The Batman Review #2

PLOT: In his second year of fighting crime, a vengeful Batman (Robert Pattinson) patrols Gotham City. When the city’s mayor is killed, only for his son to find the body, Batman, remembering his own youthful trauma, becomes obsessed with finding the killer, but discovers the mayor had ties to a ring of corruption that infects the entire city and that his own family history may not be immune.

REVIEW: One aspect of the Batman franchise that’s not acknowledged enough is how thoroughly different the depiction of the character is depending on who’s directing. There’s never been a take on the character like Matt Reeves’ The Batman, but the same could have been said about Tim Burton’s time with the character and Christopher Nolan’s and Zack Snyder’s. Heck, you could even say the same about Joel Schumacher’s movies, even if they may not hold up twenty-seven years later. There’s a reason Batman remains the most popular comic book character among directors, with even Denis Villeneuve recently saying Batman is the only comic book character he’d tackle.

Indeed, Reeves’ take on the character is the darkest we’ve seen as a live-action film, with this a gritty, noirish thriller that flirts so heavily with being an R-rated movie they may as well have just gone for it, as this is the most distinctly adult take on him yet. It is a dark detective thriller that owes as much to David Fincher’s Zodiac as anything else; it feels very much in line with Todd Phillips’ Joker, even if the two movies don’t take place in the same continuity. Reeves eschews the big tentpole action we expect, making this an earthbound Batman that may prove to be divisive, although I imagine most will like it.

One thing that’s worth stating often is that this is perhaps the most Batman has ever been onscreen in one of his films. The eighties/nineties movies were dominated by their villains, and the Nolan movies were more about Bruce Wayne than Batman. One character tells Batman that his identity under the mask doesn’t matter, and this is driven home by the fact that Bruce Wayne’s screen time is limited. Much of the time we see him as Wayne, Robert Pattinson is at least somewhat in his Batman costume or in the process of removing it/putting it on. He’s sullen and uncomfortable in his own skin, to the point that he’s letting Wayne Enterprises go to ruin, with Andy Serkis’ Alfred warning him that he’ll lose everything in time (he answers that he doesn’t care).

Some may say he’s an emo Batman, but the movie’s point is to see his evolution. He tells people that he’s “vengeance,” but throughout the film, he learns that he needs to be much more than that to make a difference, and Pattinson’s performance is pitch-perfect. He looks heroic in the Batsuit and haunted as Bruce Wayne. I wouldn’t say he’s better than Bale, Keaton or even Affleck (who I thought was great), but he’s different, and I mean that as a compliment.

He’s supported by Reeves’ dark vision, which imagines Gotham City as perhaps the most corrupt and dangerous city in America. Jeffrey Wright plays Batman’s ally, Commissioner Gordon. His relationship with Batman is the one area the film didn’t convince me. It’s hard to believe that this corrupt police force would allow a man dressed as a Bat to walk in their crime scenes and essentially give him a free hand to dispensing justice. I always preferred my Batman being more of an outlaw, with Gordon helping him off the books. Here, Batman is almost given deferential treatment by Gordon.

Indeed, Reeves’ screenplay (with Peter Craig) has a few too-convenient twists, which are hard to go into without going into spoiler territory, but you’ll know them when you see them. They serve a thematic thread rather than an entirely logical one, so I suppose they’re easy to forgive. The cast is terrific, with Paul Dano unsettling as one of the darkest villains we’ve seen since Heath Ledger played the Joker back in The Dark Knight. His Riddler isn’t a physical threat but rather an intellectual one. More terrifyingly to Batman, his crimes bring into question the Wayne family legacy, which has always been depicted as unimpeachably clean. Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman is likewise a grounded version of the character. She doesn’t have nine lives or meow, but she does have a cool fighting style that nicely compliments Batman’s own ultra-violent, bruiser way of dispatching enemies. Of everyone, John Turturro, as Carmine Falcone, makes an impression because he’s subtle. However, an unrecognizable Colin Farrell mercilessly steals every scene as The Penguin, making his planned spin-off exciting.

In terms of action, The Batman is light compared to the other movies, as it’s not meant to be that kind of movie. The fights are grounded, quick and brutal, with Grieg Fraser’s ultra-dark cinematography making this not only the darkest Batman movie to date thematically but visually as well. This is a mixed blessing, as while the movie will look good in a well-calibrated theater, a poorly maintained one will make the action indecipherable. The score by Michael Giacchino ranks among his best work. Like the directors who’s worked on Batman movies, the character almost always brings out composers’ best work, first with Danny Elfman, Elliot Goldenthal (great scores for bad movies), Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL.

While some are proclaiming The Batman to be the greatest Batman film ever, I won’t go that far. To me, The Dark Knight has that honor, and in fact, Batman Returns is probably the second greatest, in my opinion, although to be sure, this is an excellent start for a new Bat-franchise. It’s not the best Batman movie ever, but a sequel might be.

the batman review

The Batman



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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.