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Paul Dano and Stevan Subic Unveil Riddler: Year One in October 2022

Paul Dano is currently lighting up the screen with his performance as The Riddler in Matt Reeves’ The Batman. This October, Dano teams with artist Stevan Subic for a six-issue bimonthly DC Black Label series, Riddler: Year One.

This series explores the background of how accountant Edward Nashton went from a simple Gotham City nobody to becoming Batman’s nemesis, setting them on a collision course in the blockbuster feature film.

Riddler: Year One

The Batman Review: Matt Reeves’ Magnum Opus on Trauma and Vengeance

The Batman movie poster starring Robert Pattinson as Batman/Bruce Wayne and Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle.

Every naysayer is going to be eating a lot of bat, er… crow, as director Matt Reeves delivers in The Batman not only one of the best films among the Caped Crusader’s silver screen appearances, but most importantly, simply a great film.

This outing is unlike every other iteration of Batman we’ve ever had, unlike anything we’ve seen in the broader attempt at a DC Comics extended cinematic universe, and also so true to the essence of what makes the character work. Robert Pattinson delivers a hit to the solar plexus of a complex character, and, surprising for many Batman or other comic book movies, the character actually has an arc and growth. He’s matched in Zoe Kravitz‘s stunning portrayal of Selina Kyle as well as Paul Dano‘s scene-chewing madness as The Riddler, the latter of whom really elevates this material. But most importantly, the film feels poignant, delivering a message that fits the zeitgeist we find ourselves in.

This should be no surprise to those who are familiar with Reeves’ work with the Planet of the Apes franchise. His attention to character and theme are perfect for Batman. And while fans may find a lot of similarities between Reeves’ film and the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, this manages to be very much its own thing. In fact, really the only similarity is that both directors are committed to elevating the material and focusing on character. This Batman is really the first time we see “The World’s Greatest Detective” actually do detective work as he tries to unravel the mystery of what The Riddler wants. The Batman actually owes more to films like The French Connection, Chinatown, and David Fincher’s Zodiac and Se7en than most of the other Batman films. In fact, the Batman property this film most resembles is the Bruce Timm directed Batman: The Animated Series and the cinematic release The Mask of the Phantasm. But darker. And also? Longer. This movie is LONG, and it is slowly paced. If that is a problem for you, you may not enjoy this. But if you like the slowest of burns, this pays off.

The central mystery of the film? (No spoilers) The Riddler keeps murdering some of Gotham’s top officials, leaving behind cryptic clues for The Batman and threatening to spill everyone’s secrets. The Gotham PD are none too excited when the masked vigilante shows up at crime scenes, summoned by Detective Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) to help unravel the mystery. The two make a really good police partnership, again echoing the best parts of detective movies past. But Batman soon finds the case leads to Gotham’s underground including Oswald Cobblepot aka the Penguin (Colin Farrell) and his boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro). And when Selina Kyle and Batman’s investigations into the same people cross paths, they form a temporary and untrusting partnership.

What happens next? Everything you think it does. And it is glorious.

When there is finally a moment when the Batmobile shows up and revs its jet engine, it is primal how happy it can make you feel down deep inside. And what follows is one hell of a car chase, some bits of which we’ve already had spoiled in the trailers. But needless to say, it’s amazing.

It’s also wet. This movie’s rain and water budget must have been huge. Gotham is apparently more like Seattle in this iteration, with constant rain and darkness. It’s an effective mood, especially punctuated by Nirvana’s brooding “Something in the Way” which gets dropped multiple times and is given multiple motifs in the score.

The acting is superb, the dialogue crisp, the puzzles and riddles fun, and the mystery is worth solving. Along the way, we also delve deep into Bruce Wayne’s family and his psyche. We plumb the depths of what he is really doing and why, and the film asks if that’s really the best way to go about creating the change he wants to see in the world. It’s incredibly reflective, and what makes it so poignant is it feels like it probes each one of us as well. Are the things you think you’re laboring for really aligning with your values and desires? Or is a lot of it a smokescreen and bull$#!t? In this, it feels very 2022: a time when we all need to take a look around at our mental health, our values, and our institutions and decide what changes need to be made in an increasingly untenable status quo.

There are also tiny threads that it feels like Reeves is weaving in to make some specific statements. For his second film in a row, he pits his heroes against a disaster in its third act that is natural in origin, but manmade/triggered in what feels like an homage to the crisis we face against climate change. But really, the actual threat comes from people who have been marginalized by society, slipped through whatever safety nets we’ve tried to create, and then radicalized and armed. In it, the citizens of Gotham must face their own demons, confront their own trauma, just as the other main characters do as well. Again, very 2022.

Just as Dano’s Riddler wants to make Gotham face its lies about its history, institutions and elites, so too must we unmask the truth about our own complex history and face a reckoning on issues of race, genocide, patriarchy, and all other forms of oppression that have been woven into our narrative from the beginning.

One of the things that makes this film so effective is that Bruce/Batman goes on a journey in this film. One of the joys of film is with its limited runtime you have precious little time to help your characters grow, so it becomes a part of the artistry of film writing and directing to efficiently move things from A to B to C. One of the problems with films based on comic books is that these characters are as much archetypes as anything else, so they’re not supposed to change. So it’s incredible that Reeves is able to make Bruce Wayne engage in a lot of self-reflection about his own trauma, how he is reacting to it, and how healthy that truly is both for himself and for Gotham. “I am Vengeance” is the Batman mantra that strikes fear into the hearts of Gotham’s underworld. But are there limits on what avenging his dead parents can do?

Or? This is just a movie about a rich guy in body armor who drives a really cool car. You decide. Either way, you will enjoy this.

Prepare yourselves for The Batman. Prepare for its extremely long runtime. Prepare to reassess everything you though you knew about Robert Pattinson. Prepare to be humming Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” for a week after. Prepare for the truth about The Batman.

* * * *
4 out of 5 stars

The Batman Trailer is Here

It’s not just a call… It’s a warning.

From Warner Bros. Pictures comes Matt Reeves’ The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson in the dual role of Gotham City’s vigilante detective and his alter ego, reclusive billionaire Bruce Wayne. Starring alongside Pattinson (“Tenet,” “The Lighthouse”) as Gotham’s famous and infamous cast of characters are Zoë Kravitz (“Big Little Lies,” “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”) as Selina Kyle; Paul Dano (“Love & Mercy,” “12 Years a Slave”) as Edward Nashton; Jeffrey Wright (“No Time to Die,” “Westworld”) as the GCPD’s James Gordon; John Turturro (the “Transformers” films, “The Plot Against America”) as Carmine Falcone; Peter Sarsgaard (“The Magnificent Seven,” “Interrogation”) as Gotham D.A. Gil Colson; Jayme Lawson (“Farewell Amor”) as mayoral candidate Bella Reál; with Andy Serkis (the “Planet of the Apes” films, “Black Panther”) as Alfred; and Colin Farrell (“The Gentlemen,” “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”) as Oswald Cobblepot.

Reeves (“The Planet of the Apes” franchise) directed from a screenplay by Reeves & Peter Craig, based on characters from DC. Batman was created by Bob Kane with Bill Finger. Dylan Clark (the “Planet of the Apes” films) and Reeves produced the film, with Michael E. Uslan, Walter Hamada, Chantal Nong Vo and Simon Emanuel serving as executive producers. The director’s behind-the-scenes creative team included Oscar-nominated director of photography Greig Fraser (“Dune,” “Lion”); Reeves’ “Planet of the Apes” production designer, James Chinlund, and editor, William Hoy; editor Tyler Nelson (“Rememory”); and Oscar-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran (“1917,” “Little Women,” “Anna Karenina”). The music is by Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino (the current “Spider-Man,” “Jurassic World” and “Star Wars” films, “Up”). Warner Bros. Pictures Presents a 6th & Idaho/Dylan Clark Productions Production, a Matt Reeves Film, “The Batman.”

The film is set to open in theaters March 4, 2022 and will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures.

Get a First Look at The Batman

As expected, DC Fandome delivered a first look at the highly anticipated The Batman from director Matt Reeves and actor Robert Pattinson. The film also stars Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Colin Farrell as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin, Paul Dano as Edward Nashton/The Riddler, Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth, Peter Sarsgaard as District Attorney Gil Colson, John Turturro as Carmine Falcone, and Jeffrey Wright as James Gordon.

In the segment, Reeves says the film takes place in “year two” and Batman is trying to figure out how to impact Gotham as the murder count increases and the corruption of the city becomes clearer. While the film isn’t the origin of Batman, it does touch upon his coming into the role as well as the origins of some of Gotham’s villains. Is that the Joker Gang we see?

Also revealed is the Gotham television series will be more of a “year one” as Batman emerges. It’ll explore new areas and more of Gotham along with new characters.

Zeismic