Review – The Batman
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Written by: Matt Reeves & Peter Craig
Produced by: Matt Reeves & Walter Hamada
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz & Paul Dano
Release Date: March 4th 2022
I got to see The Batman for review on opening night and it blew me away. I have since gotten to see it a second time in order to better cement my thoughts about the film before writing my review.
This is a movie based around a detective chasing after a maniacal serial killer who loves to leave riddles for law enforcement before it is a superhero movie. Therefore, it seems only fitting that we begin this review for The Batman with a riddle.
How do you tell a revolutionary story based on a character who has already had more than ten big screen outings and still manage to make it feel fresh? Apparently the answer is; you allow acclaimed auteur Matt Reeves to craft a psychological horror film peppered with light arthouse elements based around an iconic comic book hero.
That is the thing that struck me the most whilst constructing this review of The Batman: just how darkly risqué certain elements of it felt. I have no shame in saying that I haven’t felt dread like this whilst watching a movie since I first saw Hereditary or Come and See. Sure, The Batman is by no means as hard to watch as either of those aforementioned films, but this is by no means a movie appropriate for children.
You could certainly argue that there have been major superhero movies released in the past, which have done well financially despite not being suitable for children such as Deadpool. Although, I would have a much easier time sitting a child down in front of the R-rated Deadpool than I would making them watch The Batman, which carries a PG-13 rating.
This is because the most horrifying elements in The Batman aren’t necessarily seen, instead they are felt. It is the dread-filled tone and underlying trepidation that gives The Batman its darkness. And this is also why The Batman feels more like a horror film, rather than a superhero movie or even a typical detective story.
Even in comparison to what I consider to be the darkest detective stories ever committed to film in Se7en, Silence Of The Lambs and Prisoners, (which also starred Paul Dano,) The Batman stands out. I cannot stress enough, just how surprised I was by the constant sense of dread present within the undertones of this entire film.
The ensemble cast do a phenomenal job of bringing a darker version of their respective characters to life. John Turturro, Paul Dano, Andy Serkis, Jeffrey Wright and Colin Firth all shine within any and all of the screen time that they are given. The real stand out here though is Zoe Kravitz’s electrifying performance as the complex femme fatale that is Selina Kyle.
Though, we cannot discuss the film’s cast without mentioning the man at the centre of it all. There has been somewhat of a mixed reaction to Robert Pattinson’s Batman online thus far. The general consensus is that whilst he does a fantastic job of playing Batman, his performance of Bruce Wayne is lacking in certain aspects.
The common concern is that his version of Bruce is just too similar to his take on Batman, leaving little difference between the two. Just in case you don’t happen to be an aficionado in all thing Batman, in the comic book source material there are some distinct differences between the two.
Whilst Batman is an efficient and brooding vigilante, Bruce Wayne is more of a carefree playboy, or at least this is the persona that he chooses to portray to quell any belief that he and Batman could be the same person.
However, one must remember that The Batman takes place pretty early on in Bruce’s crime-fighting career. This is obviously a version of the character who has not yet developed that nuance, his alter ego is still forming. It is also a good thing, as it gives Pattinson room to grow as an actor in any potential sequels.
Instead, Pattinson manages to ride a very fine line in his performance here. He is both a lonely introvert, whilst being a looming protector. He is a wraith-like symbol of fear whilst still being a broken boy on the inside carrying a ton of emotional baggage. He is a shining example of what a hero can be, whilst lacking any real social skills. A demigod who still feels undeniably human.
And it is this duality that sums up this version of Batman best. His more explicit and ‘traditional,’ sense of duality may still be yet to emerge, but here he is both sides of the coin simultaneously. And this is why I believe that only an actor of Robert Pattinson calibre is right for this role and in that sense, he knocks it out of the park.
Getting away from the film’s phenomenal cast, a huge part of what makes this whole thing work is the amalgamation of immense talent behind the camera. Matt Reeves’ direction in tandem with Greig Fraser’s cinematography makes for some astonishing visuals. Some of the breath-taking shots present here rival those of greats such as Roger Deakins or Emmanuel Lubezki.
Michael Giacchino’s utterly spectacular score permits the perfect tonal soundscape, which allows The Batman to reach the cinematic goals that it is reaching for. Again, to try to bring a sound that feels fresh and new to a character so synonymous with certain iconic audio cues presents an almost insurmountable challenge. Thankfully Giacchino is more than up to the task.
Whilst I loved the experience of getting to see The Batman for review, unfortunately I cannot give it a perfect score. This is not because of any particularly poor element within the movie’s make-up. Instead it is because the film simply does not reach my criteria for a perfect score.
Although it is ridiculous to call any movie, ‘objectively perfect,’ a perfect ten to me means that there is no wasted time in the film. Every minute of runtime must be earned and justified and sadly The Batman doesn’t quite earn every last minute of its 2 hours and 55 minutes.
With that said, as I drove home from the cinema, I pondered where I would rank The Batman in comparison with the Caped Crusader’s past cinematic outings. The fact that I was reckoning whether this film is superior to the previously greatest Batman movie ever made in The Dark Knight, is reason enough to consider The Batman a roaring success.
I also believe that this film was badly needed from the point of view of a Batman fan. Bat-enthusiasts were collectively let down when sub-par The Dark Knight rises released back in 2012.
As much as I loved the follow-up incarnation in the form of Ben Affleck’s take on the World’s Greatest Detective, he sadly never got a decent movie to shine in, (barring Zack Snyder’s Justice League.) Although I enjoyed Batfleck, both Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice and 2017’s Justice League movie were hugely disappointing.
The only other Batman outings we have had in the last ten years have been The Lego Batman movie and the animated adaption of The Killing Joke. As much as I relished Will Arnett’s ridiculous take on Lego Batman, I unfortunately can’t accept that movie as a serious contender in the ranking.
As for The Killing Joke… oh boy.
The fact that they took arguably the best versions of Batman and Joker, (in Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill respectively,) and got them to perform one of the best Batman comics ever printed and managed to make one of the worst Batman films ever made is the most impressive thing about that dumpster-fire of a movie.
So yes, Batman fans needed a win. In an age where Marvel reign supreme within the comic book blockbuster space and the DCEU is a scattered, inconsistent mess, this movie was badly needed. And it delivered in spades.
Overall, I am so glad that I got to see The Batman for review. It is a masterpiece of a movie, showcasing my favourite themes and motifs from the comic book source material. This is a well-crafted story of duality, which manages to balance grounded, real-world societal issues with the more fantastical comic book elements in Batman’s make-up.
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What did you think of The Batman? Are you looking forward to seeing HBO’s upcoming Penguin series? Leave your own rating above and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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