By Andrew Warren
Matt Reeves’s The Batman, starring Robert Pattison in the titular role, is the newest on-screen version of the classic DC character. In this version, a string of murders perpetrated by the Riddler, played by Paul Dano, plagues Gotham and necessitates Batman to enlist the help of Jeffery Wright’s Police Chief Jim Gordon, and Zoe Kravitz’s Catwoman.
We’ve seen Batman on screens a number of times. Christian Bale played the character in the acclaimed Nolan trilogy while Ben Affleck played an older, more experienced version in the newer DC Extended Universe take. We even got a tax-evading Lego version back in 2017. One thing all those previous portrayals have in common is that Batman is painted as the hero. In those renditions, the audience never fears Batman because they just see him as a classic comic-book good guy. In this movie, Batman is filmed from the perspective of the criminals he attacks and their fear is palpable, spreading to the innocent civilians he strives to defend. It’s a novel and authentic portrayal of a superhero appreciated in a setting in which every superhero movie feels familiar.
In my opinion, the supporting cast truly contributes to the success of the movie. Dano is terrifying as the Riddler and is always on the verge of an emotional breakdown yet never without a trick up his sleeve. He’s a thoroughly entertaining villain. Colin Farrel is unrecognizable as the Penguin. He’s not in the movie for long, but his scenes are memorable. Luckily for us, HBO plans on giving the character a mini series ala Peacemaker. No release date has been announced. Gordon has a lot more to do in this movie than he did in the Nolan ones. He acts as Batman’s detective partner and watching the duo solve the riddles was one of my favorite aspects in the movie.
Zoe Kravits as Catwoman is the most interesting character in the movie primarily because she has her own story while every other character exists to serve Batman’s story. Gordon is the partner helping him investigate. Riddler is the villain. Penguin is there to interrogate. But Catwoman has her own motivations. Sometimes they align with Batman and the two team up. At other points her methods conflict with his own. Her role in the story is ever changing and consistently entertaining.
Hans Zimmer did great score work in previous Batman movies and Michael Giacchino is a worthy successor. Batman’s theme is ominous and foreboding, evoking the darkness inherent to his character whenever the melody plays. The non-musical sound work also deserves praise. The sound of Batman’s boots walking down an alley, the Batmobile revving up, and Riddler unrolling masking tape all contribute to the overall aesthetic. Please see this movie in the loudest theater you can.
If there’s one complaint I have about the movie, it’s that, short of one car chase sequence, no one set piece stands out as particularly memorable. At its heart, this movie is noir. Each clue uncovers another piece of a large criminal conspiracy. Batman goes from one victim to the next, solving riddles and learning more information. There’s a lot of hand-to-hand combat but nothing as iconic as the Joker’s bank robbery in Dark Knight. If the movie was shorter, I wouldn’t have minded, but at over 150 minutes long, it does begin to feel tedious.
This is a very impressive film. It’s a mature movie that doesn’t feel like a classic superhero flick. It’s violent, engaging, and takes a critical look at the effects that Batman has had on the city. Its themes of corruption and vengeance never feel heavy-handed while the lighting and camerawork subtly convey the hellish nature of Gotham. It’s better than anything Marvel has done since Endgame, and it is at the very least a top-three Batman film.