Over the last 60 years or so, we have received numerous incarnations of Batman in both live action and animated mediums, with varying degrees of success. But the latest take on the “World’s Greatest Detective” takes a different approach to the source material, challenging Batman in ways we have never seen before. Making this the most mature version of the caped crusader to date.
Batman/Bruce Wayne (played by Robert Pattinson) is in his second year of being a vigilante fighting the underworld of Gotham, when a new serial killer appears. This killer targets the most powerful and corrupt figures in Gotham and leaves clues, or riddles, for the police and Batman to solve. As the bodies begin to pile up, so does a conspiracy between The Falcone Crime Syndicate and Gotham’s most powerful political figures. It is up to the combined help of Batman and Jim Gordon (played by Jeffery Wright) to stop The Riddler (played by Paul Dano) before his master plan can be completed.
First off, Robert Pattinson killed it as both Bruce Wayne and Batman! Normally, Batman actors usually excel as either Bruce or the Caped Crusader. However, Pattinson manages to capture the darkness in Bruce and successfully channels it into the vengeance-filled force that haunts the streets of Gotham. While I initially had my gripes with the trailers by focusing too much on making Batman a ruthless vigilante and not focus on his humanity. However, throughout the film, Bruce is forced to confront his own role in Gotham and how he can be better. Another topic I’d like to bring up is Pattinson’s body transformation. A lot of fans criticized him for not wanting to work out for the role of Batman. However, upon seeing the film, Pattinson DID work out, but not to an insane degree like many other actors. He’s built more like an MMA fighter rather than a bodybuilder, which works well for this interpretation of Batman.
Additionally, Zoe Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright and Colin Farrell all do an amazing job in their respective roles. Kravitz’s Catwoman is perhaps my favorite interpretation of the character, surpassing even Michelle Pfeiffer! Her version of Catwoman is very akin to that from Batman: The Long Halloween, combining sexy, strong and a desire to help those who can’t help themselves. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Wright’s Jim Gordon acts as a partner in crime to Batman, while also trying to balance his duty as a police officer. He completely trusts Batman and his methods and has a strong moral code, compared to a large number of the GCPD. I would’ve liked to see him more as Gordon to make a decision on how he compares to Gary Oldman’s take on the character. Finally, Colin Farrell as Oswald Cobblepot is thoroughly entertaining, acting as more comedic villain in a very gritty film.
Of course, this would not be the same without the film’s villain, The Riddler. I am honestly glad we did not get another DC film that had The Joker as the main villain or even mentioned in this film. It gives us a chance to take a look at the rest of Batman’s rogue's gallery, and it is extensive. Paul Dano absolutely dominates the screen as the sadistically intelligent and unhinged serial killer. In fact, you’d be surprised how much he is actually in the runtime. He shows up sporadically and rarely shows his face too. In fact, when he finally reveals his face to Batman, he seems more like the nice guy you pass on the street with his comb over hair and baby face. But make no mistake, this man is a vastly intelligent psychopath. Dano’s interpretation is very reminiscent of real life serial killers such as Jeffery Dahmer in appearance and the Zodiac Killer in method, even using cyphers to push the police and Batman into the specific direction of his master plan. What makes this take on Riddler especially interesting is that he admitted that Batman inspired him to take “justice” upon the corruption of the city, making Batman question his role as a vigilante.
The action sequences in this film are unlike any other I’ve seen in a Batman movie. Most fight scenes are either too shaky or poorly-lit. However, in The Batman, the fights are well-choreographed and find a perfect balance of lighting. For example, the fight at Carmine Falcone’s club where Batman fights Falcone’s henchmen is shrouded in darkness but is illuminated by the muzzle flashes of their guns, allowing the audience to both briefly see where Batman is and make out the narrative of the fight. Also unlike most Batman movies, Pattinson’s Caped Crusader is very raw when he fights, pummeling his opponents to the point of unconsciousness and then some. While he still doesn’t use guns, this Batman will still beat you to an inch of our life!
Besides the fight scenes, I have to admire the excellent detective work. Unlike most Batman films, Batman doesn’t easily solve the mystery of The Riddler. Every time either Batman or the GCPD come closer to finding out what he is planning, The Riddler remains at least two steps ahead in the game. While the Batman in this film is intelligent and uses much of his perceptive thinking to find clues and solve the case, he is very real world intelligent. By that I mean, he does not understand some clues until it is laid right in front of him such as the Riddler’s master plan. It did not make complete sense until Riddler slipped up and gave away a clue that his work was not yet done. Which led to Batman going back to the last crime scene and find what he missed. He also has detective tech he uses too, such as a contact lens capable of recording everything it sees, and a black light to find clues hidden to the naked eye. Past iterations of Batman either rely heavily on technology as a sleuthing crutch or do not have the detective aspect at all, making this version of Batman one of the smartest.
Additionally, the overall story is reminiscent of that of The Long Halloween and Gotham by Gaslight. Besides the focus on Batman as a detective and the inclusion of Carmine Falcone and Salvatore Maroni, one of the biggest plot reveals has to be Thomas Wayne’s friendship with Carmine Falcone. Prior to his death, Wayne ran for mayor and when a journalist threatened to reveal Martha’s mental health history, Thomas had the Falcone Crime Family murder him. This reveal is extremely shocking since Thomas Wayne was always portrayed to be an upstanding citizen and father to Bruce. Similar to Batman Begins, the cinematography and lighting of the film makes it look like a David Fincher film.
Finally, the musical score by Michael Giacchino makes you feel the oncoming dread of facing Batman. Unlike previous scores that make Batman sound heroic (Tim Burton’s and Christopher Nolan’s Batman) or wrathful (Zack Snyder’s Batman), the score is rather simplistic, using deeper piano keys to convey what a force of nature Batman truly is. When you hear the score, you will get a feeling that this is not your run-of-the mill superhero. It’s pure vengeance approaching.
To say Matt Reeves’ The Batman is an excellent film is an understatement. This film is truly one of the best Batman movies to exist, and I would dare say, even gives The Dark Knight a run for its money. Filled with amazing performances from Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, and Colin Farrell along with jaw-dropping cinematography and fight choreography, The Batman is one of the quintessential Batman films of the past decade and establishes a new standard for all future Batman films to follow!
Co-Written by: Michael Li