The Batman has been one of my most anticipated movies ever since it was announced. I’m always interested in Batman movies, and I was particularly invested in this latest film’s development. It already had my attention with Matt Reeves directing, his work on the Planet of the Apes films showed him to be an amazing director, and that had me greatly confident in him taking on the Batman character. Then it had a fantastic cast including Jeffrey Wright and Paul Dano, but most of all it had Robert Pattinson, who’s next to helm the role of the iconic Batman character. The Batman was amazing and did not disappoint.
The Batman is first and foremost a detective movie, taking inspiration from noirs and murder mysteries like Se7en. We’ve seen Batman doing detective work such as in The Dark Knight, but nothing quite like this. It is so committed to being a noir detective story, Batman looks through diaries, and files, searches evidence and decrypts riddles, and not just in a one off montage scene where he figures everything out instantly. There’s even narration from Batman throughout, it throws you into the noir ambience and makes it feel like a graphic novel brought to the big screen. On top of that, the detective work keeps you genuinely engaged. It is definitely a dark story, it constantly feels bleak and grungy, with scenes reminiscent of Zodiac, Se7en, and even Saw. At the same time, it is hopefully and inspirational by the end, and I love the journey that Batman goes on. Also, despite the darkness and grimness, there’s an element of embracing the goofiness that you just don’t see in most comic book movies (at least without the self-awareness and snark). There’s also a decent amount of comedy, whether that be Batman and Gordon’s interplay, some of Penguin’s lines, or the dark comedy of the Riddler. The script does an excellent job at balancing all these characters and plays its story at a steady pace, taking its time. It also helps that it feels self-contained and more concerned about being a movie over being an entry in a franchise. The first two acts are very much a detective story, but the third act does feel different as it gets larger scale and with much more action, but I still really enjoyed it, on top of being a satisfying conclusion to the story of Batman in the film. It is a very long movie at 3 hours, it potentially could’ve been trimmed, but if I had the choice to do so, I wouldn’t cut anything out. In terms of issues, there is a moment towards the end of the movie which did feel a little out of place compared to the rest of the movie, however I didn’t dislike it.
The cast are great all round and fit their parts well. First and foremost is Robert Pattinson who plays Bruce Wayne/Batman. There was a split reaction to the casting, but as someone who’s seen some of his post Twilight movies like Good Time and The Lighthouse, I was greatly looking forward to his portrayal of the iconic character, and he did not disappoint. Pattinson here portrays a younger Batman, 2 years into his vigilante career. This is a Bruce Wayne who can’t balance Batman and Bruce, instead living as Batman most of the time and is otherwise is a recluse as Bruce. Many Batman live action stories have the whole “Batman is his true face” aspect but Pattinson’s leans into that the most. As a result, this is the most amount of time you’ll see Batman (not Bruce Wayne) on screen in a Batman movie. You could say that it is a minimalistic performance, but it is fitting for this version of the character, and Pattinson still conveys a lot, whether he’s playing Batman or Bruce. Pattinson accurately portrayed so much of the character, the torment and trauma of Wayne, as well as the physical presence and detective skills of Batman. I particularly loved Batman’s journey here and the arc he goes on, and Pattinson’s performance conveys that wonderfully.
The rest of the cast are great too. Zoe Kravitz plays Selina Kyle/Catwoman and so far, she might be my favourite version of the character. It helps that this is the best written Selina Kyle yet and given layers and depth, and Kravitz also shares really good chemistry with Pattinson. Jeffrey Wright plays James Gordon, and is a very strong contender for the definitive version of the character. We’ve seen Gordon and Batman team up in the movies, but they have a full on buddy cop team up here, and I loved the dynamic that he and Batman have. Andy Serkis plays Alfred Pennyworth, he’s only in select scenes but makes memorable impressions in each of his scenes with Pattinson. I will say though that he doesn’t quite get enough screentime, and I would’ve liked to have seen more of him. I thought that the villains overall were effective. John Turturro was great as crime boss Carmine Falcone, quietly menacing in a rare villain role for him. Colin Farrell is an absolute scene stealer as The Penguin. He is unrecognisable both with the physical prosthetics put on him and his performance. He is entertaining and funny, and very reminiscent of a Italian gangster cartoon, while not becoming too silly. However, the main villain of the movie is Paul Dano as The Riddler. This is definitely one of the darker and more unsettling adaptations of the character, less the goofy Jim Carrey Riddler and is more of a serial killer here, even his costume is reminiscent of the Zodiac killer’s appearance. Dano gives one of the best comic book movie villain performances. He is genuinely scary, unstable and captivating, even when we don’t really get to see his face all that often. While the Riddler has often been considered a bit of a joke, I think this version will bring more respect to the character.
I had confidence in director Matt Reeves and once again he has handled a blockbuster like this amazingly. Outside of occasional moments of using blur a bit too much, the cinematography from Greig Frasier is stunning, even giving it a comic booky look at times. The movie leans into the noir aspect, especially with the rain and darkness and I love that vibe. I really liked the representation of Gotham, especially with the production design and sets, helping to make the setting feel incredibly lived in. The Batman isn’t as focused on the action scenes compared to the other Batman movies but the action scenes are entertaining and well filmed, from the fight scenes to the car chases. There’s even some good horror elements with chilling imagery, especially with the Riddler, even some of his elaborate traps were very Saw-like. Another strong aspect is the phenomenal score by Michael Giacchino which is possibly his best work yet. It has a presence throughout and ranges from being dark and moody to uplifting and hopeful. It could very much be the definitive Batman theme, which is saying a lot.
The Batman was phenomenal and incredibly satisfying. There’s a lot to take in from the 3 hours that I watched, but I loved it all. The whole cast were perfect in their roles, the direction from Matt Reeves is strong with a clear vision, and the overall it was an intriguing detective noire and a compelling Batman story. As someone who just about likes every version of Batman in film that I’ve seen, from Tim Burton’s films from the 80s to Zack Snyder’s from the past decade, I think this just be my overall favourite. It is a strong contender for the definitive Batman movie and the definitive Batman portrayal in Robert Pattinson.