Note that this review contains brief and limited spoilers for “The Batman” (2022).
Who doesn’t know Batman’s origins at this point? As a child, Bruce Wayne’s parents are murdered, giving way to Wayne’s eventual transformation into a crime-fighting vigilante known as Batman. When it became announced that Matt Reeves was writing a new reboot of the franchise starring “Twilight” star Robert Pattinson, the last thing anybody needed was another origin story or reimagining of the Joker. Reeves needed to bring something fresh to the table if he wanted to make an impact, and to say he did would be an understatement.
The Batman franchise has always been on the darker end of superhero films, but Gotham City has never been this gritty. The film opens on Halloween night and displays the rampant crime that is still present within Gotham, harkening decades worth of political messaging that claims “renewal” is on the way. However, far more influential than any political activism or police presence is that familiar light in the sky, shaping the silhouette of a bat. The opening monologue will go down in history as one of the most electric film beginnings of all time, with Pattinson noting that Batman must choose his battles.
It becomes quickly apparent that this Batman film is not a superhero movie. When Batman is called to the scene of a crime – the assassination of the current Gotham mayor – he finds a message addressed to him from the Riddler, who claims to have the goal of revealing all the corruption within the higher echelons of society. As the film progresses and more influential individuals are found dead, Batman turns into a detective noir as Pattinson is forced to investigate the crime scenes in search of the next clues. And the Riddler obliges by leaving them for him, stringing him along in a three-hour epic that keeps you captivated the entire way through.
Of course, all the characters fulfill their roles perfectly. Pattinson expertly succeeds at portraying Batman to the point where Wayne almost feels like the alter ego. He is comfortable only when he is prowling the streets of Gotham City in the dead of night. It’s an almost unsettling approach to the character, forgoing any sort of elitism that you would expect from someone with near-superhuman capabilities. Instead, Pattinson makes Batman feel like he never truly understood how to overcome the tragedy of his parents’ deaths.
His supporting cast is equally impressive. Zoe Kravitz emerges as Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman with unmistakable chemistry with Pattinson. Kravitz doesn’t portray an overtly sexy portrayal of the classic romantic interest of the caped crusader, but instead as a fellow pursuer of justice. The two are more alike than they are different, and it leads to a fantastic duo dynamic. Jeffrey Wright acts as the familiar Commissioner Gordon, but before his ascension to the top of the ranks. Wright’s buddy-cop synergy with Pattinson is a large part of what makes the movie succeed as well as it does, pushing the plot forward without ever losing the audience’s attention. Colin Farrell portrays another familiar face as Oz Cobblepot a.k.a. the Penguin and takes over every scene he’s in. Paul Dano plays the Riddler in such an immaculately terrifying way that I’m almost convinced he’s a psychopath in real life.
Despite the gritty and dark approach to the franchise, “The Batman” keeps its edge by peppering in consistent excitement that makes use of exceptional lighting. The movie consistently makes incredible use of Batman’s silhouette, making his presence constantly intimidating. Combined with the very simple musical motif, every step he takes carries unimaginable weight as he makes his way throughout Gotham. It’s hard to believe any criminal would ever stand up to such an imposing threat.
“The Batman” is an exceptional film that makes me feel like the Christian Bale saga was a massive waste of potential. If Heath Ledger was paired with this version of Robert Pattinson, just how good would they have been? Either way, this is a must-watch, especially if you can catch it in theaters. It’s a delightful shift from what movie fans have grown accustomed to through Marvel, and a truly memorable movie experience.