Although a bit lengthy and never fully fulfilling all the plot ideas introduced, The Batman is beautifully shot, having some of the greatest cinematography I’ve ever seen in a superhero film. It may be the best iteration of Batman, the character, I’ve seen yet as well.
The day I’ve been waiting for is finally here. I have seen The Batman after anxiously awaiting its arrival for years now. In today’s society, we don’t always get the very best DC Comics film adaptations. Of course, I’m not saying all are bad. In fact, I find some to be quite good, maybe even more than that. It’s safe to say the DCEU has left plenty to be desired though, so I’m glad Warner Bros. and all of the creatives involved are working towards crafting unique and interesting stories rather than trying to create one big connected universe since clearly, it hasn’t panned out the way they hoped. So far, it seems to be trending in the right direction with the positive reception Joker, The Suicide Squad, and Peacemaker have received. After seeing The Batman, I can confidently say the trend is continuing to go upwards since I really enjoyed it and found myself enthralled by the world director Matt Reeves has created. I still have plenty of gripes with it however, and it is far from perfect, but there’s so much potential to take this story in a variety of directions with what it establishes. Let’s discuss further.
This film is a technical achievement and an absolute marvel to experience what is being done with all of the editing. What’s immediately apparent is the absolutely gorgeous cinematography this film has. From the opening shot, Reeves and his team waste no time showing the audience the look and style he’s specifically going for. Cinematographer Greig Fraser is deliberate with every single shot and frame, being creative and original with his angles and camera placement. It seems most of the movie is also practical, and if there are any special effects, it’s all extremely well done since you barely notice any poor CGI. It’s refreshing to see since most superhero films sometimes rely heavily on special effects, and it sort of takes away from some scenes when the CGI isn’t up to par. This isn’t the case with The Batman, and it’s all the better for it, delivering a visual which seems both realistic and more grounded than any other Batman movie has ever looked. What elevates all of these gorgeous scenes even more is the score composed by Michael Giacchino, who is probably the most sought after composer in the film industry today. To name a few, at least recently, he’s done Incredibles 2, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Jojo Rabbit, and Spider-Man: No Way Home. There are so many different beats and tones to go along with each scene and it’s all done with a purpose. It manages to fit perfectly with whatever is going on with the film, whether it’s an action sequence, an interrogation scene, detective work, or a simple dialogue between two characters, every piece of music from the score feels appropriate. It might be one of my favorite scores of the year, and one of the best superhero film soundtracks ever made. There’s a specific them that gives off plenty of Star Wars vibes as well, and the nostalgia definitely kicks in.
The setting depicts Gotham City in a way I have yet to see in a Batman film. I mean, reading comics and all sorts of Batman media shows you Gotham isn’t the best place to live in with crime and corruption running rampant. There’s a reason why Bruce Wayne does what he does. That being said, although you always have the knowledge of Gotham being a bad place, most of the films don’t always portray that the way The Batman does. If you look at Tim Burton’s Batman films, some of the characters portrayed can be a bit intense and intimidating, but it has somewhat of a comedic tone at times, as well as an overall lighthearted approach, so you never really sense the danger Gotham is supposed to feel like or represent. Christopher Nolan’s trilogy is a bit similar in tone to Reeves’ version, but even then, other than the villains involved, the city doesn’t feel as dark as it should. Even Zack Snyder’s films with Ben Affleck’s Batman are dark in tone, but having them deal with supernatural elements and characters sets it a bit apart. The Batman truly digs into the idea of Gotham being a completely horrible and miserable place in desperate need of a change. The city is full of criminals and psychotic individuals who have no interest in making things better, which is why Bruce feels he has an obligation to make things right, even if his methods can be somewhat extreme and violent. At the end of the day, his main motive is vengeance, and it plays a major role for the rest of the movie. In a way, as weird as it may sound, Gotham feels like a character in itself, and being able to accomplish this type of feeling, it deserves to be praised. What’s even more impressive is how far it was able to go with certain narrative decisions with a PG-13 rating. It really stretches those boundaries and specific limitations as far as it could.
From top to bottom, the casting is spectacular. I was one of the few (the silent majority, if you will), who was completely on board with Robert Pattinson being cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman and wasn’t afraid to vocalize it. People are quick to judge since he was in the Twilight film series, but his body of work and extensive filmography since then speaks for itself. I mean, you just have to watch The Rover, Good Time, and The Lighthouse to see how far he’s come. At the end of the day, no one actor should be judged entirely on one performance since one performance doesn’t define an actor. However, there are always certain roles some actors can be known for, and I feel Pattinson is setting himself up to be remembered as one of the best to ever play the character. I wholeheartedly believe he’s the one actor who accurately captures the essence of who Batman is. This film takes the title of “world’s greatest detective” literally and seeing this side of the hero in a live-action format was both refreshing and a long time coming.
I thoroughly enjoyed how this Batman felt the most genuine in terms of who he is. At times, it seems Batman is almost indestructible and unbeatable, and this is mainly because of the writers behind him. There’s always the infamous excuse/ plot device where if he has enough “prep time,” he can beat anyone he faces off against, which leads to ridiculous scenarios that aren’t all too believable. I prefer the direction the creators and Pattinson went in this iteration. Being only two years in, he still has plenty to learn and it’s evident in many scenes throughout the movie. This Batman isn’t afraid to put himself out there and be vulnerable. He isn’t perfect by any means, especially when you see the hits and damage he’s taking throughout the film. His gadgets and inventions don’t always work either, and I really enjoyed seeing him fail, in a way, since he’s only been Batman for a relatively short period of time. He’s not going to have everything figured out and having this room for failure in order to grow and learn from his mistakes is necessary in order to not only develop this character, but to be the Batman he wants to be. This version of Batman is also the most intelligent I’ve seen yet. I mentioned earlier how the “world’s greatest detective” title is put on full display here since he’s very methodical when solving certain crimes and trying to figure out specific clues. Again, even though we all know he’s a genius, it’s easy to forget when he’s preoccupied doing other things.
I didn’t enjoy everything about his portrayal, though. As far as Batman goes, he’s nearly perfect, but some things could be improved. For one, and maybe it’s the comic book fan in me talking, but Batman knows 127 styles of martial arts and he spends most of the time punching his adversaries violently without mixing it up. Sure, the action scenes are phenomenal and entertaining to look at when they happen, but I wish he showcased his overall combat versatility a bit more. For example, different kinds of takedowns, some more stealth elements, and so on. There’s so much more Batman is capable of than simply punching and beating his enemies down. Then again, as mentioned, it’s all so well done with how it’s shot, it’s easy to overlook this minor gripe. One gripe I can’t overlook is his portrayal of Bruce Wayne. I do realize this isn’t Pattinson’s fault since he can only work with what he’s given. Plus, what he’s going through and how he’s coping with it all has to be taken into consideration. Being a recluse and still reeling from the events of his past may be having a major effect on him. To me, Bruce and Batman have always been two sides of the same coin. Batman is who he really is, while Bruce has always been a role he plays for the public. In The Batman though, they seem like the same person, and I don’t think that’s accurate. Granted, it’s still early and maybe he’ll learn how to develop this specific persona as he goes through different life experiences and figures out what works best. Maybe I’m being too harsh, but I feel it would be pretty obvious to spot Batman’s true identity as Bruce Wayne when you see how they both act and behave. Again, it could be how the character was written, but I hope this changes in the sequels to come and we get two different characters since, in reality, they are completely different, and there’s no clear differentiation between the two in this film.
The main antagonist, the Riddler, is impressively brought to life by the criminally underrated Paul Dano. It’s sort of bizarre how much of an impact his performance leaves on you as a viewer and you barely even see him in the film unless it’s in a video format while wearing a mask and a full costume. You can see how much fun Dano is having with this character and his ability to deliver so many different kinds of emotions (again, while wearing a mask) shows the level of talent he has as a performer. I can’t think of many other actors who would’ve been able to deliver such a nuanced and creepy portrayal, which turned out to be my favorite performance in the entire film. Colin Farrell as the Penguin, who’s completely unrecognizable in the makeup, was predictably, and also unpredictably, awesome. There were some unexpected laughs thanks to his comedic timing and I can’t wait for his spinoff series on HBO Max to see what else he can bring to the table. There’s also Jeffrey Wright as Commissioner Gordon, who I thought was fantastic. I loved all the time he spent with Batman in this movie, and although other versions of this character have done similar things, this movie really made him feel pivotal to every mystery and situation they encounter. I saw a lot of praise for Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, claiming she was one of the best parts of the film, and although I do think she was great, I was expecting a bit more. I do realize this entire film is a bit more grounded though, and this iteration of the character doesn’t do many of the things past actresses have done with the character. Maybe it’s my familiarity of who I think Catwoman is like that left me a bit surprised with what Kravitz did. But, once again, she’s still great and I want to see what else she can do in the future. Lastly, there’s John Turturro as Carmine Falcone. I wasn’t sure what to expect since I don’t think I’ve ever seen Turturro in this kind of role, but he was unexpectedly great in it. I wish we would’ve gotten a bit more of him. I can say the same for Andy Serkis’ Alfred since he wasn’t given much to do. At the same time, his presence is still felt in the scenes he’s in, and you see how important his relationship with Bruce is.
You definitely feel its length as time goes on, especially in the third act when it begins to drag a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I was still hooked watching it, but it definitely could’ve benefited from a bit of a trim in order for it to flow a bit smoother. There are some pacing issues, and I think this mostly has to do with how the story is told. There’s plenty of plot details, but not much of the story is fully realized, if that makes any sense. There are some which eventually tie in to the main focus, but I think it wouldn’t have hurt the film if some of these details were completely left out. In other words, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference and, in fact, the movie would’ve progressed better since at times, it jumps from one thing to the next since and it often feels a bit overstuffed. It doesn’t give you much time to sit on certain revelations and discoveries without moving on to the next thing. Giving some scenes breathing room, in my opinion, is a necessity in a film like this, especially when you haven’t gotten over what just happened, and you’re already on to the next massive event.
The Batman truly captures the essence of what this character is all about. It has its issues with trying to set Batman and Bruce Wayne apart and maybe it tries to do a bit too much, forcing it to feel like its dragging in some instances. But, the cast is fantastic, and it’s the most beautifully shot superhero film I’ve ever seen, which is only elevated by a sensational score. I’m really, truly excited to see what Reeves and Pattinson will do next with this character and I’m a fan of what is being created in this universe. It may not be the best film with Batman in it, but I think it’s on par, if not better, than Batman Begins. In terms of being a Batman film, I really think these two films set the standard of who Batman really is, only The Batman does it a bit better. It may not be for everyone, and in some scenes, it feels like a slow burn, but give it a chance and you’ll see it goes some places no other Batman film has even tried, and for that alone, it deserves to be appreciated for what it is.