- Hamish Hart
The Batman (2022) Review
DIRECTOR Matt Reeves' interpretation of the caped crusader brings the iconic vigilante back to his detective roots, untethering a web of gripping puzzles and enigmas in his journey for vengeance and hope that leaves audiences wanting more by the end of its captivating third act.
Two years into his career as Batman, Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) is faced with his most difficult challenge yet as a sadistic serial killer known only as 'The Riddler' (Paul Dano) begins murdering key political figures in Gotham City. Despite citizens still unsure of his true intentions, as well as the city's ever-rising crime wave, Batman, with assistance from new ally Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), makes it his mission to stop Riddler -- by any means necessary.
There has been over 25 years of live-action Batman films, yet no feature film has reached the sheer amount of dour. The franchise maintained its dark atmosphere, but usually overshadowed by over-the-top action, and to a lesser extent, campy humour. Matt Reeves takes a more pragmatic approach with The Batman by emphasising the caped crusader's detective skills rather than his fighting style, and while the action is still prominently showcased, it's less of a spectacle due to Batman's use of brute force rather than swift counters and agility; a smart direction for the film as the movie focuses on a young Bruce Wayne and his early years being the Batman.
For a movie so dark and gloomy, The Batman still clearly depicts emotional tension and story progression through its captivating visuals and cinematography. These visuals are prominently on display during fight sequences which are primarily shot in darkness, with Matt Reeves employing the characters surroundings as a means to emphasise the damage taken from both sides of the fight. One of the best examples of this is during the second act where Batman is approaching a dark hallway littered with gunmen, and as Batman begins his attack and shot with ineffective results, the ricochet from the gunfire lights up the hallway to emphasise not only the power of the weapons, but Bruce's courage and resolve to withstand direct fire and press forward. This is a common trop used in a plethora of other action features, but The Batman excels in connecting it with the overarching story rather than having it exist for a cool visual.
But what makes Matt Reeves' interpretation of the caped crusader such a different and long lasting experience? That would be the exceptional acting on display. All the performances, insignificant or important, are handled with class and enhance their characters in a way that you can't imagine any other actor in these roles despite countless versions of these personas already existing. All eyes were on Robert Pattinson to the lead up of release -- and I'm happy to report he absolutely nails it. His performance is the best in the film and rivals Michael Keaton and Christian Bale as the best Bruce Wayne across all live action features due to his ability to display clear emotion while wearing a mask, expressing significant body language, and ushering a voice that never feels voice. Zoe Kravitz's take on Selina Kyle is a wonderful interpretation that perfectly compliments Pattinson, with Jeffrey Wright also playing off the Batman beautifully, but it's the villains who steal the show, with Colin Farrell and Paul Dano playing The Penguin and The Riddler respectively in such extraordinary ways that compliment the world they're surrounded by to create normally exaggerated personas that wouldn't feel out of place in any murder mystery or mobster movie.
The Batman is a masterpiece for modern superhero movies. Matt Reeves ushers in a new breed of superhero film by staying true to the source material while putting his own twist on the story that remains faithful to the original characters and what they stand for. Despite a 3-hour runtime that can feel long-winded at times, there isn't anything that feels unnecessary or ham-fisted, resulting in one of the best pieces of Batman media ever produced, and with Robert Pattinson returning in the sequel, hopes are well and truly high for the next instalment in what is sure to be a successful franchise moving forward.