Updated: Apr 24, 2022
If you're a media enthusiast like myself, chances are you've seen at least ONE type of media involving Batman. I mean he's EVERYWHERE so it's impossible to avoid him! He's in movies, TV shows, video-games, toys and of course, comic books as that was the media he originated from. We've all see at least one piece of Batman media in our lives and many of us have our favourite pieces of Batman media. My personal favourite Batman media includes The Dark Knight trilogy, the Arkham games and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. While I'm one of those superhero fans who's sick of seeing Batman everywhere and wishes DC would let their other characters have a time to shine, I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a soft spot for the Caped Crusader myself and even consider him one of my favourite superheroes alongside Superman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman and Aquaman.
For this week's post, we're talking about Batman's latest adventure in the media with The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves of Planet of the Apes fame. This movie is standalone with no connection to the DCEU (though it was originally intended that way) and is particularly noteworthy not just for who the director is, but the fact they cast Robert Pattinson of all people as Batman for this instalment. With Matt Reeves directing and a hugely promising marketing campaign, this movie instantly became one of 2022's most anticipated releases and you better believe I'm one of those people who was anticipating it!
Also pointless fact to state but this movie marks the first time I've been to see a movie at the cinema since the COVID pandemic started back in 2020, so this is kind of a big deal for me. So is The Batman another worthy addition to the library of Gotham's Dark Knight? Or is the biggest riddle behind this movie how it got made in the first place? Grab your cape and cowl folks for we're digging into The Batman...
Section 1: The Story
For this movie, Batman is a masked vigilante patrolling the streets of Gotham and fighting crime and corruption everywhere he goes. But the Dark Knight may have his work cut out for him this time as he winds up tangled up in a web of mysteries and enigmas when the masked villain, The Riddler, brings terror to Gotham's streets...
At its heart, The Batman is a detective story, which is ironically not an aspect of the character most of the movies about him delve into. I think the only other time a Batman movie ever delved into the detective side of the character was probably Mask of the Phantasm, and hardly anyone has even seen that movie! Anyway, The Batman is a detective story and as a result, has a slower and quieter pace compared to most superhero media we're used to. As we follow Batman through his battle against the Riddler, we uncover more and more clues about Gotham's past and how corruption in the city goes back much further than we may have expected. It feels very cleverly structured with how the riddles are set up and how Batman finds the answers and uncovers more of the Riddler's scheme and it never once feels like the movie's cheating as the answers we get and the clues we uncover make sense in the end.
All this ties into one of the film's biggest and most over-arching themes: corruption. It is mentioned a few times in the movie how "actions have consequences" and as we learn in this movie, quite a lot of actions have far-reaching consequences that have lead into the events we see happening in this movie from the past surrounding the unseen Salvatore Maroni to the evil acts being committed by Carmine Falcone and the Penguin. The Riddler's scheme is even all about weeding out corruption and calling out the hypocrisies of the wealthy as they pretend to be all benevolent and well-meaning but are secretly just full of greed and don't care as much as they seem. What makes the movie so fascinating to watch is seeing just how far this corruption goes back and how far it's spread, thus showing Batman and the audience watching that this whole puzzle has way more pieces than we could've expected and the Riddler's goals are way larger than we'd expect. Also I must add that a maniac like the Riddler gaining a crazy cult following feels DEPRESSINGLY relevant in this day and age, but this blog's not the place for those kinds of discussions...
Speaking of this, that's another aspect that I adore about this movie: the world-building. This is a very well crafted world with a lot of history behind it and many details familiar to Batman fans everywhere from those that watch the movies to those that read the comics and those that watch all Bat-media. Yes, we have the typical "corrupt crime ridden city" setting that's practically a staple of Bat-media these days, but this version of Gotham feels like a lot of thought went into its history regarding many of the people in there and the events that have transpired to lead to where we are now. It even manages to incorporate Batman's familiar origin story without needing to re-tread it like so many movies have done before. Here it's just part of the world-building with the details given being enough to explain to audiences why Bruce Wayne became Batman and what motivated him to fight crime, all without needing to show it all over again.
For those that love the comic side of Batman, this movie has a lot of Easter Eggs and incorporates a lot of things from the comics, including Carmine Falcone's past with Thomas Wayne and even his past rivalry with Salvatore Maroni. Thankfully, these details aren't just there for fan-service and actually play a part in the story, thus showing more of this movie's strengths and how well-crafted it is.
The story is also very good at suspense, horror and action. Throughout the movie, we get this constant feeling of dread whenever the Riddler's around and the intensity of the moments really have you on the edge of your seat, making this an exciting and nerve-racking watch that captures your attention and makes you unable to look away. It also helps that as expected from a Matt Reeves directed movie, there's a lot of quiet moments with little dialogue that also raises the tension as you're not sure what to expect next. If your story can grip the audience the way it does and keep them watching, then you know it's an engaging watch. It also helps that the characters in this movie are just as engaging from the dark and determined Batman to the vengeful Catwoman and the creepy and chilling Riddler, but more on them later.
While the story is an engaging watch with tense moments, amazing action and suspenseful mysteries with a lot of twists and turns, it's also a really long watch too. Clocking in at around 176 minutes, you definitely feel that running time as it goes along. There's at least two different moments where it feels like the movie's about to end but then it keeps going. I know that when the Riddler got caught and thrown in Arkham Asylum, I was like "No way the Riddler's schemes are over. He wouldn't have let himself get captured that easy" and lo and behold, I was right and there was more movie to go. I personally would've made it so the Riddler got caught after the big climax so that it wouldn't feel as if we got cheated out of a conclusion and the movie wouldn't feel like it was still going. Even Zack Snyder's Justice League managed its run-time better, and that's a four hour movie as I detailed in my review!
Also, I wasn't the biggest fan of the Riddler's portrayal in this movie, but I'll cover that in the characters section down below.
Another problem I felt the movie had was that it took its title a bit too literally. It's called "The Batman" and it most certainly is ABOUT The Batman, but not so much Bruce Wayne himself. We don't really get enough time devoted to Batman outside of his crime-fighting life and thus it feels like we only get a glimpse into Bruce Wayne's life. I feel showing some of his life and even showing how the events of the movie are having him change to reflect what's been happening in the story's events would've given us a stronger narrative, like say he starts building up his benevolent businessman image that we know and have seen in other Batman media in response to the Riddler's untangling web of corruption he spews about. That would've added more to this version of Batman and show him adopting his public persona.
And finally, this isn't a problem I had myself, but one some may have. Depending on the person, this is a rather dark movie and if you're not a fan of grimmer and more sombre stories, this movie may not be for you. If you're OK with darker material like I am, you may get into this. Otherwise, your mileage may vary with this one. I feel the movie did well in keeping to its standard Batman dark tone with horrific moments that feel right at home in something out of the Arkham games or the TellTale series, but I can imagine for some people it may feel a bit excessive and might be turned away by the dark tone of this film.
Regardless, The Batman has a solid story with an intriguing mystery, well-crafted world building, chilling moments that have you gripped to your seat and themes that are very relevant in our modern world. Batman is home to many great stories, and this movie is no exception...
Section 2: The Characters
Now for everyone's favourite part of any Batman media, seeing their favourite characters in action and on the big screen. So how do these versions of these iconic characters fare up? Let's see.
We have the titular superhero himself, Batman, played by Robert Pattinson. This is a Batman who's not long started his career as the caped crusader and it shows with him being more focused on his time as Batman and less on his time as Bruce Wayne. Seriously, if you measured Batman's screen time and and out of the costume, I bet it would measure out at 80% screen time as Batman and 20% as Bruce Wayne. He also seems considerably angrier than most Batmen with how violently he can whale on criminals and uses his scare tactics to make them afraid of him. Yet he's also still portrayed as a highly intelligent and capable crimefighter with his meticulous mind always at work in solving the Riddler's clues and we also get to see some of his compassionate side as he shows clear sympathy towards the son of the mayor who was killed by the Riddler in the beginning of the movie and gets an awesome moment where he helps to save everyone during the climax. This is everything we expect from Batman and Robert plays it so well, effortlessly capturing his dark and brooding nature and being genuinely intimidating whenever he's in the costume. Even his voice actually sounds pretty good with none of that over-the-top nonsense from the Dark Knight trilogy or a need to electronically alter his voice like in the DCEU. He manages to naturally sound intimidating as Batman and it's so awesome to see and hear him in action.
Next we have Catwoman, played by Zoë Kravitz. She serves as a great foil to Batman for in this movie, Batman is a figure of vengeance who fights crime after his parents were killed by criminals but he makes an effort not to kill anyone whereas Catwoman is a figure of vengeance who steals from criminals and is out for blood after her close friend is killed and doesn't have the same moral boundaries that Batman has. Thankfully, she doesn't feel wasted here as she's more connected to the plot than you may expect and it's great watching her and Batman play off of each other the way they usually do in Bat-media. Zoë also plays he role well, effortlessly capturing the anger and hatred that Catwoman has for the criminals she steals from and also managing to play Catwoman's more seductive side when she's having a softer moment with Batman.
And then there's the main villain himself, The Riddler, played by Paul Dano. While the Riddler is a great villain for this movie and comes off as a highly competent and threatening foe for the Batman to face...he just doesn't feel much like the Riddler to me. The Riddler's supposed to be this highly arrogant, theatrical, over-the-top villain with a gimmick for puzzles and riddles and absolutely loves to make a complete show out of his antics and his motivation is usually to prove he's smarter than Batman. This Riddler...doesn't really do any of that. Sure he still has the puzzle gimmick but with the costume he uses and how he stalks his victims and waits for the right moment to kill them and his heavily politically charged motivations, he's more akin to characters like Hush or Anarky or even some generic horror movie villain than the Riddler himself. It also doesn't help that Paul Dano's performance just doesn't work for me. One minute he's being smooth and threatening and then the next, he's screaming at the top of his lungs while doing that weird moaning and it just comes off as more silly than scary. Also him having a social media following, while DEPRESSINGLY realistic and believable, also just feels a bit hard to take seriously and kind of ruins the menace factor he has as every time he posts these videos, I'm expecting him to jovially proclaim "Like, Share and Subscribe!" Honestly, this character shouldn't have been the Riddler because he really doesn't feel like the Riddler to me and Paul should've given a more toned down performance to really be as menacing as they were going for.
We also have our supporting characters with Commissioner Gordon, played by Jeffery Wright, Alfred Pennyworth, played by Andy Serkis, Carmine Falcone, played by John Turturro, and the Penguin, played by Colin Farrell. Alfred sadly isn't in the movie all that much and literally just vanishes from the movie after the hospital scene with him and Bruce and what little time he is in the movie, he doesn't do a whole lot. It would've been nice if they'd included him more, especially with a big actor like Andy Serkis playing him. Commissioner Gordon is great at least, being the one guy that Batman can rely on and really talk to during his investigations and he has this constant no-nonsense attitude that shows he's not putting up with anyone's crap, especially if it means getting in Batman's way, and all delivered perfectly by Jeffery Wright's performance. Carmine Falcone and the Penguin also have bigger parts to play in the story than one might've thought and thankfully they have just enough screen time so they don't feel wasted, nor do they take the focus away from the Riddler. John Turturro and Colin Farrell also play their parts well, especially Colin. I didn't think he'd nail the Penguin as well as he did here, but he managed!
We also have Catwoman's friend, Annika, who I feel could've been personified a bit more to make us feel more sorry for Catwoman and want to see her avenge her death.
While these versions of the characters may not all be perfect and some could've done with more screen time, the characters are well written and for the most part, well used in this movie and thanks to the fantastic acting of the cast, these characters are thoroughly engaging to watch throughout the whole movie.
Section 3: The Cinematography
Matt Reeves being the director was the first thing that excited me about this movie. His incredible work on the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy made him a director to remember and I couldn't wait to see his work on The Batman. And his work does NOT disappoint!
The movie is absolutely amazing to look at thanks to Matt's direction. He goes for a lot of cool shots, interesting angles and slick camera work that makes for an engaging viewing experience that's a treat for the eyes. This is a guy who is clearly a fan of Batman (he really is) and knows how to shoot the iconic DC hero and give us what we expect from a Batman movie. There are a lot of quiet scenes where there's not much dialogue and we have the visuals tell us the story, mostly when Batman's investigating or when he's taking in everything that's happened thus far and we also get a lot of scary scenes that are very effective thanks to the way they're shot and directed. Take The Riddler's first scene for instance. We see the mayor just watching TV in his home and he's standing there in the shadows completely silent and mostly obscured by shadows, which is a really creepy first impression to give the villain of your story. Heck that opening prologue where we just see from his point of view as he spies on the mayor's family through his windows and all we hear as he watches is Ave Maria playing and the sound of his breathing was also an effective opener to the movie and not one you'd expect from a Batman movie.
And of course, we can't have a Batman movie without the action and Matt Reeves excels in this area too. We get some great fighting choreography as Batman brawls out with criminals throughout the movie and thanks to the performances of the cast, every blow Batman throws and lands feels painful and like it REALLY friggin' hurts! They also manage to make all the action scenes feel unique and dynamic from one another with one scene being a battle in a train station against some thugs, another being an explosive car chase with the Penguin and Batman, a battle in Carmine's club in where it's completely dark and all the action we get to see is whenever anyone fires a gun to light up the scene and eventually the climax in where they really go all out into making this a big a one that may have consequences to follow up on in future instalments.
The cinematography is so well-done that it even manages to foreshadow certain moments in the story. What do I mean? Well let's just say the numerous amount of times it rains in this movie might be an indicator in what kind of climax we're in for...
Not only is the movie well-shot and fantastically directed so that it looks amazing to watch, but the costume and make-up work makes it even more amazing to watch. We have the Batman suit which looks beautifully detailed and bulky as it should and that we can easily believe this is a costume that would take a lot of punishment while also making Batman look very imposing whenever he's onscreen. I also like many of the neat little touches they gave Batman from his camera contact lenses to the black make-up around his eyes to make him look even darker and less human. Those are good ideas that make this version of Batman stand-out and even feel like something he'd do or use himself, especially the camera contact lenses. Sadly, Catwoman doesn't fare up too well. She has the iconic leather catsuit which looks great, but the mask itself just looks like a balaclava that barely covers her face and just looks cheaply made, which is a shame as other Catwomen manage to have great looking masks in their movies.
The Riddler's costume, while decidedly un-Riddler like, manages to look imposing too as this masked menace in where nothing can be seen from him apart from his eyes and the bulkiness of the costume gives the false impression that he maybe bigger and more intimidating than he actually looks out of the costume. It was also a smart choice to cast a rather plain looking actor to be the Riddler as it serves as an example of how anyone can be a killer, no matter what they look like and as a result, it makes the Riddler even creepier in how this generic looking guy is really the mastermind behind everything.
And then we have the make-up work on Colin Farrell as the Penguin. I'm genuinely struggling to believe that's all make-up and prosthetics and it really does look like Colin just put on weight and got fatter for the role! He looks THAT convincing and the make-up artists deserve so much credit for managing to make it look that good!
The Batmobile sadly is mostly unimpressive as it looks like a generic sports car with a big engine, but the prop itself is still some impressive work and looks awesome when it's driving around during the big car chase. The generic design may also work in this movie's favour as this is an early-career Batman so this Batmobile could work as a prototype design that he could tune up later on in his career so it's not all bad and makes sense in the end.
While the direction is spot-on throughout the movie and the action is well handled, there is one moment that may shake your suspension of disbelief. There's a scene where Batman's trying to help one of the Riddler's victims, who has a bomb strapped around his neck. The bomb explodes, killing the guy and throwing Batman off his feet...and he somehow survives with not even so much as a scratch on his face, a dent in his armour or even getting burnt on his exposed jaw. All the explosion does is knock him out and nothing more, whereas Alfred gets caught up in an explosion when a bomb goes off and ends up badly injured and hospitalized. Like, what? Come on guys, Batman's costume is meant to be a superhero costume, not plot armour! It just feels kinda silly that Batman gets an explosion to the face and he's fine while Alfred gets an explosion to the face and he isn't. And no, Batman's armour protecting him doesn't excuse this. His armour isn't bombproof and even if it was, it won't save him from all damage one might receive from an explosion! His insides should've been obliterated from the shock of the impact at least!
Despite that, Matt Reeves gave us a solid job on the film's direction by giving us a really gorgeous looking movie with plenty of action, atmospheric moments, scares and convincing looking props, costumes and make-up. If this movie doesn't win any awards for its cinematography, then I will be surprised...
While I'd probably still say The Dark Knight trilogy is the best in terms of Batman movies, this movie is another solid addition to the legendary library of Bat-media. The Batman is an engaging watch from beginning to end thanks to a well-written story, brilliantly thought-out world-building, compelling characters, phenomenal acting and fantastic direction that gives us yet another gem that Batman fans can enjoy again and again. Sure it's not perfect and I may find other Batman movies more enjoyable to watch, but this was still well worth the wait and I'm glad I got to see it. It's no riddle that this is another great Batman movie and I can't wait to see more of this universe as Matt Reeves and his team currently have plans to expand this into a shared universe...
And that's it for The Batman. I hope you enjoyed this review and as usual, feel free to tell me in the comments below what you guys thought. Did you enjoy it? Did you not enjoy it? Let me know.
Next time, I'll be returning to the world of Pixar and...I don't know about you guys but I feel like I might be turning a little red with this next review...and fluffy too...