With 2022 already being looked at as another stacked year for comic book movies, there will be sure winners on both sides of DC Comics and Marvel with its entertainment. Yet, it’s exciting enough to realize the massive potential for The Batman to be the top blockbuster everyone has been talking about for the last two years when that incredible trailer dropped online. And it’s been a ride to get where we are since it’s unfortunate not to see Ben Affleck involved anymore. But we’re looking into the future with a film taking place outside the DCEU for a change that’ll make its way into tons of conversations throughout the next few months.
What’s the Story: Batman (Robert Pattinson) ventures into Gotham City’s underworld when a sadistic killer, The Riddler (Paul Dano), leaves behind a trail of cryptic clues. As the evidence begins to lead closer to home and the scale of the perpetrator’s plans become clear, he must forge new relationships, unmask the culprit and bring justice to the abuse of power and corruption that has long plagued the metropolis.
Does it feel weird to be already getting another Batman movie? Well, as a longtime fan of the popular character from DC Comics created by Bob Krane and Will Finger, it was always bound to happen sooner or later with better results. Plus, this unexpectedly happens to be the biggest year for him with the 10th anniversary of The Dark Knight Rises, 30th anniversary of Batman Returns, the upcoming animated series Batman: Caped Crusader, and so much more. But the idea of this not being an origin story and starting the film having us learn he decides to be Gotham’s answer to justice two years in was the right move. And I was excited walking into the press screening because it was my most anticipated film of the entire year, but also nervous about how I will react before hearing anyone else the week after. Just before I walked and after it was over, I knew this wasn’t going to top Nolan’s trilogy, but I’m glad to say I really like The Batman and it wasn’t nowhere near a disappointment.
Hearing director Matt Reeves was going to be handling this property already had me onboard since I’ve always loved his work in the past with Cloverfield and the last two films in the Planet of the Apes reboot trilogy. You can usually trust a director to get a feel of what he’ll make his style of this character his way, and what he goes for here gives us a much-needed darker take that works to perfection to know he’s the right man to attempt another hit. The best thing I can easily say is that he never tried to replicate what other directors were brought on to do, whether good or bad. Where his inspiration to make this all happen was clearly from ’70s detective stories, and it was a nice blend of that a bit of Burton’s Batman and the classic comics of Year One and Ego that’s more serious and stays to be in contrast to what we’ve seen before in the Snyder Verse.
We now have Robert Pattinson as the latest actor to dawn on the cape and cowl this time around. An unexpected choice for Batman just three years ago, but I was one of those willing to give him a shot at portraying my favorite superhero. Because much like his Twilight co-star Kristen Stewart, I’ve moved past that phase of his career to realize he can give a good performance, which he has previously shown in Good Time and The Lighthouse. And with this being his most celebrated role to date, I never doubted him, to begin with, as Pattinson was pretty great here. However, I believe he was a fan of the comics before he was chosen, and this is where we see his Bruce Wayne as more of a brooding and reclusive man, less of the characteristic of a playboy, still trying to figure out his place as the Caped Crusader with the anger within him. His version of the character manages to be different from the others, keeping up with the fact he wouldn’t have been my first choice, but he perfectly nails it. You honestly believe him when he’s wearing the Batsuit and when he’s struggling when he is underneath, as disappearing when he becomes this person who strikes fear into the helpless citizens while immerging from the shadows when seeking out the answers he needs. To a surprising realization, there’s more of a character arc for Batman rather than Bruce Wayne.
And he’s very supportive with the rest of the ensemble which impressed me whenever they were onscreen. Zoë Kravitz was the ideal casting choice to be Selina Kyle/ Catwoman and watching her performance indicates clearly that she remains one of my biggest crushes and she didn’t disappoint. Even when she was to compete against Michelle Pfeiffer and Anne Hathaway, respectively, I wouldn’t say she out beats them, but she fuels each scene she’s in with her charisma. And anything involving her and Pattinson on-screen together showcases better chemistry than the other times we’ve seen these two characters. She’s a mysterious woman who’s gone through pain and fights for her life in this dangerous city, keeping the tradition in how Selina is complete as an antihero. As for our main villain, I think we got ourselves a great one in The Riddler, played by Paul Dano. Dano is still one of our most underrated actors working, and hearing him being offered the role of a familiar Batman baddie, I’ve always wanted to see being done right. And though I love Jim Carrey, he wasn’t on my level when he played the character 27 years ago when we now have an actor who made him terrifying. Of course, saying this might put me in the minority, but we’re looking at a memorable Batman movie villain that will stay fresh in my mind. Instead of making the character overly goofy with his riddles and wearing a bright green suit, I love the approach of making him serious and making him like the Zodiac killer, laying about these cryptic clues to mess with Batman’s mind that leads him down this rabbit hole. He had a great introduction and continues to be creepy and very interesting about what he has planned in his mind throughout.
No one in this universe could have played Jim Gordon like Jeffery Wright. It was also surprising has a lot of screen time when he’s working alongside Batman as a partner to solve this growing mystery, almost like the two were a Bernstein and Woodward pair type. John Turturro was better than I expected as crime lord Carmine Falcone. And the fact we have a completely unrecognizable Colin Farrell as Oswald “Oz” Cobblepot/ the Penguin was unbelievable. Huge props to the makeup department for making the flawless transformation of the Irish actor into this over-the-top mobster guy with the prosthetics and all.
From a technical standpoint, Greig Fraser’s cinematography was absolutely gorgeous on the big screen, which is an immense credit to the lighting in an otherwise dark-looking film and has got to be one of the most beautiful-looking superhero films in a while. And you’re always going to need the perfect music to match the mood of Batman, which is done so well by one of my favorite Oscar-winning composers, Michael Giacchino. The music represents the overall tone of what’s happening in the story through its style that can’t be complained about. Thankfully the score was available to listen to the day after I saw it because it was so great. The sound is almost on par with what Danny Elfman delivered back in the day. While the theme does play a lot throughout, it didn’t bother me since it needed to get stuck in my head for the remainder of the day. This is one of his best film scores yet this year.
As I was sitting in the theater, it did click with me that this wasn’t that concerned about being an action movie first. Of course, there’s a good amount of it here, but I like how The Batman was treated more of a big-budget mystery that had taking note of how David Fincher took care of Se7en and Zodiac. That didn’t need to copy the formula of the past iterations. This was finally playing more of how our hero on the “World’s Greatest Detective” angle hasn’t been explored too much. It’s more or less a neo-noir in the setting of the most realistic Gotham on-screen yet and in its storytelling, along with a lot of rain and voiceover. But when it needs to punch the energy up, the action sequences and the choreography brings the excitement to the table in every one of them. The car chase scene shown in the marking of Batman chasing down Penguin in his excellent muscle car Batmobile was the moment I was anticipating the most and I couldn’t have been happier in the filmmaking. Will some won’t find the third act all that amazing? Maybe so. But it instead went more on the practical effects side rather than going all out on being visual effects-heavy like how we’ve been tons of times before in superhero movies. Even a friend of mine said this didn’t have your typical third act climax where it didn’t involve heavy CGI like we’ve seen tons of times in other DC or MCU outings, and I totally agreed with him.
After this first viewing and I plan on seeing it again on opening day, a couple of issues were in the back of my mind that could change after a second viewing. That’s not to say it was bad since it still kept my attention on the screen. Some won’t even notice it’s a long film, clocking in at 175 minutes. The first half had me hooked in setting up the main story, while the pacing could’ve been stronger near the end of the second act. That said, everything is wrapped up boldly once we reach the climax, although I wouldn’t mind trimming it by 30 minutes. And Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth is another great actor playing Wayne’s trusty butler, but I guess I wanted more from him. Is it better than The Dark Knight? It’s not quite up there to be labeled a masterpiece yet since nothing will ever, ever top Nolan’s crowning achievement. Time may tell once I see it again. The fear I have is feeling we’re going to have another divisive Batman movie on our hands. Though the conversations online probably won’t be as annoying back when Batman V Superman wasn’t as good as we thought, I predict it will be more positive in terms of critics and audiences based on the impact immediately.
I’ve officially caught my second viewing on Friday morning, excited to see it again after waiting for a whole week. Goodness, I’m glad to report I loved it even more. Again, Reeves knows how to deliver an unforgettable Batman film that has him understand Gotham and the main character in the best way possible, almost different than that we’ve seen before. All the aspects I mentioned and loved before remained the same: The flawless cast, action, musical score, etc. Some dumb complaints after the reactions came out were towards it being too dark and not having a ton of laughs. Did they want a family-friendly picture in front of them? The fact that it’s a darker story shouldn’t be your problem, and there were a few sprinkled moments of dark humor that worked. And seeing it in IMAX enhanced the experience better during this round, especially during the chase scene that had me grasping my fists. Though the only complaint I still have is that it’s too long, the length didn’t bother me this time except for maybe two scenes. The third act might not have been what some expected, but I still seemed to like it, despite being a tiny bit rushed. Just after this viewing, I would go as far as to say this ranks third behind The Dark Knight and Batman Begins as my favorite Batman movies. Sue me.
Overall, it’s too early to call The Batman one of the greatest comic book films of all-time, but my immediate reaction after walking out of the theaters was being fulfilled with what we got. Reeves tackled a different and grounded approach to fit this character, and it makes for one thrilling standalone film fans will enjoy. Maybe a tad too long and not perfect, but you’re going to fall for Pattinson, Kravitz, and Dano’s respective performances. This universe is already expanding with its plan to develop two HBO Max spin-off series. Hopefully, if the response to this is better than we expected, we could be looking at a potential sequel Reeves already has in store for the future.