The Batman Review
After years of waiting, Matt Reeves' The Batman is finally in theaters. After Christopher Nolan's masterful The Dark Knight trilogy, I felt like the character of Batman could have been left alone for a good while. Unfortunately, that's not how Hollywood works, and being that Batman is one of DC's most popular and profitable heroes, it wasn't long before he was recast and put in another movie. First, it was Ben Affleck in 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and then again in 2017's Justice League. Both films were critically panned and Affleck chose not to continue on with his planned Batman film, so plans to continue on with him were scrapped and the series was rebooted once again. This time Warner Brothers tapped Matt Reeves, fresh off his excellent work in the Planet of the Apes prequel trilogy (Reeves directed the second and third films in that trilogy) to direct a story about a young Batman at the start of his career.
While another Batman reboot felt unnecessary, once Matt Reeves was involved, I was totally on board. Like Christopher Nolan before him, Reeves keeps his version of Gotham grounded and gritty. Instead of another origin story, in The Batman, we are shown the vigilante hero Batman (Robert Pattinson) in the second year of his young career. This Bruce Wayne's alter ego hasn't quite figured everything out, but he is working with Lieutenant James Gordan (Jeffrey Wright) to help bring criminals to justice. When a series of public figures are murdered by a serial killer called The Riddler (Paul Dano,) the police find clues to a bigger puzzle--specifically left for Batman to solve. So, he must dive into the criminal underbelly of Gotham and solve the mysteries The Riddler lays out before another victim suffers, or worse...the entire city.
Reeves freshens things here up by playing up the detective element more so than any previous Batman film. In fact, this film is much more a noir film than it is a superhero film. As such, it's not the typical action-packed outing that one would expect from a tent-pole cape flick. But what it is--"Batman meets David Fincher"--is so much better than its cinematic superhero peers and much more refreshing. It also helps that Reeves assembled a fantastic cast to fill his Gotham with. Pattinson makes a fine Batman in his freshman outing (more about his Bruce later) and Paul Dano is a chilling Riddler. Zoë Kravitz is terrific as Catwoman, and she and Pattinson have sizzling chemistry. Their scenes are a real treat and I hope we see more of her in a sequel. Reliable as always, John Turturro and Jeffrey Wright both, are solid as always; Turturro playing slimy mob boss Carmine Falcone and Wright as Lieutenant Gordon who always has Batman's back. Perhaps my favorite performance though comes from Colin Farrell who is completely unrecognizable in the role of Penguin and steals every scene he's in.
For everything the film is trying to do, The Batman is exceptional. My only criticisms involve things the film doesn't do. As great as the film is, comparisons to Nolan's films are inevitable--especially as I found myself looking back to Batman Begins to fill in the narrative gaps this movie doesn't cover. That film does such a perfect job at telling the origins behind the hero; the how and why of the reason he gets to the point that he dons a cape. We come to know Christian Bale's Bruce and we understand his motivations. In The Batman, Pattinson actually hardly has much time playing Bruce Wayne at all, because his Bruce spends nearly all of his screen time as Batman. At this point in his life, he's a cold, withdrawn man and Batman is all he has. He keeps everyone, including the audience, at arms' length instead of letting us understand who he is. We never are quite privy to his humanity, though we do see flashes of it. As such, it's easy to be frustrated that we don't really feel like we have a handle on this version of the character even after three hours. Hopefully, we can delve more into Bruce and who he is in the sequels.
The most common criticism of the film I've seen is the runtime and its pacing--namely that some have felt there was a false ending where the audience feels like the movie is over, only for the movie to continue for another forty minutes afterward. This never was an issue for me, since I was well aware of the length going in, so when said "ending" happened, I knew we had a lot more movie to see. I can see where it might be jarring for some, but I was honestly never bored with The Batman. I was always captivated and thought the pacing worked perfectly to eventually lead us to a bigger threat for Gotham as a whole.
All in all, The Batman is truly impressive blockbuster filmmaking. While it's hard not to compare the film to Christopher Nolan's trilogy, The Batman carves out its own unique place for itself in the superhero's legacy and honestly, it's a spectacular entry. Matt Reeves proves that he was the perfect director to take on this hero and both fill Nolan's very large shoes, as well as step out from under his shadow. The Batman is Matt Reeves' own and I can't wait to see what he does with it next.