‘The Batman’ (2022)
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Written by: Matt Reeves & Peter Craig
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano, Colin Farrell, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro & Andy Serkis.
Batman is, hands-down, my very favorite super hero. I come at this review as a huge fan of the character, the comic medium that produced him, the previous films (mostly), the TV series, both live-action and animated, and the multiple video games. Batman basically represents the pinnacle of what man can be with a fierce dedication and dogged determination (and an obscene amount of money). I just want to preface all of that going into my review to better help you understand where I am coming from during your reading of this. Thank you for your understanding.
A brand new Batman film hits theaters across America on March 4th. This time, actor Robert Pattinson will be donning the cape and cowl, taking the mantle over from Ben Affleck who previously portrayed Batman / Bruce Wayne in ‘Batman vs Superman‘ and in the hotly debated ‘Justice League‘. Opposite Pattinson’s Batman will be Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Paul Dano as a decidedly deadly Riddler and Colin Farrell who is almost unrecognizable as The Penguin. Stylistically, ‘The Batman‘ feels like a perfect conglomeration of the Arkham series of video games from Rocksteady along with the grim & gritty early 1970’s era of Detective Comics under the writer and artist team of Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers. Director Matt Reeves told The Hollywood Reporter that his movie comes from a place of “I guess a lot of really ‘70s, street, grounded stories,” citing ‘The French Connection’, ‘Chinatown’ and ‘Taxi Driver’ as examples. This is evident throughout the film and it is certainly grounded in the same way Christopher Nolan‘s trilogy was and remains in that more realistic and less comic book like vein than its predecessors. However, where Nolan’s films still had a shine to them, Reeves’ version is more grit. This is something that I found greatly appealing.
Another aspect that I enjoyed about ‘The Batman’ was that this film definitely played up more of the detective side of the character than any other live action iteration we’ve previously seen. A glimpse of it here in the ’89 Batman film and a nod there in ’08’s ‘The Dark Knight‘ but always more of a crime fighter than ‘World’s Greatest Detective”. Matt Reeves and Peter Craig focus on his skills here in a level never before showcased which is another aspect of the movie that I greatly admired. The supporting cast was brilliant as well with Zoe Kravitz‘s Selina Kyle / Catwoman giving us a perfect portrayal of a street-smart and fierce Catwoman character that looks she stepped right out of the pages of Brubaker & Cooke’s 2001 series. Colin Farrell plays a very solid Oswald Cobblepot who is more than ready to come in to his own as The Penguin (no doubt something we’ll see in future installations of this particular franchise) and Paul Dano is downright terrifying as The Riddler. All of the time leading up to this film, his character was what I wasn’t sure I’d like about this movie. It almost looked like a “zodiac killer” type of take, but in the context of the film, what they did worked very well. Andy Serkis, while not my favorite portrayal of the character, was perfectly serviceable as Alfred and Jeffrey Wright as Lt. James Gordon (again, this is early days for Batman) was pitch perfect as the seemingly one cop in all of Gotham struggling to swim upstream against the corruption of a city that is constantly drowning in it.
As for Robert Pattinson… his Batman was great! You can see him confident yet not seasoned. He’s single-minded and focused on avenging the death of his parents and fighting against the evil that seeps into every corner of the city - the boogeyman that makes criminals check under their bed before closing their eyes. His costume is something of a cross between the Gotham By Gaslight look and the Arkham City video game look. It works! The aesthetic and tone of Batman and the film itself is exactly what I hoped it would be. But… this portrayal of Bruce Wayne was not what I wanted. I totally get that, again, this is early days for Batman and for Bruce Wayne. He hasn’t quite mastered the debonair billionaire by day and ruthless vigilante by night aspect yet. That being said, I found Reeves and Pattinson’s take on Bruce to be, for lack of a better term, a bit emo. There is a scene between Alfred and Bruce where Alfred notices that Bruce doesn’t have any cufflinks and rather than an endearing moment, it comes across as petulant and something I’d expect on an episode of ‘Gotham‘ but not from a film where we’re this far along in Bruce’s development. (The addition of Nirvana’s “Something In The Way” playing twice during the movie didn’t help me shake off this take.) Yes, I can see that perhaps there is a case to be made of this particular version of Bruce Wayne having a little more PTSD than we’ve ever seen in other versions of the character, but it was just a little TOO incongruous with what the rest of the film had given us to that point. But, as with most of the WB / DC live action movies, they almost need to be taken as “Elseworlds” tales to not cause too much cognitive dissonance among die-hard comic fans.
The movie is nearly 3 hours long, but the pacing never once drags and the storytelling is on-point for the entirety of the run. It’s probably the quickest 3-hour movie I’ve ever experienced. The score from Michael Giacchino does not disappoint and serves to embellish both the dark atmosphere of Gotham City and the shadowy Batman that we get in this film. Great stunts, grounded takes on comic characters and powerful visuals make ‘The Batman’ a sight to behold. I will say that this new film easily makes it’s way into My Top 5 Live Action Batman Films to date and I definitely will look forward to seeing it again in theaters. BTW: There are no post-credit scenes in this one, only a bizarre Easter egg type of thing that happens at the end which, truly, doesn’t necessarily make it worth sticking around. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d have to give ‘The Batman’ a respectable 7.5. My initial screening was a standard viewing but I can only imagine that seeing it in IMAX would enhance the overall experience!