Cole B., journalist
Continuing their mission to focus on director-driven projects, Warner Bros. and Matt Reeves (director) produced “The Batman”: a dark, thrilling detective-noir film that is unlike any iteration of the Caped Crusader that has ever reached the silver screen. Batman (Robert Pattinson) must scour through the criminal underworld, following clues left by the Riddler (Paul Dano), a criminal who murders Gotham City’s elites in an effort to expose corruption. Aided by Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and the unpredictable Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), Batman tries to unmask the truth before the Riddler unleashes terror and destruction on Gotham.
Enter: The Batman
Batman’s opening monologue displays how the Dark Knight is still early in his career. However, he has already become a symbol of fear for the criminal underworld. The instant Batman appears on screen, it is clear that Pattinson is Batman. As thugs mercilessly assault a helpless citizen, loud, menacing footsteps begin to ring through the air. Batman brutally fights the gang with precision and an assortment of gadgets, notably caring more about seeking vengeance than actually helping the innocent. This aspect of Batman is present throughout the entire film – and for good reason. In this adaptation, there is a distinct lack of the socialite billionaire persona that Bruce Wayne normally adopts in other films. Batman has not yet learned to truly care for or empathize with the people of Gotham. He is generally reclusive, even shutting out Alfred, his trustworthy butler. Full of anger and rage, this iteration of Bruce Wayne only holds onto the Batman persona, declaring himself to be vengeance incarnate.
Furthermore, this iteration clearly focuses more on the detective side of Batman. In the comics, Batman is described as “The World’s Greatest Detective,” using his wit and observations to solve crimes. The movie relies heavily on this feature of Batman, in a way that other films have not. Pattinson’s Batman slowly walks around crime scenes with a commanding presence, studying the environment and searching for clues. He uses high-tech gadgets to analyze ciphers and record important details, as he pieces together the mystery that the Riddler has exposed. These scenes are refreshing and entertaining, as they offer an element of Batman that audiences have never seen before.
Riddle Me This
Paul Dano as the Riddler is the most entertaining Batman villain since Heath Ledger’s Joker in “The Dark Knight”. His performance is electrifying and chilling, as he portrays a passionate, enigmatic serial killer, obsessed with revealing corruption at all costs. Dano expertly balances acting like a crazed, psychotic murderer, and an intelligent, plotting mastermind. Dano’s character is inspired by real-life psychopaths, like the Zodiac Killer, as evidenced by his sinister and cruel methods. Riddler designs torture devices for his victims, while also deliberately crafting riddles for the Batman to solve, addressing letters to him at every crime scene. With his performance and actions, Dano’s Riddler proves to be a true intellectual adversary for the World’s Greatest Detective.
The Doomed City
In this movie, Matt Reeves makes Gotham feel as though it is a character itself. The gothic architecture and dark, decrepit atmosphere paint the picture of a desperate and desolate city. In most scenes, Gotham is rainy and dimly lit, yet even with the suffocating darkness, the film remains visually stunning. Cinematographer Greig Fraser highlights the city with orange and red shades, provided by gunshots, fire, and flares, which light up the city while also continuing to characterize Gotham by showing its depravity. In multiple scenes, it is clear that the city is collapsing on itself. Criminals freely run through the streets, drug abuse is rampant, and the police turn blind-eyes to injustice. Ultimately, the city feels as though it acts as another antagonist to Batman, fighting against his every move to do good.
The film boasts a talented cast. Robert Pattinson’s performance as the Batman is emotional and expressive. Pattinson uses his eyes and body language to depict rage, anger, detachment, and later fear, love, and hopefulness. Paul Dano as the Riddler is phenomenal. His acting makes the Riddler appear manic and deranged, yet somehow calculating and controlling. Jeffrey Wright’s Jim Gordon is an excellent match with Pattinson’s Batman. Unlike other pairings between Batman and Gordon in previous movies, Pattinson and Wright feel like real partners, creating a sort of buddy-cop dynamic. Their scenes together are funny, dramatic, and always entertaining. Zoe Kravitz is arguably the best Catwoman put to screen. Kravitz portrays Catwoman as an unpredictable, crafty cat burglar. Lastly, Colin Farrell’s portrayal as the Penguin is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the film. Farrell’s character is almost like a caricature of a big-city mafia boss, and it is obvious that he is having a lot of fun as the mobster. Overall, the casting feels perfect, as everyone in the cast delivers an emotional, multifaceted performance that is always entertaining to watch.
The Evolution of the Bat
Throughout the movie, Reeves tells the story of an emotionally isolated Bruce Wayne that is forced to rise to the occasion as the Riddler rampages through Gotham. As previously explained, Batman begins as vengeance incarnate. He pushes away his closest allies and distances himself from all emotion. He brutalizes the criminal underworld in an attempt to avenge the deaths of his parents. However, as the lives of those he cares about are threatened by the Riddler’s master plan, Batman begins to feel fear and is forced to confront his rage, ultimately becoming the symbol of hope that Gotham needs.
Notably, this study of Batman’s character is emphasized by the parallels between Batman and Riddler. Both Bruce and the Riddler became orphans, driven solely by vengeance. They act like two sides of the same coin; both are obsessing over correcting the injustice within the city, yet they have vastly different methods. Towards the end of the movie, as Batman begins to realize the parallels between himself and the Riddler, he begins to see the error of his ways. Fear cannot be his only tool anymore. The man once declaring himself to be vengeance finally learns that “vengeance won’t change the past.” He realizes that he must struggle through the pains of anger and loss to inspire the city, and encourage it to find “the power to endure, and the strength to fight,” despite all it has experienced.
This movie acts as an important coming-of-age story for a young Batman, that truly understands the character. Reeves and Pattinson have crafted the definitive live-action Batman, who emblemizes hope and justice even in the darkest of times. The detective and crime-noir elements of the film are enjoyable and refreshing, showcasing the story of the Dark Knight in a brand new way. It’s evident that Reeves and the rest of the cast understand the character of Batman – how he strikes fear into the hearts of criminals, yet also acts as a beacon of light for the innocent. Ultimately, this film is a perfect Batman adaptation that promises an exhilarating and entertaining experience for all fans.
“The Batman” is now available in theaters and is expected to be available for streaming on HBO Max starting April 19.
Photo credit: “The Batman”. Directed by Matt Reeves, Warner Bros., 2022.