacking fleshed out motivations, and the character assassination of Boba Fett is frustrating to watch. There’s not much to get excited about, no one to root against, and not a moment when viewers are on the edge of their seats. A second season needs to happen, addressing the criticisms of the fans, because this is not how Boba Fett should be remembered.

General Interest Opinion Review