Batman is one of the most recognizable and celebrated characters in fictional media. This is why director Matt Reeves, and actor Robert Pattinson had such huge shoes to fill. And the majority of audience members would agree that they succeeded in doing just that. Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson were able to take the story and the character in a route we have never seen before. Spoilers for The Batman ahead. Be warned.
First and foremost, Robert Pattinson knew exactly what kind of Bruce Wayne he wanted to portray and did it beautifully. One of the complaints floating around the internet was that the audience rarely sees “eccentric-billionaire-Bruce-
He is wasting all of the money in Wayne Enterprises and seems to brush it off. Bruce pushes away anyone who might get close. Within the first half hour of the film we see Bruce put Alfred in his place and let him know that he is Not his father. He has checked out of being Bruce Wayne and solely focuses on the duties of being Batman. These are all clearly the symptoms of someone suffering with depression and trauma.
In the wide variety of ‘Batman movies different aspects of Batman’s character are depicted more than other attributes. For example, Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale’s Batman in the The Dark Knight trilogy focused on the determination, sacrifice, and will of The Batman. Oh, and also cool gadgets. However, Zack Snyder and Ben Affleck’s Batman focused on his strength, genius, and ability to be a team player. Building kryptonite weapons, beating up Superman, fighting Steppenwolf, and building the Justice League. In this movie, Pattinson showed us the detective side of Batman, which we have not seen so much in the past. Batman is known in comics as “the world’s greatest detective,” and never seeing him do detective work in his films is a crime.
Matt Reeve’s portrayal of Gotham City was something to behold. Although Reeve’s has said in interviews that he wanted his Gotham to look like its own independent city, unlike anything we have seen, he still somehow made it feel familiar. Places like “Gotham Square Garden,” or their version of Times Square, made it look similar to our Manhattan. The most interesting, however, is how Gotham City helps Reeve’s with the overall tone of this movie. Reeves wanted this movie to be a detective noir, mixed with a comic book come to life.
Noir movies almost always have similar cinematic parallels, that’s what makes it noir. Always rainy. Always nighttime. Lots of trench coats. An abundance of neon signs, and maybe if we’re lucky, a diner or two. I wonder if any of those things were in this movie. Duh! It’s either night time or down pouring in Gotham. The neon sign lights depicted a run down and abused city. A trench coat was a part of every man’s attire in this movie. And of course the diner we catch The Riddler in.
We’ve established that the color and tone of this movie is dark. We’ve seen some pretty dark and gruesome scenes, so safe to say this movie was not meant for children. That being said, this movie was still able to incorporate its own brand of unique, dark humor. Using a character like the Riddler, they were able to bring out a few chuckles in some pretty dark and intense scenes. For example, the “thumb drive” joke in the beginning of the film. An actual dismembered thumb on a USB drive or “thumb drive.” Or the “al rata alada” mistake The Penguin calls them out on.
These were clever little remarks that did not necessarily leave the theater in tears, but got a little chuckle in, even though the movie’s overall tone was dark and serious. Speaking of Penguin, he seemed to carry a lot of the comic relief in this movie. Giving Batman his famous “world’s greatest detective,” nickname sarcastically. Or hobbling like a real penguin when Batman and Gordon tied him up. These conventionally funny jokes and bits from Penguin leave us excited for his HBO Max series coming out.
Moving on from Pattinson’s wonderful portrayal or Matt’s insightful vision, Zoë Kravitz’s performance of Catwoman stole the show. The chemistry she shared with Pattinson was undeniable. This movie truly understood Catwoman as a character. Someone who appears selfish and independent on the outside, only caring about herself, but in reality, is always there to help Batman and save Gotham.
And of course, let’s not forget the most important role second to Pattinson’s Batman. Paul Dano’s Riddler. Riddler was one the best parts of this movie. Dano’s adaptation of the character is truly one of the most terrifying Batman villains. Which deserves credit on its own because when you think of “the Riddler,” you think of some B-List villain with a question mark suit on. They redesigned his entire character and image and it could not have worked better. One of the things to notice is that in his redesign, they made him more current and urban. When Batman discovers The Riddler’s lair and figures out his master plan, we learn that he was just a regular person with severe mental issues.
He would live stream his rants and ideas on the internet. He collected followers who agreed with him and shared plans to hurt/kill the mayor and the people of Gotham. Riddler and his followers were communicating through dark web chat rooms. And at the end of his rant he thanks his followers for helping him. I’m surprised we didn’t get to see Riddler say “Thank you guys so much for the likes! Make sure to subscribe!” It is also worth noting that Riddler was such a good villain and had so much build up for the final fight, that he didn’t even need to be present for the climax for it to be a good ending. Riddler was already locked up and Batman still couldn’t stop Riddler’s plan to flood Gotham.
The way Riddler described him and Batman’s relationship as himself as the brains, and Batman as the muscle bringing the bad guys to light, was genius and one-of-a-kind. The fact that Riddler thought he was working with Batman the entire time and that he deluded himself into thinking that they were friends the entire time cements how crazy he was. The whole time Batman was just doing Riddler’s dirty work, bringing Falcone to the authorities and Riddler executing him. Dano’s Riddler is almost on par with Heath Ledger’s Joker, which says a lot.
With a movie like this, there is of course going to be a discourse. One of the complaints about this movie was that it was “too dark.” Dark in the story and actually quite literally ‘dark.’ As in not a lot of light. But that’s just how Batman is. He works in the dark as a creature of the night, hiding behind shadows. He deals with intense and sometimes gruesome and depressing stuff. A lot of people complained that this movie was too dry and too serious. Fun Marvel movies and the occasional fun Batman movie has made it feel weird without hearing some sort of quip or one-liner every few minutes of dialogue.
This movie was funny in its own way, and didn’t need any lines like “Uh-oh! Well that didn’t go as planned!” or what have you. Another complaint was the lack of cameos. This Batman was alone in this universe. MCU and DCEU films have spoiled us when it comes to shared universes. No after credit scene revealing a major cameo or super-team recruitment. There were no signs of a multiverse or shared universe in the foreseeable Batman films. Of course, anything can happen in a multiverse, no never say never. But going forward, even if there are absolutely no cameos or crossovers, this movie still stands on its one legs.
From beginning to end, this movie was filled with hidden messages and symbols, suspense, action, and extremely well thought out plot points and storylines. In the beginning of the film when Bruce is doing his internal monologue, he talks about his job being the “shadows” of Gotham for those who do evil to be afraid of. Any dark crevice in the city could contain “The Batman.” So don’t do the evil thing you’re about to do! And of course, as expected, we are introduced to the Dark Knight when he emerges from a shadow. However, when the movie ends, Bruce has a change of heart.
He now sees himself as the light and hope for the civilians of Gotham and the belief that things will get better. This is made evident when we see Batman helping the injured civilians get to safety at the end of the movie. This is the first time we see Batman doing his work in broad daylight. No rain, no fog, just sunlight. The civilians around him are not afraid of him, quite the contrary.
They are looking to him for help and guidance. It is also worth noting that in the final battle, when the building is flooding, Bruce is literally the light that the people of Gotham follow to safety when he lights up the flare and saves the mayor. People start looking at him as a symbol of hope, not just vengeance.
Impactful scenes like that elevate films to another level of viewing. The Batman is a phenomenal movie and unlike a lot of films out there. It takes the components of superhero films we all know and love and gets rid of any characteristics that have room for cheesy or ‘cringe,’ writing. This isn’t to say “if your superhero movie isn’t dark it’s not worth watching!” When you have to worry about multiverses, or making your character funny or quippy, it could potentially take away from your story. There were no terrible one-liners, no shared multiverse, and no fabulous superpowers here. Just a very real film, depicting a very real man, with real problems, who just wants to help.
The Batman: Movie Review article published on BigCityReview.com© 2022
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