Kevin Smith reviews 'The Batman,' says superhero movies are saving Hollywood

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·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
·5 min read
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Director/actor Kevin Smith (C) poses with characters dressed in costume at Burt Ward's Hollywood Walk of Fame Star ceremony on January 9, 2020 in Hollywood, California - The actor who played Robin in the
Kevin Smith (C) poses with characters dressed in costume at Burt Ward's Hollywood Walk of Fame Star ceremony on Jan. 9, 2020 in Hollywood. (Photo: Frederic J. Brown / AFP)

Kevin Smith never got to make his Superman movie, but the self-proclaimed “clown prince of Comic-Con” remains one of the most high-profile, ardent comic book movie fanboys in Hollywood.

So naturally we got Smith’s thoughts on The Batman while speaking to him this week as he announced plans for his first annual SModcastle Film Festival.

“You know, every time I see a Batman movie, this is my first overt thought: ‘God, that's better than any Batman movie that I could ever make,” Smith said of the Matt Reeves-directed, Robert Pattinson-starring reboot that opened this weekend with sterling reviews and a robust $128.5 million debut.

“First and foremost, Matt Reeves, like every filmmaker before him who has touched the bat character, I tip my hat to … by virtue of the fact that they took one of my favorite characters and brought him to life in a milieu that is more mainstream. Everyone can enjoy Batman on the big screen and the beauty of what they're doing now with Batman on the big screen, particularly Matt Reeves’s rendition is I think Warner Bros. is starting to understand you could make as many of these Batman movies as you like. And each one would be insanely different than the last, you know? Yeah, it's a guy in a mask and things are dark and he's got colorful villains, but the character, just like in the comics, he's been handled by so many writers and artists and every interpretation is different.”

THE BATMAN, from left: Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle / Catwoman, Robert Pattinson as Batman, 2022. ph: Jonathan Olley / © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection
Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Robert Pattinson as Batman in The Batman. (Photo: Jonathan Olley / © Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection)

The Clerks writer-director and Masters of the Universe producer particularly liked that Reeves leaned into the Caped Crusader’s penchant for sleuthing, which has long been canon in the comics.

“I think for the first time what Matt Reeves showed most folks is this character has a history of being the world's greatest detective,” Smith says. “What if we made one of these movies as a detective movie instead of just like ‘Batman saves the world.’ So I appreciated that so much. The fact that it's like there's a Batman that I also recognize from my years of reading comics that I also appreciate that we haven't seen in this milieu before.

“And now we'll see a lot of variety of Batman because of this. Yes, some things will never change. He'll always be a bit mopey. He'll be a bit angry. And he'll always be punching people for justice. But the flavors, the tones, the style with which you can approach a Batman movie now has been changed radically based on what we saw with The Batman. Who knows what follows in the next 10 to 20 years in terms of different interpretations of this character now in the hands of other filmmakers who are brave enough to be like, ‘Look, everyone could do a superhero story. Let me take this character and take him back to his roots and do something a bit more cerebral than just the eye candy of it all.’”

Smith is also smitten with our new, younger, emo-y Bruce Wayne, Robert Pattinson.

“He’s wonderful. But it was clear that kid can act. Whether you were into those Twilight films or not, that boy's a really good actor. But after those Twilight films, he made a concerted effort to do a lot of films with filmmakers. He worked with the Safdie brothers [in 2017’s Good Time], he worked with [David] Cronenberg [in 2012’s Cosmopolis]. So this isn't a guy who was just cruising on the laurels of like, ‘I'm a movie star now.’ And he came to the Batman with that actor sensibility that he's been showing off for the last decade outside of Twilight and even within the Twilight franchise. So when they announced him, I didn't bump into it at all. I'm like, ‘That kid's a really good actor.’ And he absolutely delivered this time around.”

As auteurs like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Denis Villeneuve and Jane Campion continue to make headlines for criticizing superhero fare, Smith makes the case that films like Spider-Man: No Way Home and The Batman need to be applauded for stimulating business at movie theaters, which have been devastated by extended closings during the pandemic.

“That's great for the business in general,” he says. “I know a lot of people are like, ‘Yes, only comic book movies are attracting people to the movie theaters now. But hey, something's bringing people to the movie theaters. If it takes capes and masks for the time being to keep hope alive through this stretch of period where we're still in uncertain terms and we don’t know if it’ll ever go back to normal.

“And so when people are like, ‘Oh, it's just comic book movies that are doing well.’ It's like, ‘Look, as long as something's holding down the fort until we get to a place where movies that aren't about huge costumed Avengers can come back to the movie theaters and stand a chance. I mean, it's not just comic book superheroes. Jackass [Forever] did quite well. So, you know, anything that keeps the box office alive and keeps moviegoing alive, I'm all for. And I don't care if it's just comic book movies that are doing it for the time being, we need the rescue in the movie business. And I don't mean the movie business [as in] the studio side, I mean theatrical distribution exhibition. Those cats need relief. So seeing the superheroes swing in and save the day, that's a good thing for the movie business.”