My most anticipated film of 2022 has released, and did it ever live up to my hype! I’m so glad this turned out well… Read on for my review of The Batman.
SIDE NOTE: My dream Batman film for at least a decade has been exactly this: a grounded crime drama where he and The Riddler play a battle of wits. Matt Reeves delivered this concept to us on a silver platter, and I savored every bite of this meal.
Billionaire (not playboy in this version) Bruce Wayne– traumatized son of a murdered socialite couple– is the personification of vengeance. He is the night. He is The Batman. And he wages a one-man war on the crime-infested streets of his city by weaponizing fear. Two years into Wayne’s crime-fighting career, a new fiendish foe called The Riddler terrorizes Gotham City’s elite– exposing their corruption one murder at a time. And his complex puzzles leave the police scratching their heads. But can the Dark Knight succeed where they fail? Is Gotham even worth saving if he does?
You probably know the story already. So let’s jump into it now. What’s this reboot do differently to other Batman movies? Each version of Batman brings something unique to its iteration. West brought fun elements from the comics, Keaton brought the brooding seriousness, Kilmer and Clooney brought bat-nipples, Bale showed the divide between Batman and Bruce Wayne personas, and Affleck brought the paranoia. But none (save Kevin Conroy) have ever focused on the “World’s Greatest Detective” aspect of the character in earnest… until now.
This film reminded me of the 1930’s Golden Age Batman. Now, I’ve read a lot of dark knight comics from that era and Pattinson’s version is ripped right out of those early adventures (minus the fact that early Batman carried a gun). He’s a vengeful detective in a grounded world, mostly fighting mobsters, and the police hate his vigilante methods. The Batman brought the character to his pulp fiction roots and I love every second of it!
The Batman is a full-blown film noir complete with a jaded broken-down protagonist who takes the law into his own hands, a femme fatale, corruption and danger around every corner, and even a voice-over narration by the detective. This film would still probably work if you traded out The Batman for an old-timey PI character like Humphrey Bogart used to play. I adore how hard director Matt Reeves committed to film noir aesthetics and tropes (whilst putting a uniquely Batman spin to them).
Pattinson plays the character excellently– as largely a silent presence, lurking in the shadows, communicating mainly through body language and his eyes (I’m glad they left the eyes open in the cowl). He speaks bluntly and intentionally, and controls the room just by being present.
And he’s easily the most imposing Batman. He’s the only one which has ever actually scared me. Just the way his footsteps reverberate in the distance whenever he’s about to make his entrance… My Lord, was that amazing! I know it seems strange cause Batman’s usually a stealthy character. But stealth wasn’t his point in this film. He aimed to instill fear by warning criminals of his presence. Let me tell you I’d be scared out of my wits! His opening monologue and entrance rank among my favourite super-hero movie moments of all time.
This Batman is a deeply flawed person. He’s so laser focused on doing things a certain way that he misses the big picture in MANY regards. Though he begins to question the deeper causes of criminal behaviour, his own methods to combat crime, and how deep corruption in Gotham really goes. He makes more mistakes than other Batmen, and he sometimes loses control of situations. But that leaves room for character growth as he learns better ways to handle crime-fighting.
EXAMPLE: Three separate sequences at the Iceberg Lounge show how he progressively learns better methods for entering the criminal haven.
My half-gripes with Pattinson’s portrayal are that he broods literally all the time– not to say his character doesn’t show emotional depth, because he does– and he never differentiates between Bruce and Batman. Keep in mind I said those are HALF- gripes, because these character flaws are the entire point of The Batman‘s story. Being Batman is all Bruce cares about. And his world view is excessively rigid at this time in his life.
He’s an angry, impatient young man who hasn’t yet learned the importance Bruce Wayne as a persona– AKA what good he can bring to Gotham NOT as Batman. Bruce is even willing to toss aside his whole legacy to be Batman full time! But give him and Matt Reeves another movie or two, and I suspect Pattinson will be my all-time favourite (live action) Batman once his story is complete. He’s already, for my money, the best all-around translation of Batman in live action… at this point in Batman’s career.
But Battinson isn’t the only stand-out here! Zoe Kravitz is the most comic-accurate Catwoman I’ve seen yet. She’s still not my favourite (that honor goes to Michelle Pfeiffer) but Kravitz embodies the character in all her complexities. Selina Kyle is not a bad person– just one who does bad things to survive (and because she kinda likes the thrill). Her story mirrored Bruce’s in some interesting ways. They both suffered childhood traumas, but she didn’t have a support system to take care of her; they’re both costumed creatures of the night; and they both seek vengeance. It’s no wonder they’re drawn to one another.
Kravitz and Pattinson have good chemistry, for the record. You’d think that’d be hard to pull of considering how little Pattinson’s Wayne talks, but their actions and gazes speak more loudly. I’ve always been a fan of Bat/ Cat, and these beginning stages of their relationship were handled well.
Paul Dano’s Riddler is legitimately scary. Perhaps it’s because this iteration of the villain could easily exist in real life. A smart enough person with enough psychological damage could do what Riddler does in this film. Riddler had surprisingly little screen-time though! Yet his threat was ever-present, and I was always anxious for what he’d do next.
Riddler’s intelligence is refreshing for a super-hero movie villain! He’s allowed to be threatening as a symbol, and through indirect means. There’s no way he’d ever beat Batman in a fight, but that’s not the point. Can he outsmart the Bat is the real question? Can we please get more super-hero films where big CGI battles are substituted for something a bit more grounded?
SIDE NOTE: Not that this film’s ending set-piece is “grounded” per se. But it wasn’t a computer spectacle, uncanny valley mess of a finale either.
As for Riddler’s actual plan: it’s solid in principle. As I said, it’s something a real person could feasibly come up with (and probably has). The most fascinating part of Riddler’s terrorizing plot is why he chooses to do it in the first place. I won’t spoil the reason but it left me surprised and changed my entire perspective on the movie.
Jeffrey Wright is brilliant as Gordon! He’s perpetually stoic, and barely raises his voice above a growl. But he’s got presence. This Gordon is a world-weary man, clearly sick of Gotham City’s BS. And Batman is one of the few people he can trust to dole out justice in a deeply corrupt community.
Batman and Gordon’s relationship in this film was akin to a buddy cop duo. Gordon’s the careful, level-headed (mostly) by-the-books guy, and Batman is the rule-breaking, odds-defying guy who makes crazy decisions. Gordon keeps Batman in check, and Batman pushes Gordon out of his comfort zone. They spend this whole film in a close working relationship, which is fantastic to watch!
Collin Farrell’s Penguin is The Batman’s most dynamic character. He clearly had fun with this role, and I had a blast watching him perform. Those prosthetics on his face were amazingly well-executed! I can only imagine how much of a nightmare going through makeup on each shooting day was though…
The Batman‘s story is a twisting, riveting mystery which will leave you guessing its outcome till the very end. Almost every plot thread is neatly woven amongst the others; every answer in the story leads to more questions; and deathly consequences arise from bad decision-making. This story also cuts against the grain of most modern superhero movies in a key way, which I need to be intentionally vague about for a non-spoiler review. Made me happy to see The Batman try something “different” though.
The themes of vengeance and corruption were complex and well-explored. Every main character had solid motivations, arcs, and character pay-offs. And there’s actually enough plot here to justify this film’s three hour run-time!
I’m also pleased to report that The Batman was well-paced for its length… except towards the end. See, at the end of Act 2 comes the major subplot’s conclusion. And because that subplot was such a large part of the film, wrapping up the main plot seemed like it should naturally follow. Except the movie continues for another half hour or longer. I have absolutely no complaints in terms of act 3’s content. ‘Cause it was all epic! But I have to admit the flow felt wonky by that point in the story.
Greig Fraser’s cinematography is beautiful! One thing though: I found it a bit too dark at times– like, I couldn’t always tell exactly what I was seeing. But everything in my eyesight was breathtaking.
The production team should be commended for crafting a fully-realized Gotham City. From the Iceberg lounge’s seedy interior, to Wayne Manor’s Gothic architecture, or Mayor Mitchell’s lavish penthouse, every set felt alive and vibrant.
The Batman also contains great, dynamic action. Most of it is beautiful in its simplicity. The Batman subdues his foes with brutal hand-to-hand combat. He doesn’t need to be an acrobat, or use fancy moves, but he’s efficient and devastating. Something about the sheer confidence of Batman’s fighting style is satisfying to me. Also– this might be the coolest use of the Batmobile in many years! I love how it’s just a car with some choice modifications.
Branching off that point: The Batman exists in a notably grounded reality– even more grounded than Nolan’s, I’d argue. I noticed how Batman didn’t even use a basic gadget like his grappling hook to traverse Gotham. He uses ropes to grapple down. And he uses a real-life grappling hook at one point to get up a building. But the classic Barman grappling hook is used almost exclusively for combat purposes. He doesn’t have batarangs yet either, or even a utility belt from the looks of things. What gadgets he does use are practical in purpose and have real-world counterparts like tasers and wingsuits.
All this to say: The Batman‘s grounded style makes the events more relatable. He feels like someone who could feasibly fight crime this way if they had the time and know-how to build themselves such equipment. Batman has never felt so down-to-earth in live action before!
I don’t usually mention score (because most don’t stand out in my mind) but damn was this one good! Michael Giacchino’s brooding, haunting, and surprisingly uplifting tgenes brought the film and the characters to life. It enhanced the whole movie in ways I’ve not seen for some time in a blockbuster.
The main reason I liked this movie so much? It’s the core of Batman’s story distilled into a few hours of prestige entertainment. Everyone has emotional pain, and fears which regularly haunt them. But how we choose to use those feelings proves our character. Do we allow them to hold us down, or push us past our limits? Do we project them onto others, or use them to offer empathy? Batman teaches us to use our fears for good. And that’s why he’s so inspiring.
I didn’t expect The Batman to be so uplifting as it turned out. The advertising made it seem like a dark and violent crime drama. And it is. But it’s not without a light at the end of the tunnel. I appreciated this story both as a Batman fan and as a human being looking for a good movie.
The Batman sets up a fantastic potential universe! Is this the all-time best Batman movie ever made? Tough to say for sure on first viewing. I haven’t re-watched The Dark Knight or Mask of the Phantasm in YEARS. But right now it’s my favourite live-action adaptation of the Batman mythos (not necessarily the best but my favourite). And Battinson might end up being my preferred live-action Batman depending on where a sequel goes.
A gorgeously rendered film noir crime-drama, which also fully understands a beloved character, The Batman is something to Watch A.S.A.P
Can any Batman adaptation ever top Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy? What did you think of The Batman? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!
Till next time,
FOR MY SPOILER THOUGHTS ON THE BATMAN, CHECK OUT THIS EPISODE OF CLOSE UP WITH RYAN AND JOE!