Written by: Matt Patti | March 2nd, 2022
The Batman (Matt Reeves, 2022) 3 out of 4 stars.
The Caped Crusader is back on the big screen in one of this year’s most anticipated films: The Batman. As a huge Batman fan for most of my life, I was very excited to see a new take on the character. After an underwhelming (in my opinion) run by Ben Affleck in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, Robert Pattinson (The Devil All the Time) takes on the mantle as Gotham’s silent guardian. This is the first live-action solo Batman film since the epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. This writer’s favorite film of all time, the 2008 The Dark Knight, just so happens to be the one before that. So, to say that it would be difficult for The Batman to meet my expectations of a quality Batman film is an understatement. Nevertheless, though I went into the movie only hoping to see a good film, and trying very adamantly to not compare it to Nolan’s masterpieces, I am happy to report that The Batman offers a refreshing cinematic take on its titular character with a gripping and grounded story.
In the film, Batman (Pattinson) is in only his second year of crime-fighting and has many of the city’s criminals running scared. There are still plenty of them that take him as a joke, but Batman continues his mission to clean up Gotham and strike fear in the hearts of evildoers at the same time. He has a special working relationship with Commissioner James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright, The French Dispatch), of the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD), and they often examine crime scenes together, but some others at GCPD question Gordon’s decision and would prefer that the Batman stay out of police affairs. However, when a dangerous serial killer calling himself The Riddler (Paul Dano, Swiss Army Man) targets major political figures in Gotham in the name of revealing a truth, Batman, the GCPD, and the mysterious and eccentric Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz, Gemini) must work together to stop the chaos and, in the process, uncover some dark secrets that have been buried for quite some time.
The Batman is actually less of a superhero film and more of a crime thriller, and I think that this was a great choice by writer/director Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes) and writer Peter Craig (12 Strong). In today’s oversaturated superhero-heavy climate, it’s quite a welcome change to see a darker, more realistic tone in a film rather than several CGI shootouts. Reeves knows exactly where he wants to take this film and he succeeds, as everything from the cinematography to the score to the plot itself fits his vision. The look of Gotham is perfected with gothic architecture in brownish hues displayed with impressive, stylized cinematography. The at-times grim, but at other times bold, score is a bit repetitive at some points but works well for the film as it’s quite memorable and fits almost every scene it is in. The plot is riveting and attention-grabbing: a mystery full of twists and turns that keeps the viewer fully invested for its nearly three-hour run time, which is no small feat.
Pattinson plays a very gritty, determined, Batman/Bruce Wayne. This version of Bruce Wayne is more of a reclusive, vulnerable person who is still finding his way as compared to the more confident, public-facing Wayne portrayed in other films. He has good intentions but is still quite young and makes his fair share of mistakes, as he is still learning, which makes for a very intriguing portrayal of the comic-book character. Unlike in other Batman films, we get to hear Wayne’s inner thoughts at several points throughout this film. At first this caught me off guard, but I came to appreciate hearing his perspective on the events happening and how he himself can do better. Dano and Kravitz give quality performances, as well, though Wright’s portrayal of Gordon leaves a bit to be desired. Overall, though, most of the turns, even from actors portraying smaller side characters, are all impressive.
The Batman is no perfect film, however. Batman does not, in my opinion, have nearly enough time with The Riddler and I would have enjoyed seeing more interactions between the two. Also, there are more than a few predictable outcomes that are framed to be surprising to the audience but are not. Another gripe is with the placement of the aforementioned soundtrack. While good, it is overused and sometimes placed in spots where silence would be much more effective. Finally, the film does pull a few aspects from other Batman films which can be noticeable at some points but is overall not too distracting. In the end, though, The Batman excels with its gripping, mysterious plot, compelling characters, exceptional performances, and stylistic, comic-book-like dark tone that is conveyed throughout the entire film brilliantly. I do think some that may go into the film looking for a superhero action flick will leave a bit disappointed, but I think true Batman fans, and cinephiles as well, will be more than satisfied.