So finally, after a long wait, I got to see ‘The Batman’ at the cinema last week. My anticipation had more than been built up with the trailers and cast comments that we’ve had over the past two years, so I was quite worried it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. With that in mind though, I can safely say that this is my favourite Batman movie.
Unlike previous movies, this one does not begin with Batman’s origin story. The film is set during Bruce Wayne’s second year as the Caped Crusader. His existence is still mysterious to the wider populace of Gotham but he works with Lieutenant Gordon (not yet Commissioner) whenever the need arises, courtesy of the infamous Bat Signal. A high profile murder captures Batman’s attention and sets him on course to do battle with the Riddler. Along the way, Batman comes into contact with the captivating Selina Kyle, who has yet to make a name for herself as Catwoman. From this point onward, the World’s Greatest Detective must solve the Riddler’s clues as he navigates Gotham’s underbelly, bringing him into contact with the likes of Penguin and Carmine Falcone.
Now that the brief synopsis is out of the way, it’s time to move onto what works so well in this movie. Robert Pattinson does a terrific job playing a reclusive Bruce Wayne. He has a haunted expression and remains singularly focused on his calling to clean up Gotham City. As Batman, he is still relatively new to the vigilante game. This is clear in some of the fight scenes where he takes quite a few heavy hits that you would expect the Dark Knight to avoid. However, this adds a noticeable layer of grit and determination to his character, as he persists despite the odds against him. The movie spends a decent amount of time portraying Batman’s detective skills. Naturally, this was to be expected as he had to match wits with the Riddler’s intellect. We also get to see a more grounded and back to basics version of Batman. He has access to technology that gives him a tactical advantage, but it still appears stripped back, and maintains an aesthetically pleasing look. His primary mode of transport is a motorbike but he does inevitably use the Batmobile, which delivers a satisfying hum upon ignition. The fight scenes are brutal, with specific attention brought to the rage that fuels Batman in his crusade against crime. This proves to be an important theme throughout the movie as there are various call-backs to his declaration of ‘I’m Vengeance!’ Without giving too much away, this leads to a very significant moment of self reflection towards the end, demonstrating to us how Batman can also be a symbol of hope. Alfred, portrayed by Andy Serkis, proves invaluable to Bruce in and out of the costume, as he reminds the Caped Crusader of the need to maintain his double life. The relationship between them can be tense at times, making for a more realistic interpretation of Batman’s early days. Zoe Kravitz’ interpretation of Selina Kyle takes a different route than the one we are used to but I feel like it works well within the world that Matt Reeves has created. There is a tenderness/vulnerability to her character at first, before she settles into the traditional image of Catwoman that we expect. Colin Farrell is unrecognisable as he brings the character of Penguin to life. He is every bit as sinister and sleazy as you would expect a crime boss to be. Jeffrey Wright’s portrayal of Lieutenant Gordon displays faith in Batman but isn’t afraid to dictate the situation if he has to. He is key to bridging the gap between Batman and the city he is trying to save. Finally, Paul Dano’s performance as the main villain, the Riddler, is a very refreshing take on the character. His appearances on handheld videos throughout the movie reveal a deeply troubled and highly menacing man, who is anxious for Batman and the rest of Gotham to figure out his disturbing agenda. Apart from the characters, the music is also worthy of praise. Michael Giacchino does an excellent job of scoring the movie, especially with his themes for Batman and Catwoman. Batman’s theme is that of a lone gunman, an operatic rise to reflect his triumph against the criminal element. Catwoman’s theme on the other hand, is more mysterious and beautifully chilling. It serves to be a perfect bridge between her and Batman whenever they share screen time together, like a detective in a 50’s noir and the ‘dame’ who needs his help.
Now onto my minor criticisms of the movie. As I stated before, we are following Batman rather early on in his career, so he makes some understandable mistakes. However, I was slightly disheartened to see that he relies a bit too much on his bulletproof suit. Granted, this is a very smart move to make if he constantly finds himself under surprise attack, but given how Batman should be a master of stealth and combat, it was almost like he deliberately put himself in a position to be shot. I also found the ending to be slightly anticlimactic. It could have benefitted from either being rewritten at the earlier stages or lengthened towards its conclusion.
At the end of the day, I believe that DC has once again produced an amazing, self contained masterpiece that does not shy away from establishing and keeping its own tone and style. The Batman is dark, epic, thrilling and intense from start to finish. I could easily see myself watching this movie many times over in the future and I look forward to the inevitable sequel!