The Greatest Thing About… is a new (and hopefully continuing) space for us to talk about a great thing about a film/show/game in a way that narrows in on a specific aspect of a piece of art that really tickles our fancy. Spoilers are allowed, so please be cautious before wading into the waters ahead.
When watching The Batman, the latest film from Matt Reeves, there was an ever changing list of things I could have picked for this article over the first couple of hours of the runtime. The Conversation homage in the opening shot of the Riddler spying on his first victim. The way Reeves lingers on those empty shadows under the opening journal entry by Batman, building anticipation of our caped crusaders first reveal. The beautiful vistas every time we visit the Bat Signal. Batman and Commissioner Gordon whispering with each other before Batman’s incredible escape from Gotham PD. The eyeball cam set piece deep into the club within the club by Selina Kyle. Peter “Fucking” Sarsgaard! Every time Giacchino drops a new amazing theme on us! Every time the Penguin is comedically aggrieved! The Batmobile reveal!
There is a lot to love in the first two thirds of this movie! Which is why that transition to the final act feels a less than, even though it is by no means terrible. They throw a lot of story beats and information at you over the course of only a couple scenes, and while one of those moments is the awesome elevator shootout, the movie lost me a bit from the attempt to blow up Bruce up until Batman sits face to face with the Riddler (another scene I could have definitely picked for this article).
That conversation between those two does take me to my pick though, as the Riddler, realizing Batman hasn’t quite solved it all, prompts the Bat to head back to the Riddler’s apartment to find the final missing piece. Or, pieces. The plot to plow up the seawall surrounding Gotham is too late to stop, but the other missing piece is why I created this article structure.
The greatest thing about The Batman is the Riddler logging on and greeting his fans.
The Riddler is played by Paul Dano here. A self proclaimed corruption revealing “hero” of Gotham, Dano’s performance has been a series of lunatic screeds on viral videos and confrontations around his serial killer antics that have put Batman on his tail. We’ve seen nothing but psychosis coming through Dano’s performance, to terrifying effect, but when Batman solves the riddle to unlock the Riddler’s call to arms we get one of the best laughs I’ve had in a comic book movie in some time.
Dano’s “Hey guys” and calm shout out for all the comments killed me and it was such a well earned bit after his performance being so extra every other time we’ve seen him. As he had just told us, the masks he and Batman wear allows them to be their real selves, and as he is set to launch the final piece to his plan, he’s as calm as he can be. Unassuming and so at ease with the plot he’s unfolded upon Gotham, the comedy melts away to an extra layer of terror; as he is so calmly sending off a small battalion of agrieved white men to decimate the promise of a multicultural future of Gotham.
Reeves has danced around him explicitly putting those exact intentions into his script, but his vision of what technology can wrought when pointed in the wrong direction was, sadly, all too prescient of where our real society ultimately was/is heading. It’s great that something this commercially craved by the masses will put a spotlight on the rot and hate that can fester in the darkness of an anonymous web.