To say this film had a lot of buzz is an understatement. I mean, IT: Chapter Two had a lot of hype, but absolutely nothing compared to this. The closest I’ve seen this year was Avengers, and that had over a decade of build-up. Expectations were very high for this, and it kind of met them. That’s mainly due to two things:
- The general tone. Particularly at the end of the film. This is a Gotham that makes sense to exist. In previous films, Gotham has just seemed like a normal town, albeit with organised crime. This Gotham seems hopeless like the whole place is just sinking, spiralling down to oblivion. The architecture is run down, there’s no sense of “wow” to it. You won’t get this Gotham as a lego set, it’s just too horrible. It’s a cesspool of filth that needs cleaning, this is a Gotham that NEEDS someone like Batman.
- Joaquin Phoenix. He’s phenomenal in this. Physically he’s just perfect. At times he seems to contort his body into an almost inhuman shape, like his body is a cocoon he is trying to escape from.
You come out of this film exhausted. It’s the film equivalent of having your face scraped along a road, albeit a really smooth and polished road. There is a roughness to this film, but it’s a slick roughness, like those guys who spend hours getting their hair elegantly dishevelled. I think one of the biggest issues I have with it is that it’s kind of predictable. There’s not much that will surprise you, everything happens as you expect it would. For something like this I feel it needs to subvert expectations in some way, and except for “this is dark and realistic” this doesn’t really do that. We’ve all seen this movie and story before, so even when it is at it’s best, it doesn’t feel unique enough to stand out among the crowd. In particular, the death of the Waynes feels so familiar it’s a weirdly dull moment to put that close to the end of the film.
The absolute worst thing about this movie? There’s one scene where he dances down some stairs alongside a Gary Glitter song. That’s convicted paedophile Gary Glitter, on the soundtrack to a major movie in 2019. You’d think someone who worked on the film would have pointed that out. It’s a moment that completely takes you out of the film as it’s impossible to hear one of his songs and not feel really creeped out.
There was a worry that this film would serve as an inspiration for assholes. That a large amount of disaffected white men (and lets face it, it would be white guys) would see this movie and think “yes, the world also mistreats me, I held a door open for a woman earlier and she didn’t even offer me sex. I’m going to kill people, I’m a hero”. Considering this film is about the character inspiring a movement, these fears weren’t completely unfounded. After seeing this film I think it’s less likely to be the case, purely because of how utterly pathetic the character is at times. He’s shown to be terrible with people, not that smart, not charismatic as himself, and not funny. Anybody who would see this as a role model is beyond hope in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong, you do feel sympathy for the character, he is mistreated by a lot of people, and the healthcare system in general. The turning point is when he’s beaten by three suited asswipes. He shoots two of them in self-defence, then hunts the third one down and executes him in cold blood. It’s at this point he goes from “oh no, poor guy” to “oh, he’s an asshole” and it is superbly done. A lot of the deaths in here are really good actually, there’s one in particular which is so brutal it’s incredibly uncomfortable, in a good way. The moment where he shoots someone on live television didn’t really work as well for me. I get what they were going for but I think it would have been more effective if we saw more people watching the broadcast to really hit home what’s happening. We get the reaction of the studio audience, but that’s pretty much it. The chaos that follows that scene is so intense it gives you a sense of dread for society in general, so that’s good. Now, the closing scene, it feels a bit too “arty” and “this is deep” to be an effective closer. It kind of works but I feel could and should have been better.
So in summary, you DEFINITELY should see this film. You may not enjoy it, but you will like it. It’s intense, exhilarating, and features one of the best performances you’ll see in a long time. It’s not a “greatest movie ever” film, but it’s definitely going to be a highlight of the year.