It’s long, it’s beautiful and its hero and villains will be burnt into your brain.
The Batman is director Matt Reeves’ love-letter to the characters of the Batman universe, delivering a blend of comic book accuracy and modern interpretations.
In this newest exploration of Hollywood’s favourite caped crusader, Batman (Robert Pattinson), with the help of allies Alfred (Andy Serkis), Lt Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), and Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), is forced to solve a series of intricate, and gruesome, riddles and puzzles in order to find The Riddler (Paul Dano) and bring his disillusioned quest for “justice” to an end. That’s the simple version.
Beneath that is a psychologically-complex analysis of the Batman character, and an exploration into Gotham’s underworld, underpinned by poignant social commentary that reflects today’s institutional and societal problems.
Reeves is no stranger to crafting worlds in which democracy is failing and corruption runs rampant. His dystopian classics 10 Cloverfield Lane, and a brace of Planet of the Apes films share similar messages regarding the institutional issues of society.
He is dark, he is vengeful, and he is consumed by his vow and his mission, allowing Bruce Wayne to become the mask.
However, Reeves’ crafting of Gotham feels like the perfect location for his discussion. The design of Gotham as a corrupt “cesspool” (as described by Dano’s Riddler) is flawless, with Reeves executing the most true to the original comic book depiction of the city from any Batman film. Behind the vibrancy and modernity of Gotham’s appearance, where our character lurks is bleak, demoralising, and violent.
The striking and atmospheric appearance of the city can be attributed to the incredible cinematography of Greig Fraser, who effortlessly paints the corrupt and broken nature of Gotham, as well as the socioeconomic divide tearing the city apart, while still delivering one of the most visually-beautiful comic book movies of all time.
In the newest adaptation of the Dark Knight, Pattinson delivers a layered and resounding performance, culminating in arguably the greatest live-action portrayal of the character to date. He is dark, he is vengeful, and he is consumed by his vow and his mission, allowing Bruce Wayne to become the mask. Importantly, Reeves shows us that this Batman is human.
He’s only in his second year as Batman and so he is still learning, still taking hits, and flirting dangerously with his “no kill rule”. This film strips Batman down to the essence of the character and results in a complex characterisation not so thoroughly explored in Batman movies before.
— BLURAYANGEL 🦇 (@blurayangel) February 28, 2022
That in no way means Pattinson’s fellow cast mates slack off. Wright brings a strong morality and humanity to the corrupt police force of Gotham. He acts as a moral-basis for Batman, and brings gravitas and intensity to every line he delivers. Despite Kravitz’s Selina Kyle nailing the key characteristics of Catwoman, she wasn’t the most interesting character throughout the film.
That being said, Kravitz’s acting elevated the character to a position where the audience still cared and worried for her, even when the script failed to do so. Colin Farrell pulls out his best Godfather impression as mob-boss The Penguin, but it works wonders as his character was engaging and entertaining, while John Turturro was also great as mobster Carmine Falcone, delivering a suave exterior that thinly veils the danger and threat of the most powerful man in Gotham.
The real hero of the supporting cast however is Dano (Prisoners and War and Peace) who’s portrayal of the Riddler is downright chilling. Dano’s Riddler not only matches the ‘World’s Greatest Detective’ in intelligence, but surpasses him, framing him as a viable threat worthy of being feared by the audience. He is obsessed and psychopathic, while his disillusionment and vague similarity to right-wing extremists is terrifying.
What drives The Batman home however, is its atmosphere, which has been crafted by the outstanding efforts of the production team. Michael Giacchino’s score provides tension and atmosphere within the film, and illustrates Batman as someone to be afraid of while the main theme sounds like the hammer of justice is closing on people as he slowly approaches. Giacchino’s score feels instantly iconic.
— The Batman (@TheBatman) March 3, 2022
The costume design grounds the film and aids in crafting the believability of the universe, with Kravitz’s and Dano’s outfits stripping them of any lingering camp from previous incarnations.
The Batman suit is the best we’ve seen in his long run on screen, combining a striking design drawing clear parallels from the comics with practicality that makes it seem realistic. Meanwhile, the Batmobile reflects the early stages of Pattinson’s career as Batman, being stripped back to a maxed-out muscle car as opposed to a militaristic vehicle. Finally, the hair and make-up department could be in the hunt for an Oscar at next year’s ceremony with Farrell utterly unrecognisable in his role as The Penguin. The character looks like he was ripped straight from the comics.
Like all films, it has its flaws. The Batman is close to three hours long, and certainly feels it. Coming in at the third-longest comic-book movie behind Avengers Endgame and the Snyder Cut of Justice League, the film in parts is slow and could be sped up for time. However, the longer the film goes on, the more of a threat Riddler becomes, as we are forced to watch Batman pushed to his intellectual limits.
The film doesn’t make you sit through Batman’s overplayed origin once again, instead dropping you into the world. However, it takes longer than it should for the audience to acclimate to this world and these pre-established dynamics, particularly between Batman and Alfred, and Lt. Gordon. Furthermore, there’s a couple of dramatic moments that fail to be capitalised on as the audience haven’t been introduced to them before.
Nitpicking aside, The Batman is a true win for comic book and superhero movie lovers everywhere. Reeves lovingly delivers exactly what the trailers promised, an atmospheric new world with layered and interesting characters to follow and explore, while Pattinson has officially moved out of his Twilight shadow, delivering, in this reviewer’s opinion, the best Batman performance of all time.