The more that a character gets interpreted on screen, the more difficult it is to try and deliver something new or fresh or exciting. For characters like Spider-Man, Superman, and especially Batman, this is definitely the case. Everyone has their “favorite version” and when a “new take” is done, regardless of the director and actor in the key role, it’s going to be judged on not just what was done, but how it relates (or differs) from what came before. I hope that in this The Batman review you’ll see why I think that this take was fine…but not awe-inspiring in my opinion.
This movie takes place in this universes “Year Two” for Batman. He’s already established in Gotham, but many still aren’t aware of him in full, or aren’t sure what to make of him. This is actually a key thing throughout the film as we learn a little of what happened in “year zero and year one” but aren’t filled in as to how and why it went down. Such as with Jim Gordon, whom has a relationship with Batman, but we don’t learn how they connected. We also learn that Batman’s been doing good enough so that when the Bat-Signal goes up, criminals know to run because “he is the shadows” and thus could come out of nowhere. Something that the movie makes very good use of visually.
But as Batman himself notes, the city isn’t getting better, and it only gets worse when a serial killer in The Riddler arises to “unmask the truth”, and Batman must team up with Gordon and other key people in the city to figure out who he is, what he’s after, and what “the truth” really is.
As director Matt Reeves noted many times leading up to the film’s release, The Batman is meant to be a detective story. Other Batman films have had detective elements (big or small) but this was one that really did feel like a detective story for better and for worse. The mystery was not just about The Riddler, but Gotham City itself and all of its players both big and small. And seeing this mystery unfold was captivating most of the time.
This brings us to the Dark Knight himself. A lot of people were curious as to how Robert Pattison (known most for his role in Twilight as a different kind of “bat”) was going to do as Batman. And in truth…he was fine. Not great, not terrible, but…fine. This version of Batman is still learning what it is to be Batman and all that is required to get his mission done. He’s also so focused on things with Batman that he’s willing to let the image and name of the Wayne family die. “This is my family’s legacy” he tells Alfred early on. I will give props to Pattinson, there are times he does do very well with the character. Including certain detective elements where he sees the clues that no one else does, even when they’re super complex, or, super macabre. He also does make you “feel” the presence of Batman even when he’s not there. Such as the numerous times he just walks out of the shadows.
But for me, the best part of the movie wasn’t Batman, but the supporting cast. The Batman does a great job of fleshing out the world of Gotham City in a compelling way that doesn’t deter from the main story most times. The superstar of this movie for me was Zoe Kravitz as Selena Kyle. I’ve seen every live-action version of Selina from Batman 66 to Dark Knight Rises to Gotham, and I would wager that maybe one other captured the style, grace, intensity and seductiveness of Selina Kyle as good as Kravitz did. If she gets a spinoff (which is rumored for HBO Max), I wouldn’t mind, she’s that good in the role.
Then there’s Jeffrey Wright as Jim Gordon, who definitely matches past Gordon’s like Gary Oldman and Ben McKenzie in conveying a sense of justice and wanting to get the job done even if that means asking a masked friend for help. Colin Farrell was another standout as Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin. He conveys a special version of him that is aiming to get fleshed out even more soon enough. Add to Andy Serkis as Alfred, John Turturro as Carmine Falcone, and Paul Dano as Riddler and you have a pretty stacked roster.
I was amazed at how well the supporting cast elevated the film even when Pattinson/Batman himself didn’t.
Visually, the movie made good use of lighting, camera angles, and more to deliver certain feelings of intensity as well as more tender moments, as few as they may have been.
I also want to give a shoutout to the musical score for this film. It was perfectly done in terms of tone, when it was used, how it was used to convey feeling, and more. There are moments that will get stuck in your head solely because of how the music played in it.
So…what didn’t I like about The Batman? Well, as noted, Robert Pattinson to me was just “ok” as the Caped Crusader. There was just something about his performance that felt a bit…light. Sometimes his voice didn’t resound in a way that felt like Batman, and other times it didn’t seem like he was exuding the presence needed to carry a certain scene. It was inconsistent in my mind. But, that’s also what sequels are for, to improve upon what was done before.
The other problem here was the length of the story. While the opening two scenes (one featuring Riddler, and the other featuring Batman) were well handled, things pretty much slam to a crawl after that in order to expand the mystery. To be clear, I have sat through MANY movies that were near and over 3 hours and enjoyed them because they didn’t feel plodding or stretching things out needlessly. At times, it felt that was going on here. And by the end, I felt they were getting a bit too long in the tooth in terms of what they were trying to achieve.
The Riddler himself is going to be something I feel is divisive. Because at times, Paul Dano crushed it in terms of how The Riddler’s plan was complex and definitely brilliant, and how they used the “radicalized social media movement” to bring a new twist on the character. But at times…for me at least…it fell flat. Including a scene late in the film in Arkham when he basically whines loudly that Batman “doesn’t get it” or that he “ruined what he planned” in terms of them “having fun together” if you will. I’m a big Riddler fan, and this version was competent but it also had some key flaws, including his look (not a fan) and parts of what he did.
Including a key moment where he tried to kill Bruce Wayne via a letter in the mail, and the reason it didn’t work was that Alfred opened the mail for him. The Riddler was deadly precise in killing his other victims, and yet here, not only did he leave it up to chance, Alfred survived because he was able to throw the bomb away in time. That’s not precise, that’s sloppy, and he wasn’t sloppy the whole film save for that moment. Oh, and his name is “Edward Nashton”, really? You use other comic book lore but won’t call him Edward Nygma?
There were other elements of the plot that had some questionable elements. Such as certain revelations on the Wayne family that were only lightly touched on in some ways (and how that would affect Bruce later on). Andy Serkis was barely in the film despite being a key role via Alfred (he had one really good scene though, won’t deny that) and that felt odd. Furthermore, going back to Pattinson, there were times when his character was more brilliant than the police, and yet the literal key to the whole case was solved because of a cop who happened to have an uncle who was an installer.
Just as important, they definitely used “comic book logic” at times for how Batman and other characters survived certain things. Batman is riddled with bullets in multiple scenes and while his armor is “bulletproof” it should’ve done more than what we saw. Only after getting blasted with a shotgun does he seem “rattled”. Furthermore, a gunman has a dead-on shot to a key person…and then only hits her in the stomach…and then we see that woman walking on her own two feet not two scenes later when she should’ve been writhing in pain. Oh, and apparently Batman had an adrenaline shot in his belt “for emergencies” but didn’t think of using it when he himself was on the brink of death…but only when Selina was? Yeah…no.
Finally, while the ending was compelling, and definitely sets up a sequel, you can’t help but wonder what it all means and how it’ll play going forward because it’s a BIG paradigm shift from what we see in other movies and the comics. Guess we’ll have to wait and find out.
As my dad and I came home from watching the movie, he agreed with me that it was a good movie but it didn’t “fill me with awe” as other movies (both Marvel and DC Comics) have in the past. And I thought that was a fair description of how I felt. I liked it, and when things picked up, it REALLY picked up. Like with the car chase scene that was heavily spoiled in the trailers yet still packed a punch. But other times, it just seemed like it’d take forever to get to the end, and then when you thought you got to the end…you had more to go. I’m not trying to riddle you with this The Batman review, merely stating that while it may have been “the best Batman movie ever!” for some, it wasn’t that for me. It was good, but not great.
The Batman Review
The Batman was an interesting take on Batman lore, and parts of it were fine, including the overwhelmingly great supporting cast. But Batman himself, the runtime, and parts of the plot left the film hanging out to dry at moments, and that definitely affected my feelings on it all.