“It’s not just a call… It’s a warning.”
From Warner Bros. Pictures comes Matt Reeves’ “The Batman,” starring Robert Pattinson in the dual role of Gotham City’s vigilante detective and his alter ego, reclusive billionaire Bruce Wayne.
Two years of stalking the streets as the Batman (Robert Pattinson), striking fear into the hearts of criminals, has led Bruce Wayne deep into the shadows of Gotham City. With only a few trusted allies—Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis), Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright)—amongst the city’s corrupt network of officials and high-profile figures, the lone vigilante has established himself as the sole embodiment of vengeance amongst his fellow citizens.
When a killer targets Gotham’s elite with a series of sadistic machinations, a trail of cryptic clues sends the World’s Greatest Detective on an investigation into the underworld, where he encounters such characters as Selina Kyle/aka Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), Oswald Cobblepot/aka the Penguin (Colin Farrell), Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), and Edward Nashton/aka the Riddler (Paul Dano). As the evidence begins to lead closer to home and the scale of the perpetrator’s plans becomes clear, Batman must forge new relationships, unmask the culprit, and bring justice to the abuse of power and corruption that has long plagued Gotham City.
It was a rainy summer day when Robert Pattinson’s casting had been officially announced back in 2019. DC fans and the internet alike drove in volumes to Twitter to protest the “sparkly vampire” from Twilight being selected as the new Batman, but I maintained the notion that he was the best choice for the role and counted down the days till he would prove me right. Come the end of this week, that day will emerge for fans worldwide.
As you likely know thanks to Reeves’ words, this feature begins with a young Batman, and is not a full origin story, but Bruce is not yet the iconic character we know and love. This makes sense: Bruce didn’t become the Batman in a week, nor did he stay the same throughout his career; he must have developed, he must have changed and grown, yet we have never truly seen that on the big screen – The Batman marks the first chapter of that. From past adaptations, all the iterations we’ve seen feature Bruce wearing the Batman mask at times; this time, Batman wears the Bruce mask – this is evident from the opening scene. Rather than donning a playboy persona, Bruce keeps true to his mindset, adopting a depressed, reclusive attitude. It seems this story (and any follow-ups) will be a long-form origin story for Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne to eventually become the caped crusader from the comics, and this is true for the entire ensemble, as will become apparent.
Speaking of masks, perhaps the most prominent theme in the movie is the question of identity. When the Riddler’s first look was revealed, many fans criticised the uncharacteristic costume and the use of a mask, but the mask is vital to the theme. In this feature, wearing masks is not about hiding identities, it is about revealing them. As I spoke of Batman being Bruce’s true identity, the same can be said for the Riddler, and their dichotomy is the heart of the film. It’s this meaning that never allows the pace to falter – the movie does not feel remotely close to three hours. This theme wouldn’t be anywhere near as impactful if it was not sold by the pairing of Pattinson and Dano.
While every cast member goes above and beyond, the standout has to be Paul Dano. Dano sells this intelligent, unhinged, childlike Edward Nashton and it gave me chills. Dano also sells the fearless, terrifying, unbeatable Riddler: two characters, two performances. Robert Pattinson too adopts this philosophy and perfects his on-screen chemistry with every supporting cast member, most notably with Zoe Kravitz’s Catwoman, who explores her own storyline that makes you root for her. Colin Farrell not only has the perfect look through the use of prosthetics, but nails the performance. Andy Serkis is the Alfred this feature needed – I was a little hesitant on this at first as I had always seen Alfred as a harmless-appearing butler with a renegade side, but Serkis was the perfect choice for this Alfred. The entire supporting cast give it their all, and I have never seen such a quintessentially assembled cast in any form of media.
The Batman is a feature so well cast that even the extras have standout performances.
The cast make sure not to play their characters from the comics, but to take a step back as they become them. This isn’t a Batman origin story; this is a Gotham origin story. Gotham, in fact, is portrayed better than any past feature: yes, portrayed. Much like the television show of the same name, Gotham is written as its own character and given an identity on screen, and Liverpool was a great casting choice for the role. As Andy Serkis reiterated in an interview, the film is timeless, and that is in large part due to Gotham’s style. The architecture (both classic and modern) only adds to the tone of the city, uplifting the movie’s noir feel. The city’s identity was one of the few flaws in The Dark Knight trilogy, and Reeves made sure to correct this from the very first scene. The world goes hand-in-hand with the world-building, and while the film works as a one-off, the world-building sets up an entire universe very well. I highly anticipate both the Gotham PD and Penguin shows, as well as the inevitable sequel.
Despite my words on this iteration being an almost “proto-Batman” (or rather “proto-Bruce Wayne”), there are so many moments that made me giddy. Even shots from the trailer surprised me and carried so much more weight when played within the movie. In fact, these shots are so well produced by cinematographer Greig Fraser and compliment the tone of the movie so well, that The Batman is the most beautiful film I’ve ever seen. For Batman fans, especially fans of the Arkham games, this movie is a smorgasbord of some of the best Batman moments on-screen.
Reeves also follows suit in keeping the comic-book genre alive. The Batman is not a superhero movie, it isn’t even a Batman movie, it is an intelligent screenplay that chases its own ambitious story and draws elements from the Batman IP, but ultimately adapts them however it sees fit. As audiences are beginning to grow tired of what has now become standard of the genre, movie studios are beginning to adapt comic-book material into movies of other genres – this is an intelligent way of doing so but is adopted by so few filmmakers. Following such features as Logan and Joker, The Batman is a welcome addition to their ranks.
The Batman is up there among the better comic-adapted movies and a breath of fresh air in the genre. From the first act, it took the spot as my personal favourite Batman film. Perhaps it’s time to retire the “best Batman movie since The Dark Knight” and now set The Batman as the new staple.