“The Batman” was co-written & directed by Matt Reeves and stars Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman in his second year of fighting crime in Gotham City. This film sees him facing off against the Riddler, a serial killer leaving behind cryptic clues at the scenes of his murders. The film co-stars Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Andy Serkis, and Colin Farrell.
What made this film so immensely satisfying and enjoyable for me was the interpretation of the Batman character. All other past versions were largely fine (although some were terrible), and this is the first movie where it really feels like the filmmakers knew the character inside and out. It’s almost like Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson had a checklist of all the aspects of the character from the comics that needed to be put on screen. In “The Batman,” he’s an incredibly flawed and tormented hero. He’s extremely intelligent, a brilliant detective, ruthless, a vicious fighter, and sufficiently sadistic. This is a Batman who loves being Batman. The film smartly knows that Bruce Wayne is the mask, NOT Batman. Batman is a broken, psychologically damaged antihero, and this film explores that. Over the course of the film, Bruce learns that being Batman is more than just signaling fear and beating people up; he also has to be the watchful protector who has genuine care and compassion for the people of Gotham.
Robert Pattinson was terrific in the role. He did a ton of comic reading in preparation for the role, and it shows. He nails the character from his very first appearance. He knows how to move and stand in intimidating ways, how to talk, how to use his eyes. So much is expressed with just his body language, which is extremely important for this film in particular since Batman has 10 times more screentime than Bruce Wayne. I’ve only seen the film once as of writing this review, but I think Pattinson is the best Batman we’ve had thus far.
The rest of the cast is also brilliant. Zoë Kravitz perfectly captured the sensuality and danger of Catwoman, Jeffrey Wright balanced the optimism and despair of Jim Gordon, Andy Serkis was tragic yet loving as Alfred, and Colin Farrell (who was unrecognizable under the phenomenal makeup by the way) was great as the traditional mobster version of the Penguin. But the true standout is easily Paul Dano’s skin-crawling performance as the Riddler, who is probably the second best Batman movie villain of all time now (after Heath Ledger’s Joker). He clearly had a ton of fun in the role, savoring every syllable he was given. His heavy breathing, sudden outbursts, and even the nearly inhuman way he moves his head all made for a memorable, terrifying villain.
After experiencing “The Batman,” it’s abundantly clear that director Matt Reeves was given complete freedom to execute his neo-noir detective story, and I couldn’t be happier about that. Reeves took a lot of inspiration from David Fincher (e.g. “Se7en” and “Zodiac”) and movies from the 1970s, especially “Chinatown,” to model his detective story. The mysteries and riddles Batman and Gordon solve are actually horrifying and compelling, and the pace never slows down despite the movie being nearly 3 hours.
Speaking of how unrestricted Reeves was, I genuinely think this film would have been rated R if it wasn’t made by a studio with as much power and resources as Warner Brothers. In just the first 15 minutes, there’s extreme violence, super heavy themes, and an f-bomb. The whole movie is incredibly dark and deeply disturbing, and the never-ending cycle of violence in Gotham is prevalent throughout. Personally, I’ve always wanted an R-rated Batman film, and this is probably the closest we’ll ever get, so I’m perfectly satisfied with how much Reeves targeted the film toward adults.
On a technical level, this is easily the best Batman film yet. The cinematography by Greig Fraser is absolutely gorgeous; the filthiness of Gotham never leaves the screen, enhancing the tone and feelings the movie gives its audience. The score by Michael Giacchino is another brilliant aspect of the film; it’s exciting, terrifying, and melancholy all at the same time, perfectly capturing Batman’s psyche.
My most significant gripe with the film is spoiler-related, so here are my brief thoughts on that (skip past this paragraph to return to the spoiler-free section).
Barry Keoghan plays the Joker in a cameo at the end of the film, and he’s utterly atrocious. For most of this film I kept thinking “wow, this is perfectly cast,” but then Keoghan came along and gave his prepubescent Joker laugh that sucked all the excitement out of the room. I don’t know how anyone would think the guy who played Druig in “Eternals,” one of the most overacted, terrible blockbusters in recent memory, would do a good job at portraying arguably the most iconic villain in the history of fiction. He’s far too young and simply isn’t fit for the part.
“The Batman” is the perfect superhero movie experience. It explores its deeply flawed yet compassionate protagonist in ways that are extremely respectful to the source material. The film balances the ultra-realism with the fantasy elements of the character. There’s great worldbuilding, phenomenal performances, a terrific score, stunning visuals, genius direction, and a ton of satisfying “now that’s Batman” moments. There are a few plot issues and the casting of one particular actor was disappointing, but these aspects didn’t deter my enjoyment of this terrific neo-noir thriller.