Matt Reeves, Peter Craig, Bob Kane, Bill Finger
Zoë Kravitz, Robert Pattinson, Paul Dano
Action, Crime, Drama
Rated: PG-13 for strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong language, and some suggestive material
All media used courtesy of Warner Bros.
Vengeance Is Here
In year two of his career as The Batman, Bruce takes on his most dangerous foe to date, The Riddler. As high-profile Gothamites are being murdered, The Riddler is leaving greeting cards with notes to The Batman, causing Bruce to unravel the truth of Gotham and of his past. Matt Reeves directs a thrilling detective noir film and not only delivers in full, but ushers in a unique and true-to-the-comics version of Batman that I’ve waited for years for, and absolutely loved (with a couple of notes).
Matt Reeve’s Gotham
All of Batman’s directors bring a unique style to their versions of the character. But more important than that, they build the world around him in their unique styles to reflect the heartbeat of Gotham City. Matt Reeve’s Gotham City has a bleeding heart that’s barely hanging on. The streets are on fire, and there’s no hope for its people to see improvements. The sets are full of pointed arches, vaulted ceilings, and flying buttresses that make Gotham almost a character itself. This is also helped by the incredible cinematography by Greig Fraiser (Dune). In my mind, he deserves awards recognition for his outstanding visuals in the film. The Batman is firstly a detective noir story, and Matt Reeves did an incredible job of bringing that to us in every way possible, including the city itself.
The Worlds Greatest Live-Action Detective Batman
Fans of the comics have been wanting a true ‘detective Batman’ for years, and finally, that has been realized with Robert Pattinson. This is an imperfect Batman that’s in his second year of crime-fighting. He’s the boogeyman under the bed, a nightmare personified. He dishes out pain almost as much as it’s given to him as he struggles to control his rage. That rage he calls ‘Vengeance’ has consumed him, and all but erased the Bruce Wayne persona. He’s almost dysfunctional when faced with being a billionaire playboy, he barely is seen in public, and when he is cannot put on a show for the public. There is no Bruce, only The Batman in his mind, which is a fascinating thing to introduce and explore in this version of Batman. As The Batman, he is able to take the time to investigate, make deductions, be the true detective only comics have portrayed thus far. Pattinson’s voice works as The Batman delivers and might be my favorite iteration in live-action.
With every Batman comes his gadgets and his rides. All of this Batmans’s gadgets are hand-made, including his rides. The Batmobile is a screaming banshee from hell, taking on a similar note from films like Christine, the car is an extension of the fear Batman instills in his foes.
Riddler is Gotham’s Zodiac
Matt Reeves mentioned in creating his version of The Riddler that he was inspired by the Zodiac. Edward Nashton (not Nigma here) is completely hidden in an army-issued cold weather face mask, his movements are ghost-like as he moves on his victims one by one. Paul Dano does an incredible job of acting through being 95% covered from head to toe, giving impressive monologues with unnerving outbursts mid-sentence that make him feel even more of an unstable zealot. His crusade is to unravel the truth of Gotham City’s past and uses Batman to give himself as large a soapbox as possible to proselytize from. His philosophical connection to Batman fascinating to watch, but whether or not the outcome of his actions works with audiences or not will be interesting to see. The one issue I had, however, was Riddler’s ability to accomplish some of his goals. Some things felt implausible for me and stood out because of how grounded the film was. There is plenty of room for Riddler to grow more into the one we know and love from the comics, but this was an awesome beginning and I hope to see more of Paul Dano in the Matt Reeves Universe.
Cat Scratch Fever: Zöe Kravitz Supremacy
Selina Kyle is looking for an escape from the madness of the city but is entangled in the criminal underbelly’s web. She has a well-developed backstory, maybe more so than any other iteration of the character. Zöe completely owns the role and in many instances steals the movie for me. Not only with an expanded backstory but with her fighting style, persona, and energy brought to the role that to me rivals Michelle Pfeiffer’s interpretation. She is using those nails and leaving literal claw marks on her victims, which I loved. Her chemistry with Robert Pattinson is off the charts. It’s never been more apparent how much these two characters are similar and them working together is a thing of beauty. As with the other villains, Catwoman is not fully formed yet. But the approach taken in setting up compelling origin stories works the best with Selina Kyle.
The Emperor & The Penguin (Yes, It’s Really Colin Farrell)
While in a somewhat minor role, The Penguin is the right-hand man for Carmine Falcone (played excellently by John Turturro). Think Joe Pecci in Goodfellas, accent and all. Colin Farrell is completely unrecognizable as Oswald Cobblepot but can act through the prosthetics and give a loud and engaging performance. He gets a lot of the lines that breathe levity into the incredibly dark story, but it never feels out of place for him. The biggest scene he is involved in is an incredible car chase sequence that feels like Mad Max: Fury Road in the rain. Overall, I’m looking forward to his HBO Max series and think he can explore this character in meaningful and entertaining ways.
An Ode to Gordon & Alfred, Batmans Guardians
Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) is very much a partner for Batman. He’s not fully in his leadership role of the GCPD but holds a commanding voice within the corrupt force, who star shocked at the lengths of assistance he gives to Batman. He is much more involved than any other Gordon in the deducing of crime scenes and motivations. I loved this Gordon and am excited to see his growth alongside The Bat. Alfred (Andy Serkis) is used more sparingly than I had hoped for. He packs an emotional punch in his scenes but isn’t really in the game the same way Gordon is. His relationship with Bruce is fractured, he can’t do much to change Bruce’s feelings towards what he feels is honoring his family’s legacy. Alfred can’t break Bruce from The Batman, and that feeling of failure to be what he feels is a proper guardian is powerful and again, not explored as much in the previous versions of Batman. He was great, wish I could’ve had more.
Ever since the first video showcasing the Batsuit came out, the simplistic and nuanced score of Michael Giacchino has shined. The Batman films all have had iconic composers at the helms of them, but none has both felt like a tribute to the past while also embracing the new tone of the film it’s in. I loved the score, give Giacchino the Oscar now, there’s not a more memorable and enticing score in 2022. Favorites include ‘Highway To The Anger Zone’, and the themes for both Catwoman and Batman. It all matches the noir style this film has while also paying tribute to Danny Elfman, Junkie XL, Hanz Zimmer, and the criminally underrated Shirley Walker. The use of sound is very eery, and ominous especially surrounding Batman. Easily one of the best Batman Scores ever made.
The Third Act Problem
The film has very natural pacing to it, until the third act. The runtime is about 3 hrs for The Batman, and it only starts to feel that runtime until the third act reveals itself. There’s almost a false ending to the movie, that emotionally feels like we’ve wrapped up the story in a satisfying way, but the third act is only beginning. That might make audiences feel this is too long, and some moments needed to be cut. While I can understand that, I think there could also have been a way to keep the runtime, but better weave the a and b storylines to wrap up all the storylines closer to each other. It’s a small complaint from a Batman fan who can’t get enough Batman, but from a critical perspective, I think it could’ve been improved on. It’s tough to say any more about my issues here without hinting at a spoiler, but there are maybe 1-3 minutes in the finale that felt unnecessary. I hope it isn’t followed-up in the next film, but it likely will be.
Overall, I was completely blown away by The Batman. Robert Pattinson IS Batman, all could be said for the rest of the actors and characters. It’s beautifully shot, expertly directed by Matt Reeves, and is the closest we’ve ever come to an accurately represented detective comic. While Reeves insists his trilogy will be the most grounded in realism, I hope he doesn’t shy away from introducing more of the obscure and unique characters like Mr. Freeze, Clayface, and more. It’s the best Batman film since The Dark Knight, and has the potential to become the greatest Batman trilogy we’ve ever had. Hell yeah, Vengeance.