REVIEW – “The Batman”

There are few characters who have been as adapted as many times, in various different ways, as Batman throughout the years. It’s because of this repetition of the character that many of us, no matter how big of fans we are, might not expect the latest Batman film to be refreshing to the comic-book genre. But as it turns out, old is new again in Matt Reeves’ The Batman – a pulp, neo-noir detective story that harkens back to the caped crusader’s investigative roots. From the moment the film begins with a unique visual style, depicting a grizzly murder – it’s evident that this latest Batman flick has more in common with something like Se7en or Zodiac than it does the likes of anything in the DCEU or MCU. It’s amazing how simplicity and character focus can make a film in the superhero genre feel like a breath of fresh air, but The Batman is resoundingly one of the finest superhero films in recent memory and perhaps the most faithful and ambitious take on the character of Batman put to film thus far.

The film follows Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) in his second year as Batman. Matt Reeves wisely decides to not show you how he got his suit or the night his parents were murdered – picking the story up when he’s still fresh into his crime-fighting career, but not totally inexperienced or unknown to the city of Gotham. This gives this film a glorious sweet-spot of possibility and already-established groundwork to play in. Batman is already pals with Jim Gordon (played by the always excellent Jeffrey Wright) but the rest of the GCPD ranges from skepticism of his methods to genuine distrust anytime he steps onto a crime scene. It’s apparent that not only the police, politicians, and citizens of Gotham don’t quite view him as a hero yet, but Bruce Wayne himself is already questioning whether or not he is a positive force for change that he believes Gotham sorely needs. When The Riddler (Paul Dano) starts murdering important figures in Gotham, Bruce is forced to reconcile with his methods, as well as his own family legacy.

All of these plot elements only make-up half of what Reeves’ film has to offer in terms of how sprawling the story and characters are – as we still have interconnecting plots with The Penguin (played by Colin Farrell, who delightfully chews the scenery in every single scene he’s in), Gotham City’s notorious crime-boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro, who is particularly great in the role) and of course the mysterious Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz) who genuinely steals every scene she’s in and feels as if she’s the heart of the film, holding the whole picture together with her incredible chemistry with Robert Pattinson’s Batman. The two of them share such a vibrant, magnetic connection in each and every frame they inhabit together – and it only helps that Matt Reeves fundamentally understands the differences, similarities, and quirks of both characters near flawlessly. If you’re a fan of this dynamic from the comics, you really couldn’t ask for a better take than what’s presented here.

It’s abundantly clear from the get-go that Reeves understands the character of Bruce Wayne/Batman flawlessly – not necessarily just as a hero, but as a flawed and traumatized man who is looking to strike fear into the criminals of Gotham City. The film brilliantly epitomizes both Bruce’s heroism as well as his sometimes flawed ideology, with a screenplay that challenges not only Bruce Wayne, but the audience’s perception of him as we go on down this rabbit hole with him. Pattinson does so much with this material, delivering a Batman for the ages. I’ve always viewed the character of Batman as not an alter-ego to Bruce Wayne, but the true identity that is hidden behind the rage and trauma that Bruce Wayne bottles up inside during the daytime. Anytime he is forced to attend functions or interact with people as Bruce Wayne, it’s simply in-service to how Batman can gain from it. And this is all fully-realized with this incarnation of the character; from the brute force of the action, to the detective elements, to the resounding humanity underneath the cape and cowl – this is the definitive depiction of Batman for years to come.

This is all glued together by the wonderful cinematography from DP Greig Fraser, who knows how to make Gotham feel like both a lived-in city as well as make the colors and moods pop when need be. Matt Reeves has an incredible vision for this incarnation of Batman, delivering an exhilarating, thematically rich, and character-focused story that delivers big-time on the action, story, and spectacle. It feels like a miracle of blockbuster filmmaking that somehow tells a perfectly singular, isolated story that epitomizes Bruce Wayne/Batman but brilliantly lays the groundwork for world-building without feeling like its trying too hard to set-up a sequel. I’m over the moon for this film. Bravo, Matt Reeves. Bravo.


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