The Batman is a gritty psychological crime thriller featuring the most Gotham-esqe Gotham we’ve seen yet.
Matt Reeves wowed audiences with his grounded interpretation of the caped crusader. The film was gritty, suspenseful and incredibly shot, and possibly one of the best live-action stories we’ve seen yet. The film does a great job displaying Bruce’s detective skills as the film is shot like a gruesome crime mystery reminiscent of the film Seven. The Batman perfectly captures the essence of Gotham and its overall dark corruption. The film puts a heavier emphasis on the criminal underworld and its connections to the elite. This is where the film perfectly encapsulates the world of Gotham.
The film stars Robert Pattinson as a young inexperienced Bruce Wayne, who ventures into Gotham City’s underworld to track down a sadistic killer leaving behind cryptic clues and a trail of bodies. Batman partners with the most trustworthy cop Lt. Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and an unlikely ally Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), to gather evidence and unmask the culprit while bringing justice to the corrupt streets plaguing Gotham. The entire cast is phenomenal, with standout performances by villains The Penguin (Colin Farrell) and the main antagonist Riddler (Paul Dano). Zoe oozes Selina Kyle, and Robert Pattinson proves to fans that he is worthy of the cowl. But is this movie the best iteration of Batman?
The Batman hands down features the best story-telling we’ve seen yet in a live-action Batman film. It is the best contained Gotham story as threats were just limited to Gotham City with Batman earning his rank as Gotham’s protector. This isn’t an origin story, or even an established Batman yet, as it takes place only two years into Bruce donning the cape. It is heavily focused on Bruce’s early career as the Bat as he is still learning who he is inside and outside of the cape. The film draws inspiration from numerous Batman comics and media, as you can tell Reeves studied his source material. The movie highlights a young and unrefined Batman, similar to the PS3 game Arkham Origins as it takes place before the rise of Gotham City’s most dangerous criminals and it centers on his early days as a crime fighter, meeting many key characters on his path to becoming the Dark Knight.
Pattinson gave a stellar performance as an unhinged and inexperienced Batman. His Batman was gritty, real and sorrowful. He was full of rage, and always ready to let loose, but what ultimately stood out was his fear. We saw real fear on his face when he was hesitant to jump off the Police Department roof. This is a version of Batman we haven’t really seen on screen. He also injured himself numerous times and got manhandled throughout the film. One can argue there was no distinction between his portrayal of Bruce and Batman, but isn’t that what made this film work? He hasn’t come into his full Bruce Wayne “persona” yet either. We could potentially see this addressed later as his character develops. In a sequel we may see a much more refined, clean-cut Philanthropist Bruce Wayne.
While the movie executed his inexperience fairly well, it didn’t explain how he got where he is now. We don’t need the typical alleyway murder or falling into a cave of bats but it did skip around important details. Alfred hinted at training Bruce, but has he had any professional training yet? If not, how did he pull the infamous ninja disappearing act? He also isn’t fully equipped with Bat-Tech yet, but he did have some very impressive high-level tech like the contacts camera. This brings up so many questions. What kind of professional training has he had yet? There was no mention of the League of Assassins (could this be part of a sequel). Did Alfred train Bruce so far, does he know Lucius Fox? How did he build these gadgets and the Batmobile? How did he conquer his fear of Bats?
On to the CAT. Zoe Kravitz was perfectly cast as the whip-carrying burglar, adversary/ lover of Batman. Her mannerisms were precisely spot-on and she exudes the confidence of Selina/Catwoman. She was adventurous, sexy, dark and mysterious. The movie eluded to her abandonment issues and troubled past with an interesting backstory of her mother’s murder by her father, who is later revealed to be the infamous Crime boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro).
While Kravitz nailed her role as the infamous Selina Kyle, the Bat/Cat love story was a bit underdeveloped. Their connection was a bit rushed as the film established their romance too quickly. We get Selina and Bruce are two broken people but their connection felt forced before establishing real chemistry. There should have been only one kiss and the prolonged going separate ways could’ve been shortened to emphasize a more effective goodbye.
Overall, Selina Kyle had a much bigger part in the film than necessary as the movie didn’t elude enough to her mystery and crime- ridden lifestyle. She also could have been given better fight scenes as the jump cuts were poorly done which we’ll get more into effects later.
This time around, we didn’t get enough Alfred, (Andy Serkis). Hopefully we’ll see more of him in future sequels and learn more about his history with the circus and his training with Bruce. It seems as if they will have a much stronger relationship going forward after his tragic close call with death. However, we did get alot of Gordon/ Bat action. This duo worked so flawlessly together and Jeffrey Wright gave a noteworthy performance as Batman’s very important accomplice Jim Gordon as they try to take down the masked killer terrorizing Gotham.
Now onto the villains, who were magnificent, terrifying and possibly the best part of this film. The Riddler AKA Enigma not only terrorizes Gotham, but he forces Batman to face unsettling truths about his parents Thomas and Martha Wayne. The Riddler isn’t typically one of Batman’s top adversaries, and is open to interpretation. We have seen different versions of Edward Nygma, as moviegoers can recall Jim Carrey’s manic yet comedic version. Dano plays The Riddler in a much more serious manner, as a serial killer comparable to the Jigsaw Killer (SAW) , The Zodiac killer, or John Doe (Se7en) as he captures his victims in elaborate death traps. This interpretation is more familiar to fans of the video-game TellTale Games Batman: The Enemy Within, with its very dark depiction and humorless Edward Nygma. His suit in the movie also has a likeness to the henchman in the game. Riddler was one of the first “supervillains terrorizing” Gotham City and the central antagonist. Dano’s Riddler was sadistic, arrogant, and believed himself to be superior to his victims. He toyed with Batman and his pursuers leaving elaborate clues and puzzles at his crimes. He was willing to kill, and would acknowledge those who could successfully match his intellect. The USB thumb drive was pure genius and a perfect example of The Riddlers sordid games.
Another outstanding performance was Colin Farrell’s performance as Ozwald/ The Penguin. Farrell was almost unrecognizable as the crime boss slimely making his way to the top of Gotham’s crime syndicate. His voice, demeanor, perfectly captured the sleaziness of Ozwald. Can’t wait to see more of him, with word of a potential TV series coming to Max.
While the story, the cast and the cinematography were astounding. There were a couple gripes I had about the film. I mentioned the jump cuts. Some of the fight scenes could have been executed better, as some of the characters in a flash would be in a different position taking away from the fight making it less believable. This isn’t on the cast but the way the scenes were essentially shot. The musical score was outstanding, but a bit distracting at moments where it took away from the scene. This caused some missed emotional moments, such as Batman essentially electrocuting himself to save those drowning below. Though the music was integral it took you out of important scenes. I didn’t feel the connection when Bruce was saving the people in the water, this scene should’ve had audio without music. Another missed moment was the joker Arkham scene. This entire scene was unnecessary and added to an already long run-time. Aside from some missed emotional moments this movie is spectacular.
Overall, Matt Reeves and cinematographer Greig Fraser have given fans the best live-adaptation of Gotham City we’ve seen yet and a fantastic fan service to the world’s greatest detective. Gotham City plays a key role in The Batman as he not only lurks in the shadows, but its city is full of evil, the downtrodden and the oppressed. The Batman may be an even more realistic take than the stellar The Dark Knight Trilogy, so fans are curious to see how they will handle future Batman’s rogues gallery. Pattinson may or may not be your favorite to put on the cowl, but it’s definitely a great Batman film. By the end of the movie we see his evolution as he learns he can’t just be “Vengeance” and feared by criminals, but that he has to be a beacon of hope for the people of Gotham.
Overall: 8.5/ 10
Stunning Cinematography, Stellar cast
Dark, suspenseful and cunning
Best live-action depiction of Gotham City
Great introduction to 2nd Year Batman
Also check out my joint Video review with Big Gold Belt & The Nerd Blast!