The Batman franchise is reborn following a giant shadow left behind in the wake of The Dark Knight trilogy (and Ben Affleck’s exit). This time with a moodier, Kurt Cobain inspired Bruce Wayne portrayed by a whispering Robert Pattinson as the caped crusader.
Director Matt Reeves’ new vision of the iconic hero throws out spectacle and grandeur, and nearly approaches an arthouse thriller on a high budget. The villains are terrifying and the plot is slow-cooked at the same pressure as Blade Runner 2049.
Are general audiences ready for this kind of Batman movie? Here are our fully elaborated thoughts on The Batman.
The Batman review
Reeves does not waste any time communicating to the audience how different this take on Batman is from the others. At the start, we bear witness to the intensity of Paul Dano’s Riddler as he murders the mayor of Gotham. It is one of the most disturbing introductions to a Batman villain of all the movies.
From here, the crime scene becomes overrun by Gotham P.D. including Commissioner Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) who invites Batman to help investigate.
As we see the costumed hero slowly enter the crime scene, we automatically get a sense of how other officers feel about Bruce Wayne’s alter ego– and his presence is anything but welcomed by the force. But after discovering a message left by Riddler addressed to Batman, Bruce goes on the hunt to solve the murder.
The refreshing choice in this iteration of Batman is to have the character and his villains already established before the film begins. And this is further complemented by finally making a Detective Comics-inspired vision of the character.
There are no origins of a villain such as Selina Kyle falling out a window and getting licked by cats (Batman Returns) or a mobster falling in acid to become a maniac jokester. Bruce Wayne has been on the job for two years and his enemies for probably even longer.
This allows director Matt Reeves to use iconic foes in the Bat-mythos to create a neo-noir thriller like we have not seen before from the Batman movies. Robert Pattinson’s melancholic Wayne questions and investigates the criminal underworld as the Riddler claims more and more victims, and decides whether he can trust the femme fatale a la Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz).
The choice of making The Batman in this style is one that comes with possible risks. As dark as the film is (and it gets close to Se7en at times) it’s designed to be a slow burn thriller first and a comic book action/adventure second.
With the runtime clocking at almost three hours, it is possibly going to be the most challenging Batman for mainstream audiences in years. With this being said, Warner Brothers deserves to be applauded for allowing a director such freedom to make a comic book film this bold.
The Batman is not perfect and does possess some issues. The three-hour runtime did not feel justified and a few scenes toward the end could have been trimmed down– or even scrapped — as an act of mercy.
Robert Pattinson did a solid job under the cape but left this writer lukewarm as the persona of Bruce Wayne. He is extremely dour in facial expression for almost the whole film–nearly to the point of parody.
There was a running joke leaving the theater that if this Batman walked around rooms just a little faster, the film would have shaved 30-minutes off the runtime. Because at crime scenes… he walks… around… the room… like this… for some… strange… reason. Even Detective Mills and Somerset from Se7en knew time was of the essence.
But the positives outweigh the negatives. For one, this is the best version of Gotham depicted in any of the Batman films. It feels like its own place like Wakanda or Tatooine from Star Wars. And cinematographer Greig Fraser makes every frame of it look so glorious and gothic.
Christopher Nolan made exceptional use of Chicago for The Dark Knight but admittedly, it’s nice to see Gotham and not continually think, “Yep, that is Chicago.”
Every time Paul Dano enters the movie as Riddler, the film becomes spellbinding and terrifying. He wears a mask for most of the film but he executes a projected howl with his voice as he speaks that creeps into one’s spine.
Colin Farrell as The Penguin almost steals the show. The Batman is an extremely serious film sometimes to a fault. But Farrell’s execution of Oswald (or Oz) is menacing yet hilarious when threatened.
Should you see The Batman in theaters?
This is the first film involving Batman that can be described as “not for everyone.” And that is said with the knowledge of The Dark Knight. This is a thriller like the movie Prisoners is a thriller. It’s a noir thriller like Eastern Promises and Memento are noir thrillers.
It is carefully paced and steadily reestablishes Batman to his detective roots. And while it might be way too long for its own good, The Batman remains braver and bolder than ever.
The Batman begins Thursday night screenings tonight with a wide release tomorrow.