If Batman (1989) was one small step, then The Batman is one giant leap for batkind. Matt Reeve’s psychological crime noir thriller is something we haven’t seen before in previous Batman films and while The Dark Knight still soars above it, this film is still a worthy entry into the Batman franchise.
You would hardly know that the film is almost three hours long as the movie breezes by making you left wanting more. A perfect balance of storytelling and action sequences ensures that there is never a dull moment in this film. Heavily inspired by Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, but by being more darker, frightening and edgier it helps differentiate itself from Nolan’s films. This film would have heavily benefited with a R rating, Matt Reeve’s version of Batman is absolutely ruthless as he destroys the people he is fighting by pummeling them into mercy. This version of Batman is already a cut above the rest when it comes to Batman’s golden rule, no guns, no killing. It’s great to see Batman take such care in ensuring he doesn’t kill anyone, even going out of his way to save people who don’t deserve it.
As mentioned before, this is a Batman we have never seen before, as we witness the evolution of Bruce Wayne/Batman from installing fear into the criminals of Gotham to understanding what it means to become a hero. But the main thing that makes this film different from the rest is that we finally… finally we get to see the World’s Greatest Detective on show. Utilising his smarts over his brawn this is quite possibly the best and purest version of Batman we have seen on screen yet as he utilises the many gadgets he has to uncover the man that is behind the Riddler mask. Robert Patterson is fantastic in his role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, seemingly ditching the playboy persona for an emotionally traumatised emo who is only two years into his duties as Batman as he struggles to to understand what his cowl really stands for, rather than taking out his trauma on the criminals of Gotham as an act of vengeance.
Paul Dano’s Zodiac killer inspired Riddler is an overly intelligent psychotic killer which is an immediate improvement over Jim Carrey’s version in Batman Forever. Just like Tom Hardy as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, Paul Dano’s speech is muffled by the restrictions of a mask, however when he is unmasked Dano’s facial expressions are creepy and unhinged. Zoe Kravitz delivers a multi-layered performance as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. She is able to showcase her sly and sneakiness and backs it up with her fighting prowess. Her onscreen chemistry with Robert Pattinson sparks from the moment their characters first meet and is a testament to what we see in the comic books between Batman and Catwoman. Jeffrey Wright does a great job as Jim Gordon as his version is more involved with Batman throughout this film as they act as buddy cops trying to take down The Riddler. Wright’s confusion as he tries to figure out the riddles to his fear on his face when Batman is pummeling something we haven’t seen that often with this character.
Visually The Batman is outstanding and by far the most eye-appealing film in the characters live action history. Matt Reeves and cinematographer Greig Fraser bring Gotham City to life through extravagant neon lighting and plenty of rain fall. But this is only the tip of the iceberg; the fight choreography is by far one of the best we have seen across the Batman films. Watching Batman fight you get a real sense of a character who has learnt how to fight through martial arts and disarming opponents rather than the typical punch and kick combinations. The action sequences are as brilliant as you could imagine and elevated even further through creative camerawork and lighting. By attaching the camera to a person’s body or vehicle you feel as if you are right there in the action, the camera assists during fight sequences also where it moves along with Batman tracking his movements as he pummels through goons. The lighting in this film is a thing of beauty whether it be a sunset silhouette, a dark hallway fight illuminated by bullets or a neon red blanketed by darkness it will certainly have you in awe.
One of the most creative aspects is the filters used throughout this film, throughout certain scenes the focus is on the character’s yet the background is disorientated and fading similar to what can bee seen in Midsommar, this effect really makes you feel what is happening to the characters. Michael Giacchino’s hauntly chilling score is in full effect throughout this film. Each of his pieces fit perfectly with the scenes that are accompanies, be it from an eerie tune as Batman is undergoing his detective work or his percussive and horn centric Batman theme which garners your attention as you feel it deep in your gut.
The Batman is a great first hit out for Matt Reeves as he lays the foundation for his version of Batman throughout this film where it can be built upon into greatness in future sequels. A darker and ruthless Batman is just what we needed and is only elevated by his detective skills being showcased through this film. With a whole host of villains and characters for Matt Reeves to work with, The Batman franchise is sure to be one that I will be keeping an eye out on in the future.
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