The Batman (2022)
Director: Matt Reeves
Writers: Matt Reeves and Peter Craig
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, and Colin Farrell
Review: I’m going to be fully honest with you here. Up until the reviews started rolling in, I was not super excited for The Batman. Of course, every Batman movie comes with a certain level of excitement. It’s Batman after all. But, I was growing kinda tired of seeing the grounded, realistic takes on these characters. While I don’t want the Schmacher movies again, I think the world is ready for something along the lines of Batman: The Animated Series or the Arkham games. But, that’s not what Warner Bros is giving us at the moment. And, having now seen the results, I can’t be too mad. Because The Batman is so freaking good. I feel like it’s only the opening act of a grand, beautiful story arc, but it’s already my favorite live-action take on the Bat-Verse.
As I said before, I did not think we needed another grounded take on Batman. I thought after the Nolan trilogy we’d been there, done that. However, I wasn’t prepared for exactly how grounded Reeves’ Batman would get. Compared to this movie, the Nolanverse feels like a fantasy realm. While that universe was filled with gadgets that felt either cutting-edge or futuristic, this one is very much low-tech items that feel accessible now. This Bruce Wayne’s batmobile is a car. Not a tank. Not a big, flashy toy. A suped-up, demolition derby style, barely bat-themed car. Likewise, he’s got one Batarang and a parachute suit for gliding. The Batcave? Oh, you mean the basement? Basically, what I’m saying is that Lucius Fox isn’t providing him with limitless resources here. It’s one dude versus the entire Gotham crime scene.
Speaking of, this is by far the shittiest Gotham has ever been. This is the first time that I was like, “Yeah. I don’t understand why anyone would want to be here.” The Burton/Schumacher movies never made Gotham feel real, like an achievable, livable city. It was just too cartoony and over the top. Meanwhile, Nolan’s felt like just your average city. Gotham felt in line with Chicago, Boston, or Pittsburgh. Maybe not the best crime-wise, but not totally unlivable. But, Reeves’ Gotham freaking sucks and I want nothing to do with it. Do you know that scene at the end of Joker where everyone was worked up and destroying the town? That’s what this Gotham feels like all the time. It feels like you couldn’t take a two-minute walk down the street without being mugged. And there’s almost no hope of anything getting better because everyone involved with running the city is corrupt. From the lowliest cop all the way to the top. Even for Batman, making a difference here feels impossible. Honestly, a lot of Batman’s opening monologue in this movie reminded me more of Rorschach than any other Batman I’ve seen. But, while Rorschach’s sounds like the rambling of a madman, Batman’s kind of got a point here. It honestly doesn’t even seem worth it to try for this city.
And, then, of course, there are the villains. I honestly do not know how this movie is being marketed towards children, because, holy shit, is the main villain in this movie dark. Paul Dano’s Riddler, without a doubt, is the scariest villain we’ve ever gotten in a comic book movie. He doesn’t feel like a cartoon character at all. He’s a very realistic version of a serial killer in that everything he does is very methodical and creepy. There’s no grandstanding here. It’s just a man researching, stalking, and then brutally murdering victim after victim. While I was never quite on board with this take of the Riddler, I do appreciate that it fits the context of the movie quite well. It feels very much like a character that would not only exist but thrive in this world. And, like most serial killers, the person behind the mask seems oddly timid. That is until you get him worked up and the real monster comes out. I can’t think of anyone better to pull this kind of performance off than Paul Dano. He absolutely crushes it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the first non-Joker Batman actor to get an Oscar nomination.
Ok, so, as I’ve established, I was not necessarily looking forward to another darker, realistic take on the Batman mythos, but I was super surprised by how well Reeves’ handled it. But, here’s the thing, I don’t know if that alone would’ve made me love this movie as much as I did. No. What really impressed me was how much this actually felt like the Batman I know and love. Despite being so “edgy,” this felt more like Batman proper than any other I’ve seen to date. First of all, it’s the best use of Batman’s fear tactics I’ve ever seen. Even better than the Arkham games. Because this Batman 100% lives or dies by the shadows. He knows that intimidation is half of the battle. It’s how one dude is able to take down an entire squad of goons. The scene in the subway is one of the greatest Batman moments of all time because it fully takes advantage of making our hero actually scary. Second, the fight choreography is the best we’ve ever seen in a Bat-flick. Most of the time, the action in these movies feels super stiff because of the batsuit. However, this feels fluid and, perhaps most importantly, brutal. And, speaking of things we don’t usually get from Batman movies, he finally feels like a detective here! While “world’s greatest” might be a bit of a stretch, we see that he at least has a little bit of a noggin up in that cowl. It was great to see him at the scene of the crime actually scanning evidence and putting together clues. It’s a big part of Batman’s mythos that I’m glad is no longer missing. Robert Pattinson also does a brilliant job at blurring the lines between Bruce Wayne and Batman. It’s always said that Bruce Wayne is the one that’s really a mask, but this is the first time that feels authentic. As much as I love Keaton and Bale, they seemed to enjoy being Bruce Wayne too much. For all intents and purposes, this Wayne might as well not even exist. I loved it. And, as I’ve already mentioned, this Batman has maybe my favorite aesthetic of any Batman. To me: it’s all perfect: the suit, the car, the bike, the symbol, everything.
The next paragraph has very light spoilers. Nothing plot specific, but a little bit character development-wise. I do not think it’ll ruin anything for you, but I just want to be 100% transparent with anyone wanting to go in completely fresh
But, you know what my absolute favorite part of the entire movie is? The fact that Batman is kind of seen as a beacon of light towards the end of this movie. It’s usually very much the opposite. He’s usually being hunted down by the police and laughed at by the general public. But, here, it seems like the people of Gotham are legitimately happy to have him around. And we actually get a moment to see Batman stop and help civilians. It’s not an action scene. He’s not punching any criminals in the face. He’s just lending a helping hand, being a good samaritan, a beacon of light, to people who need it. We do not get scenes like that often enough in Batman media. It seems like every other superhero gets them. Spider-Man saves children from burning buildings. Superman gets cats out of trees. But we don’t get to see Batman do stuff like that often. Most of the time he just comes in, beats up the baddies, then leaves. It was nice to see that change. I had the biggest smile on my face during this sequence. And, at that moment, I knew Robert Pattinson had taken over as my favorite Batman. Everything about this take is just too good. This is the Batman I’d want in a Justice League movie. Because he is, 100% the team player superhero that the team needs. Unfortunately, he’s perhaps also the version least likely to ever appear in something like this. Because I can guarantee you that Superman does not exist in this universe. There is no way to make that work. It’s a real shame though because this otherwise proves that “dark and gritty” and “actually caring superhero” does not have to be mutually exclusive.
Man, I have so much to go into still but I have to start to wrap this up. Otherwise, I’ll be here forever. So, let’s do a speedrun of some other thoughts then wrap this up.
The plot was very good, though maybe not the most original. It’s very Se7en, very Chinatown, and a little Saw. However, I loved seeing those elements brought over to a Batman story. And, let’s face it, comics take inspiration from more established works and just plug their characters in all the time so it’s nothing new. Very on-brand.
All of the castings were pretty pitch-perfect. Obviously, Robert Pattinson and Paul Dano stole the show, but Zoe Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, and John Turturro deserve huge shoutouts. A separate, even larger shoutout has to go to Collin Farrell. His Penguin was absolutely the best, most comic-accurate take on any character in the Batman mythos. I cannot believe how absolutely lost in that character Farrell was. I will gladly tune into whatever he appears in next, whether on the big screen or small.
While very long, I only really felt that The Batman dragged once. And, without going into spoilers, it’s a certain scene with Alfred. It felt like it wasn’t earned yet and, if I had to cut anything, that’s what I would’ve snipped. Andy Serkis makes a terrific Alfred and the moment is very touching. It just feels like we didn’t know him well enough yet to dedicate that much time and emotion to him. Other than that, I felt like this was a very streamlined, earned three-hour runtime. Make sure your bladder is empty going in because there’s not much that can be easily missed.
So, as you can probably tell by this being one of the longest write-ups I’ve ever done, I really, really enjoyed The Batman. However, I would probably still rank it below The Dark Knight as my favorite Batman movie, because I feel like that one had a better plot and, let’s face it, Heath Ledger’s performance is unbeatable. But, as far as understanding Batman and his universe, The Batman is by far the better take. I love this universe. I love the tone. I love the characters. I love the action. And, I cannot wait to see what they do next. I will definitely be first in line.
TL;DR: Despite my reluctance to another “gritty” reboot, with The Batman, Matt Reeves has created my favorite live-action version of the character’s mythos to date and Pattinson is easily my new favorite Batman.
Score: 9/10 (Amazing)