This review is spoiler-free.
Matt Reeves had an uncompromised vision of his Batman and Warner Bros. allowed him to execute it! It is because of this, that this movie doesn’t feel like a box-ticking Batman blockbuster. This feels very much like a studio having faith in its storytellers rather than trying to design a movie by committee. The end result was probably one of the best live-action Batman movies to date!
In Reeves’ world, the idea of ‘The Batman’ is still taking shape and is far from the final version that we all know and love. The ideologies and limits of the character are not yet established, nor are we at a year one level were everything is new, so it’s a beautiful balance of all these elements that lay the foundations for the character going forwards. On a similar note, the concept of who ‘Bruce Wayne’ is, is also a key theme interlinked with the Batman persona, but not as you’d expect. These personas are not actually in conflict as much and the way they play with the notion of ‘Batman is real, Bruce is the mask’ is such a refreshing take on a character with so much history.
As for the story elements, you can’t help but feel the subtle influence of comic book material such as The Long Halloween, Year One, Hush, and Ego. On top of that, there is a film influence of Seven and the real-world aspects of The Zodiac Killer all act as individual ingredients that, once added to Reeves and Craig’s script, help form the VERY tasty story! Even at three hours, this film doesn’t feel long and the quality of the writing, especially in terms of the pacing, just helps with the long runtime. But for me, as much as I loved the twists and turns of the main plot, one of the highlights was the individual journeys every character undertakes! Where a character starts, in contrast to where they end up, is done in such a clever way that, not only do they progress a character and set them up for the next adventure, but they also work in harmony with each other as well!
You will probably hear a lot of people talk about how dark and disturbing this movie and its characters are, which to be fair is accurate, but don’t let that fool you, this film is also very funny! Now, I’m not talking about the camp humour found in the likes of Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, but there is a dark and subtle take on comedy that is really a lot of fun – with special mention to Pattinson and Farrell, with the latter almost stealing the whole movie on this factor!
So, lets talk about the cast!
The more Robert Pattinson movies I’ve watched over the years, the more my excitement grew about his casting as Batman! Did he deliver the high standard I expected? Yes, and then some! Pattinson’s acting chops were never in question, and his performance allows you to invest so quickly into his character. He was both furious vengeance and incredibly calm in equal measure. I also think his ‘Bat-Voice’ was perfect! While I still love Ben Affleck’s Bats and Bruce, as I think he fits the older more jaded crime fighter, Pattinson is very much the younger Batman and Bruce Wayne trying to figure out who they are and who they want, or need, to be. And, so because of that, I think as of right now, Robert Pattinson is my favourite live-action Batman! Kevin Conroy’s animated and video game Batman will always be number one though!
Zoe Kravitz was another who I expected great things from, and she delivered! To be fair, I could say that about the entire cast as everyone was outstanding! She portrayed so much strength and independence with an undercurrent of fragility that was so wonderfully performed. Jeffrey Wright’s Gordon was uniquely fresh and the rapport between Wright and Pattinson just made for a more convincing Batman and Gordon – you felt their connection and brief history. While I wanted more scenes with Andy Serkis as Alfred, what he did have time to do in this movie was perfect! I love this take on Alfred and the relationship that fluctuates with Bruce throughout the movie – it’s totally compelling!
As for the villains, Paul Dano’s Riddler is going to occupy my thoughts for a long time, as his unsettling and outright terrifying performance is deserving of being in the same conversation of best Batman villains alongside Heath Ledger’s Joker – his performance was that good! As for Colin Farrell, who is unrecognisable as the Penguin, he goes close at times to steal the movie and this has more than solidified my excitement for his spin-off series!
Away from the story and characters, Michael Giacchino’s score for The Batman is easily my second favourite of all time, and the more I listen, the main theme closes in on that number one spot with every hour that passes. The use of the church bells is so reminiscent of the Arkham video games, which is probably why it connects with me so well. And to be honest, there are a lot of other elements taken from the Arkham series of games seen in other aspects of the movie. As well as the incredible score, the sound design throughout the movie was sublime! Whether that is hearing every inch of the suit movement in the rain or the unique sound of the Batmobile’s engine, this movie was an audible feast!
Finally, let’s talk about the visuals! I mean, from Rogue One to Dune, Greig Fraser has form for producing stunning visuals and the cinematography in The Batman is just as epic, albeit in a very different way from the two examples I have just mentioned! While both those films focused on the scale, Fraser and Reeves ensure that this version of Gotham City is incredibly claustrophobic! With every car or bike chase, you feel like you are touching the road. The sense of suffocation at times just goes hand in hand with the Riddler and the notion that he is closing his net around the city. The film is also incredibly practical and is much better for it!
So, here are a few final few thoughts about The Batman I wanted to mention:
This probably features my favourite every opening to a Batman movie and really sets the tone for what is about to follow.
- Batman spends at least half of the movie actually detecting, and not just sitting at the Bat-computer letting it do all the work – so for me that is a HUGE plus!
- The Batmobile hasn’t looked this good since Batman: The Animated Series.
- The important use of political and social themes of various recent groups and events to deliver extra power behind some of the film’s punches was very welcome.
The Batman is a dark and disturbing neo-noir detective thriller with an incredible story and astonishing performances supplemented with stunning visuals and sound design, resulting in one of the best, if not the best, live-action Batman movies to date!
What did you think of The Batman? Let us know in the comments or on our social media channels!