PG Score: 8/10
The Batman was released in theaters on 3/4/22
Co-writer/director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) serves up a satisfying combination of comprehensive character study, rich noir, and big-budget action sequences. Backed by a successful trial by fire for Robert Pattinson and a stellar supporting cast, The Batman is the best adaptation of the comic book legend since Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.
The latest iteration of The Caped Crusader sees him plunging into Gotham's underbelly to investigate puzzling pieces of evidence left at the crime scenes of The Riddler (Paul Dano). Encountering adversaries at every turn, Batman (Robert Pattinson) teams up with Lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz) to untangle the conspiracy at the heart of the slayings. Together, the trio fights to stop the maniacal mastermind and root out the corruption plaguing the city.
Reeves’ construction of the criminal underworld’s inner workings is simple, yet effective. He paints Gotham with traditional strokes in some areas but focuses on less familiar shades in others. The filmmaker’s narrative style fortifies the central mystery, which only becomes more intriguing as the plot progresses. This is especially impressive considering the only lag in the three-hour runtime comes in the final third, and even then, it is minimal. His worldbuilding methods also allow for The Bat’s previously underutilized detective skills to step out from the shadows. It is refreshing to see such an emphasis placed on his intellect, rather than solely his brawn.
The Batman dedicates a great deal of time to the bond between the titular figure and franchise staple Jim Gordon. The former provides the Gotham City Police Department with plenty of assistance throughout, and the officer’s reliance on him is an integral piece of the puzzle. The characters’ respect and admiration for one another is palpable, and their working relationship is certainly a highlight. The same can be said for Batman and Catwoman, who make a powerful pair. While the vengeful vigilantes have different motivations for venturing down the rabbit hole, their level of commitment to the cause is equal. The chemistry between Kravitz and Pattinson is undeniable and only strengthened by Reeves’ interpretation of the crime-fighters. He avoids clichés seen in many other superhero movies and harnesses the romance to deepen the engrossing story.
While the action is not the main draw, the frequent rumbles do not disappoint. The dim lighting obscures some of the combat, but the choreography still shines as The Dark Knight lets loose all sorts of punishment on his foes. His fighting style is fast, ferocious, and unforgiving. The protagonist shows less mercy than past versions and aims to instill fear in his opponents. Equipped with state-of-the-art armor, he shrugs off countless blows in his efforts to incapacitate his many enemies. Catwoman works well with him in battle as she opts for speed over power. Her strikes are quicker than her burly partner, and her agility makes her a tough target for the opposition. The Bat and The Cat are one deadly duo and an absolute nightmare for all those who stand against them.
Surprisingly, the best set piece in The Batman does not come in the form of a brawl. The most exciting segment is a car chase that showcases the colossal budget, superb sound design, and the best use of the Batmobile to date. It is an exhilarating sequence that sneaks up on the audience and refuses to let off the gas for even a second. The cinematography is excellent throughout, but it is on another level as Batman tears through Gotham behind the wheel. This also applies to Michael Giacchino’s top-notch score that hits a peak decibel in the pursuit.
Given the abundance of hype surrounding the hiring of Robert Pattinson, it is safe to say expectations are high. Viewers can release a collective sigh of relief as the Good Time actor produces a praiseworthy performance. The vast majority of his time is spent in the suit instead of as the masked savior’s somber alter ego, Bruce Wayne. He convincingly demonstrates the hero’s fierce brand of justice along with his constant anguish. His layered, thoughtful acting adds depth to the ethos of The Defender of Gotham, and his presence is a force to witness on the big screen. Pattinson is among the best to play the character and hopefully, he will return.
The supporting cast is loaded with big names, and the A-list talent is an absolute pleasure to watch. Paul Dano stands out towards the top of the pack for his captivating take on The Riddler. Despite a slight lack of screen time, he delivers a memorable depiction of the unhinged villain. Zoë Kravitz excels as Selina Kyle aka Catwoman. The surging star is a certified scene-stealer as she turns in the best performance of her budding career. Jeffrey Wright is equally strong as Jim Gordon. The Westworld favorite clicks with Pattinson and brings a quiet intensity to the seasoned GCPD member. Colin Farrell makes for an interesting Oswald Cobblepot. The Penguin is not heavily featured, but the actor succeeds in eliciting enthusiasm for his upcoming TV series. John Turturro is appropriately menacing as mob boss Carmine Falcone. Finally, Andy Serkis gives a balanced portrayal of Alfred.
A Stellar Beginning to Reeves' Universe
The Batman is a compelling cinematic achievement that prioritizes engaging storytelling over flashy fistfights. Thanks to a gripping screenplay, dynamite performances, and striking cinematography, the gamble pays off. The standalone film carves out a top spot in the DC food chain and sets the table for more to come. Matt Reeves has multiple spin-off projects in the works, and the world anxiously awaits his next addition to the universe.
PG Score: 8/10