The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson, is unlike any previous Batman movie. Despite its nearly three-hour runtime, The Batman feels like the smallest-scale Batman story we have ever seen. The score from Michael Giacchino is much less bombastic than the previous scores, but it fits in line with the dark, simpler tone of The Batman. Where The Dark Knight feels like Batman dropped into Heat, The Batman feels like Batman dropped into Se7en.
I loved the minimalistic approach to the conflict with The Riddler for about 95% of the movie, but it took his ultimate plan a little farther than what I could believe for this movie. Although the effect of what happens works extremely well for Batman’s arc, I wish the mechanics of where it goes was more in line with the rest of the movie.
Writing for Batman as a character has never been stronger than it is here. It shows Batman’s skills as a detective. It dives into his relationship with the police force. His fixation on striking fear into the criminals of Gotham City has never felt more natural and integral to the story and his character arc. The Batman shows Bruce Wayne from a point in time where his persona as Batman has utterly consumed him and taken over his life.
Unlike previous films about the character, Bruce never attempts to put on the face of the “playboy billionaire” for the public. His only interest is in his vengeance-driven persona as a vigilante. The claustrophobic cinematography of the film reflects this wonderfully. The feeling is that the persona of Batman is crushing in on Bruce. Matt Reeves does a fantastic job of illustrating how Batman’s methods have had a negative effect on the people of Gotham City, which is not Batman’s intention. This leads to a great character arc later in the film.
Paul Dano is a standout as The Riddler. He fits perfectly into this more serial killer-like interpretation of the character. Although he was never shown in person until the last 30 minutes of the film, Dano was able to remain an intimidating presence. Zoë Kravitz (Catwoman), an unrecognizable Colin Farrell (Penguin) and a surprise appearance from John Turturro (Carmine Falcone) were phenomenal as well.
The film’s incorporation of these classic characters is extremely natural. It gave Penguin, Catwoman and The Riddler integral parts to play in the story. This goes against the narrative that these characters were inserted into the story just to put another comic book character in the movie, like Catwoman’s inclusion in The Dark Knight Rises. The only character that felt unnecessary was the “Unseen Arkham Prisoner,” (big mystery as to who this could be) which I really could have gone without. Although, the casting of said character is promising.
The highlight, without a doubt, is Robert Pattinson as Batman. I’ve been an avid Pattinson fanboy ever since Good Time and he did not disappoint. He easily delivers the best performance of Batman in the 60 years of the character in live-action. The film’s decision to focus on Batman more and less on Bruce gives more time to flesh this side of him out. For the first time, Batman has been the best part of a Batman movie.
Matt Reeves did a phenomenal job at the helm of this project. He delivered what is likely the best film of his directing career. Only time will tell if this is the best Batman movie, but it has many elements that could contribute to this becoming the definitive version of the character.