Batman is one of the most recognizable characters of the past 100 years. Whether it’s “WHAM” and “POW” text cards, a Bat Credit Card, screaming about Martha, or detailing the material of the batsuit, we’ve seen plenty of iterations of the Dark Knight. But after 2017’s Justice League, the hero fell out of favor and into the redevelopment cycle. After nearly five years without the Caped Crusader, he made a triumphant return to the big screen on March 4th when Matt Reeves’ The Batman hit theaters.
The Batman is one of the best superhero movies in years. The movie shines in so many aspects that previous Batman movies have failed. Gotham has a perfect balance between comic-book-style surreal cityscapes from 1989 Batman and the grounded realism of the Nolan trilogy (and the Fincher-esque constant rain only enhances it). Side characters like Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis) both shine and go toe-to-toe with Nolan’s portrayals of the characters.
Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of both Batman and Bruce Wayne is almost unnerving in how lonely he feels when he’s without the cowl and cape. It takes clear inspiration from the Batman: Year One comic and Pattinson encapsulates almost everything you would want out of a young Batman. It was nice to not see the Wayne parents die for the millionth time and to get a different take on a hero who’s just starting out.
All the antagonists, including Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz), shine in their roles. Penguin’s (Colin Farrell) epic chase, showcased in the early trailers, was really amplified by just how dirty and cool the new Batmobile looks. Kravitz perfectly portrays the dualism Catwoman often shows in the comics while her chemistry with Pattinson’s Batman is electric. And Dano’s creepy, psychopathic depiction of the Riddler, which is definitely an improvement on Jim Carrey’s 1995 Riddler, really grounds this movie. Although it still has its fantastical elements, the inclusion of such dark and plausible villains within the world. Every aspect of the characters, including their costumes, weapons, and vehicles make sense and serve as a masterclass from director Matt Reeves on how to world-build.
All-in-all, The Batman really shines. It matches up with Nolan’s The Dark Knight for best in the character’s history.
*WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE BATMAN START BELOW*
The Perfect Moments
I normally look down on people that clap in movies, but I was almost one of those people during this one. The number of absolutely epic moments in the second and third acts is more than I can count in any other recent superhero movie. The Batmobile intro as the Penguin chase began was one of my highlights. The gritty, scrappy look of the car perfectly suits this world and the blue flames were absolutely electrifying.
Paul Dano’s portrayal after his arrest provided a perfect foil to Pattinson’s moody acting as Batman. Both perfectly showcased two sides of the same isolated orphan coin and the interrogation scene at Arkham was one of my favorite moments of the film. Dano screaming “BRUCE WAYNE!” at the top of his lungs and transitioning to singing “Ave Maria” before you could say ‘riddle me this’ was absolutely amazing. And on top of Dano’s unhinged performance, Pattinson’s angry and depressingly lonely demeanor only added to the uncertainty of the scene. Watching the two together was one of the most exciting instances of conversation I’ve seen on film.
The (Slight) Flaw
I can’t ignore the predictability of the climax though. Even though it was exciting to watch a younger Batman fail to beat the big bad was a unique approach, it was hard to pretend like you didn’t know it was coming. This predictability was really the only miss for me. The aforementioned environment of Gotham and acting really brought this one together. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the astounding score. I’ve had “Something in the Way” on repeat every night I’ve driven home this week (maybe it’s a bit of wishful thinking). The triumphant yet dark theme Michael Giacchino put together for the titular hero was being hummed by just about everyone as they left the theater at my showing.
Where to Go Next
I am a bit obsessive when it comes to Batman, so I definitely have my preferences on which villains should enter the series next. Part of what makes The Batman so great is the relative realism of the villains in the world. The Riddler’s Zodiac-inspired antics and the Penguin’s more plausible backstory (as opposed to being an actual penguin) really drive the story forward and make the film more enjoyable. That said, this approach rules out a decent amount of villains from the Dark Knight’s rogues gallery. While I would love to see a live-action Clayface or Killer Croc (which would be even cooler since Gotham is flooded), I question how plausible those characters are within Reeves’ world.
We already know Penguin will be getting his own HBO Max series so he is a safe bet to be included. Of course, there was also the inclusion of Barry Keoghan’s already-terrifying-looking Joker at the end of this year’s film. His inclusion has sparked some debate amongst fans, and I am decidedly in the camp of not wanting to see him play a prominent role yet. He has been so constant in Batman media lately, it is hard to want to see him again soon, especially since he has Heath Ledger’s iconic performance in The Dark Knight to live up to.
Reeves has already mentioned wanting to do Mr. Freeze which is one villain I have at the top of my list. I think a Mr. Freeze and Penguin-driven movie could recreate the same magic this one did. Seeing Freeze lay waste to the flooded city and Penguin battle with someone like Salvatore Maroni for power in the wake of Falcone’s murder has the potential to be really epic.
Whether it’s humming “Something in the Way” on a loop for the past few days or my YouTube being inundated with Batman reviews, this movie has stuck with me. It is truly one of the best Batman movies in his history, and it is totally able to go head-to-head with The Dark Knight. Wherever this team goes with the next movie will assuredly be great and I can’t wait to see where that is.
If I could give The Batman a 6/5 I would. Full marks to this epic return of the Caped Crusader.
Also, if you want to talk about this movie, please come find me in the hallway, I need someone to keep breaking it down with.
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