Against the odds, The Batman is an exceptional film that manages to start a new and exciting chapter for the Caped Crusader.
Is it too soon? That was the question many fans asked when Warner Bros. announced that Matt Reeves was directing a new iteration of Batman. First, the previous versions of Batman were still fresh in audience’s heads. Christian Bale was the defining Batman for a generation with the Dark Knight trilogy while Ben Affleck was the latest Batman, taking over since Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016).
The other controversy was its casting of the titular character, with the honor going to Robert Pattinson. To many, the sparkling legacy of Twilight (2008) was too strong to forget despite Pattinson proving himself to be a great actor with films like Good Time (2017) and The Lighthouse (2019). With these in mind, could it be possible for a new Batman to resonate with audiences or were the filmmakers too quick to reboot the character? Luckily, The Batman is very much of the former than the latter.
WORLD’S GREATEST DETECTIVE, EMPHASIS ON DETECTIVE
To everyone’s relief, The Batman mostly explores new ground rather than relive the character’s iconic moments. While the Caped Crusader’s previous adventures had been action packed, this one is a detective thriller at heart. It’s more David Fincher’s Se7en (1995) and less popcorn entertainment. This time around, Batman spends more time solving clues and finding evidence to find the Riddler, a serial killer who displays his victims in often gruesome and eerie ways while leaving riddles meant for Batman. Rather than revisit the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents, the film also smartly skips over the more overused aspects of Batman’s origin story and instead treads new ground in Bruce Wayne’s journey to becoming a full-fledged crimefighter.
ROBERT PATTINSON IS GREAT AS THE BAT
Another great strength of the film is its performances. Robert Pattinson proves to be an excellent Batman, a younger, less experienced version and yet as heroic as the rest. He succeeds in giving us a Batman who isn’t fully formed yet. While he has the suit and the gadgets, this version of Batman is still on his second year; a man who often makes mistakes and is seen as a boogeyman by Gotham’s criminals. Despite the darkness of the character, the film makes it a point that Batman is someone who is trying to do the right thing despite the odds. Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne is also unique. He’s not the billionaire playboy type, but a persona that has been nearly consumed by Batman, which causes him to butt heads with his butler, Alfred (Andy Serkis).
Zoe Kravitz also gives a good performance as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. In fact, her character serves as the heart of the film, a young woman who is caught in the seedy underbelly of Gotham’s worst who forms a partnership with Batman. The bond she shares with Batman serves as the emotional hook of the story.
STRONG ROGUES GALLERY
Of course, what would a Batman movie be without its villains. From Jack Nicholson to Heath Ledger, there have been countless iconic villains in the Batman movies and The Batman gives us great new interpretations of the Riddler and the Penguin. Paul Dano gives a chilling and unsettling performance as the Riddler. No longer the over-the-top trickster Jim Carrey portrayed years ago in Batman Forever (1995), this Riddler is brutal and merciless. Dano’s unassuming and baby-faced looks mask the cruel intellect of the serial killer.
Meanwhile, Colin Farrell is unrecognizable as the Penguin. His character proves to be a memorable villain and while he doesn’t play a big part in the movie, he’s much more of a lighter foe for Batman, providing the film with some needed humor whenever he appears on screen.
A NEW BATMAN THEME TO REMEMBER
Finally, The Batman is a visual and audio treat. Michael Giacchino provides a new and soon to be iconic Batman theme. Even with just a few notes, his Batman theme is heard throughout the film and is worthy of the standards set by previous Batman composers like Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer. The sound design is also impeccable and really adds to the experience of being at a cinema. From Batman’s footsteps to the roar of the Batmobile’s engine, the sound is excellent and causes your seat to vibrate with excitement.
The cinematography here is also well done. Greig Fraser, who had just been recently nominated for his work in Dune (2021), gives the film some beautiful imagery. From the dingy aesthetic of Gotham City to the upside down shot of Batman walking behind the flames, the film not only sounds great, but looks great as well.
NOT FLAWLESS HOWEVER
There are some negatives that hinder the film from being perfect. For all the new ground this iteration treads, it could have gone even further. There are certain twists in the film that seem so bold when it happens and yet unfortunately, the film recoils in fear of changing Batman’s story too much. Reveals about Bruce Wayne’s family history and an attempt on a character’s life will make you say, “Wow, I can’t believe they did this in a Batman movie.” But because of that, it makes it even more disappointing when they don’t push through with twists like these. It seems like moments like there could have been so much more but instead, there seemed to be fear in making the film go too far.
Speaking of going too far, the film itself is too long. Running nearly at three hours, it’s one of the longest comic book movies ever made only surpassed by Avengers: Endgame (2019) and Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021). There were scenes that definitely could have been cut for pacing and the film’s final act drags. The ending in particular seems to suffer from too many conclusions. Just when you think the film is about to end, you get another ending and another. Because of this, the film’s last third can feel really sluggish to some despite most of the film moving at a reasonable pace.
A MORE THAN WORTHY REBOOT
All in all, The Batman is a great iteration of the Dark Knight that mostly succeeds. It is a reboot that explores new aspects of the character, therefore justifying its existence despite the recent legacies set out by the previous versions of Batman. With great performances all throughout and backed up by stunning visuals and sound, it is a new take on a familiar character that gives fans and non-fans a Batman worth watching and rooting for.
Despite the film hesitating on some of the twists and its weak third act, The Batman proves to be one of the great Batman films out there. Don’t let the film’s dark aesthetic fool you, the future of Robert Pattinson’s Batman seems bright. And with Robert Pattinson signing on a three movie deal, this probably won’t be the last time we’ll see the Bat, and that’s arguably for the better.
The Batman is currently screening in cinemas nationwide. It is also available to stream on HBO Go.
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