Even under the scope of The Batman review, its production story is almost as fascinating as the film itself. Over 9 years of development, we saw a change in stars, directors, and producers – all with the departure of Ben Affleck. With new director, Matt Reeves, later announcing a rework of the story and removing it from the DC Extended Universe of films entirely, expectations only became more of a diverse mix between the hopeful and the sceptical. Thankfully, those numerous delays have paid off.
In short, The Batman is fantastic. Transcending beyond the familiar mould of a superhero movie into an intense psychological detective thriller. This is without a doubt the best live action Batman film since The Dark Knight.
What is the Batman About?
Two years after setting out as Gotham’s vigilante, the Batman is regarded as a symbol of fear. Both in the hearts of both criminals and citizens alike. While crime is just as if not more rampant, common thieves will look up to the Bat Signal in the sky, then gaze at the dark alleyways. As if there’s always a Boogeyman lurking in the night. Eventually, an unlucky bad guy will hear the weighted, almost booming footsteps of a dark creature marching forward. Soon, the armoured hero emerges from the shadows, mercilessly punishing those who do wrong.
Just as he starts to wonder if he can ever make a real difference, Batman is brought into a string of serial killings by the Riddler: who is targeting the city’s supposedly nefarious elite, whilst leaving ominous riddles to keep the hero on the trail. As a result, he’s made to go ever deeper down a rabbit hole of corruption.
The Tone and Story – A heavy, Multi-layered Detective Thriller
From the get-go, The Batman holds no punches in establishing the setting. In this case, that setting is an uncensored depiction of a cesspool city in need of a hero. Past Batman films have made Gotham appear sleek and clean by comparison. By that contrast, they more or less glossing over the city’s ground-level, poverty-ridden elements. In The Batman, however, the depravity and the corruption that stemmed it, is front and centre – painting you the picture of why even the Police force is desperate enough to let a masked vigilante do as he pleases.
In that sense, Gotham City is truly its own character. It’s a murky, grimy and gritty canvas for the story to unfold. It’s even complimented by the audibly euphoric score by Michael Giacchino. There are hard-hitting action scenes sprinkled throughout. However, The Batman at its core is an eery and sometimes terrifying psychological detective thriller – in league with classics like Seven at the forefront, with blaring similarities to the real-life Zodiac killer right under the surface.
As the mystery progresses, the narrative begins to branch off into other story elements and introduce new players as parts start to unfold. Nevertheless, the suspenseful unease with the threat of its captivatingly haunting main antagonist never leaves. Always present right until the end. Although eventually incorporating various shifting parts, The Batman’s story is so well-paced in the manner of a comic book, you’ll barely feel its hefty almost 3-hour runtime. Even if you do manage to feel slightly disjointed along the way – with the plot’s various riddles and clues evolving into a metaphorically interwoven tapestry – a surprise twist around the case, or Batman/Bruce Wayne’s personal journey itself draws you right back in.
The Best Part Though…
The best part is that at some point, all of the pieces fall right into place. Any anticipation you might have felt up until then is replaced by an adrenaline-fuelled fascination and investment right towards the credits. For many, it will be what’s arguably the most exciting Batmobile chase scene ever put to film. For others, it will be entirely based on your own personal investment in the character and the world of its source material. No matter which way, you’ll be hooked.
The Characters – Is Robert Pattinson a good Batman?
As Cloverfield and the final two Planet of the Apes reboot films made clear, Matt Reeves has a good eye for casting – seeing in his performers well in advance what others cannot
First and foremost, that fact lies biggest with Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Since better honing his craft over the years in indie films like Good Time and The Lighthouse, Pattinson has risen above and beyond his old reputation as the sparkly vampire boy in Twilight. Now, he’s brought an angry, brilliant-but-reckless, and socially reclusive Bruce Wayne. Against this filthier and darker Gotham City, even the Dark Knight won’t be immune to its crushing weight. He only feels like his true self behind the mask – being a reflection of the city itself.
What About the rest of the cast in the batman?
The remainder of the cast is brilliant in no matter which way you look. Nevertheless, the obvious standouts are the various introductions to this latest Batman’s rogues gallery. Zoë Kravitz adds an abundance of substance to the finest live-action take on Selina Kyle’s Catwoman ever. Made all the better by fantastic chemistry with Pattinson. Paul Dano’s Riddler carries the same weight in the opposite direction. The Swiss Army Man actor is enthrallingly unhinged and terrifying from the moment he first creepily shifts his eyes in the shadows, waiting to strike one of his victims.
Colin Farrell absolutely smashed expectations even higher than where we set them after the original trailer, where we first saw him as Ozwald Cobblepot/The Penguin. Then, making for what’s almost the opposite in a dark and gritty buddy cop movie, is Jeffrey Wright’s Jim Gordan. Utilising Wright’s long experience in dramatically heavy roles, he brings a sense of grounded humanity to the jaded but hopeful GCPD officer.
Alfred was the only character that really felt missed. Played wonderfully by Andy Serkis, Batman’s butler was sadly kept to what felt like the furthest of backseats. On the other hand, when that relationship between Alfred and Bruce is briefly put under the spotlight, it’s simply one of the most heartfelt. It’s a scene where after so much of the film is drenched in darkness, it’s almost like a glimmer of light, enough to bring a tear to your eye.
The Batman Review – Is the Batman worth your time?
The Batman shares a lot of DNA with comics, games, and animated features of the past. From Long Halloween, Year One, and the Arkham series, to having even story similarities with the Telltale games. Even so, Matt Reeves has also injected traits of harrowing psychological thrillers to create a Batman story that’s totally original and refreshing for both casual and veteran fans – standing triumphantly on its own.
By the end of its runtime, you’ll feel like you’ve sat through an exhausting roller coaster ride. But, in the hours and days that follow you coming away from this haunting concoction, you’ll still be peeling back this detective film’s many layers like the Dark Knight himself. With each passing thought, you’ll get all the more excited to see it again.