The Batman Review — Spoiler Free.
Batman has always existed as a mysterious character in his movies. Just when we think there’s some introspective nature to explore with his dark path and trajectory of vigilantism, there’s a villain who rises up to distract. It’s how we get a Bruce Wayne who shrugs off commentary on his heroism with one-liners like “I’m rich” and “I’m not wearing hockey pads.”
This is why Matt Reeves’s The Batman is refreshingly different. It pulls more of the caped crusader under the magnifying glass rather than justifying the antihero as a necessary evil. It’s a picture that starts with a hero who feels he is vengeance and ends with him realizing there needs to be something more.
A Younger, Brooding Batman
For the role of Batman, Robert Pattinson steps into the role. He plays Bruce Wayne as a man who is now on his second year as Batman. All that time spent all night fighting crime is starting to get to him.
As we learn from either his monologue or journals, Bruce is finding his crime-fighting skills have not improved Gotham City. Crime is still rampant and corruption is higher than its ever been. With a mayoral election on the horizon, tensions are incredibly high for reform.
Alfred (Andy Serkis) more or less exists as the Alfred we’ve grown to accept from the movies. He’s cunning and loyal but also highly skeptical and worried about Bruce. However, there are some darker secrets that even he’s afraid to reveal to his master about the Wayne family.
A Killer With Clues
Batman’s latest case involves a string of murders occurring in the city. The serial killer at large is targeting high-profile political figures. All of them hold some level of control as well as some dark secrets they don’t want to be unearthed.
The villain behind these vicious slaughters and traps is The Riddler (Paul Dano), leaving his calling card for Batman at every crime scene. Relayed through Lt James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), Batman attempts to solve the cryptic series of clues. However, he might not be ready for the dark secrets that relate to him as well.
But Riddler’s plan isn’t so simple as making Gotham pay for its mafia ties or revealing Batman’s true identity. There’s a bigger story at play about the sins of the father, the concept of vengeance, and the faith in those at the top to something for those at the bottom. These crucial aspects are treated less like grim antihero pepperings and more as the driving forces behind this dark tale.
The Bat and the Cat
Also involved in the investigation is Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), better known as Catwoman. She won’t so much don the cat outfit but she will play a crucial role. When one of her friends goes mysteriously missing, she joins Batman in unearthing the disgusting underworld of corrupt politicians and mafia families.
There’s also a romance between the two but it’s perhaps more mysterious on Selina’s part. She feels more like the enigma of the relationship, existing more as a challenge to Batman’s no-kill, no-guns policy. Their love feels more like a conflicting nature of ideology than a matter of vigilante extremes, their romances appearing more conflicting than tragic.
Batman vs. The Mob
Batman will also be tackling The Penguin (Colin Farrell) but more as a supporting antagonist in his case. I really loved how this Batman villain is posed more as a calculating nightclub owner than a monster of umbrellas and monocles. He makes for a great player in this picture, existing almost exclusively as the corrupt owner of the Iceberg Lounge, where politicians and mafia men go indulge vice.
The whole premise of Batman solving a mystery while beating up gangsters makes for a rather compelling thriller. It feels a bit refreshing that Batman’s enemy is less of a Gotham-must-fall terrorist and more of a serial killer bound by making the corrupters pay for their sins. And, thankfully, his motives have an air of just in terms of how horrible the city has become.
That being said, this Batman film does fall back on a few familiar elements it could stand to lose. I wish I could say the film doesn’t end with some apocalyptic attempt to throw Gotham City into chaos but it does. I wish it didn’t tease other villains for future films but it does.
There are also a few bits of dialogue here and there that feel as though you’ve heard them many times before. At the very least, there’s some deeper questioning of their grander meaning. This picture has the guts to pose the question of how horrible vengeance can be beyond just being Batman’s cool catchphrase.
For being Batman’s second year on the job, he feels refreshingly restrained. He reduces his gadgets to the essentials for combatting a mafia scheme, ranging from recording eye contacts to grappling hooks. There’s no shark repellent required for this case!
There’s also the obligatory appearance of the Batmobile but in a very believable version for having armor and nitro boosters. It makes for a great car chase between Batman and the Penguin, ending in quite the intimidating confrontation. Having this sequence in the rain makes it all the more exciting.
Batman vs. Batman
I think the best aspect of such a picture is how postmodern it is of Batman and his influence on Gotham City. The film starts him off as someone who has grown comfortable with the role. As the film progresses, however, it becomes more obvious that he’s not doing enough in terms of his motives and his actions.
This angle always felt lacking in other Batman movies and here it’s pushed right up to the front of the story. There are glimmers of hope that Batman can stand up for the downtrodden rather than just keep punching. There are many moments where he finds himself questioning his very presence, as when he beats up some intimidating punks and their victim can only speak to the antihero with a “don’t hurt me.”
Conclusion: The Batman
This may be one of my favorite Batman movies for presenting angles lesser seen in the other pictures. It’s dark and brooding, sure, complete with a deeply moody soundtrack that comes as a big surprise from composer Michael Giacchino. But it’s also highly critical of Batman as a character and pushes him through a real arc.
This postmodern angle may not be everybody’s cup of Bat-tea. This is especially true if you’re only in this franchise for which Batman villain they’ll showcase next. But if you’re seeking a Batman that provides a more emotional and morally-questioning lens on the central character, this is the most Batman-centric of Batman movies.
Did you see The Batman? How does it stack up next to other Batman movies? Let us know in the comments below.
The Batman is playing in movie theaters on March 4th.