The time has come for what is arguably the most highly-anticipated comic book movie of 2022: The Batman. Originally a project that Ben Affleck directed and starred in, Matt Reeves took over the project when Affleck dropped out due to reservations. The project gained special attention when Robert Pattinson was cast as the titular hero to great shock and apprehension. However, casting announcements rolled in with inspiring star power such as Andy Serkis, Zoë Kravitz, Colin Farrell, and John Turturro.
Sentiments continued to improve once the first trailer was released at DC Fandome in 2020. People immediately became excited to see the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director’s mysteriously dark take on this beloved character. Thankfully, Reeves’ deep passion for the comics shines throughout every minute detail. In spite of hesitations towards the need for another Batman movie, The Batman proves itself to be the best superhero film since 2008’s The Dark Knight.
The Batman follows a younger Bruce Wayne (Pattinson) than we’re used to seeing on screen. He finds himself two years after putting on the mask, using his skills to fight crime. His name? Vengeance. Journaling every night he fights Gotham’s worst, Bruce works to archive every face and punch thrown. He seeks to pursue his father’s vision of a better Gotham by cultivating the shadowy mythos of the menacing vigilante. Unfortunately, things are not as black and white as he wishes them to be.
A serial killer is on the loose, targeting Gotham’s elite citizens. An honest detective Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) has made an unconventional allyship with the Bat, bringing him in on the gruesome scenes left by a so-called Riddler (Paul Dano). Gotham’s mafia bosses soon step in, entangling Batman deeper into the city’s criminal underbelly. Said entanglements quickly lead to a mysterious thief named Selina Kyle (Kravitz), with whom he begrudgingly teams up to solve the case and save lives. Pattinson and Kravitz’s tensely composed chemistry as the Bat and the Cat is sure to leave audiences yearning just as much as them.
Reeves crafts a film that is deeply reminiscent of the detective novella. His affinity for the classic elements of the mystery/thriller genre shines through rich nocturnal visuals and a hypnotic score. Reeves paints every frame with precision, enticing the viewer deeper into the depths of a dark crime thriller further.
Cinematographer Greig Fraser approaches this not as a superhero film, but as a piece you would see in a museum. The cinematography is exquisitely meticulous, ranging from immaculate still shots to magnificent aerials that are clean but never sterile. Even the production design is as gothic and grimy as a cathedral. Top that with Michael Giacchino’s hauntingly epic score, The Batman is intricately woven together to conduct a cinematic orchestra of a film.
It is abundantly clear from the very first minute, Reeves and his team behind this film are avid Batman fans. Of course, it would be disingenuous to not credit the creative freedom the studio granted Reeves with this film. Even so, watching this version of the iconic detective sparks pure joy in the hearts of fans. It is particularly nostalgic with Rocksteady Studios’ Arkham trilogy of video games. From the pinpoint-precise fight choreography to the innovative weapons and gadgets, this Batman will leave fans giddy for more.
It will also be no secret to anyone that Pattinson is a phenomenal actor. His work in previous critically acclaimed films such as The Lighthouse and Good Time led him to this big blockbuster moment. His performance as Bruce Wayne is incredibly commanding, carrying the aggressive hunger for justice he should have. Pattinson dons the suit with youthful vigor, his physicality during fight scenes a character in itself. Fans of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One will be ecstatic to see this homage to the 1987 comic book run of Batman’s early crime-fighting days.
Reeves and Peter Craig’s script also helps strike a satisfying balance between a serious vigilante detective and comic book-style camp. In fact, this entire screenplay is oozing with moments that feel peeled straight from a comic book page. It is refreshing to see Bruce Wayne sincerely confronted as a character here, and Pattinson’s performance further elevates it. Reeves’ level of passion for Bruce Wayne as a human is something Christopher Nolan could only dream of.
The rest of the cast is not far behind. Kravitz stands out with a delightful performance that smoothly blends Eartha Kitt and Michelle Pfeiffer’s iterations of Catwoman, all the while bringing her own flair to the character. Her character has tons of depth alongside her co-star, giving us one of the most comprehensive live-action iterations of the cat burglar yet. Wright breathes new life into Detective Jim Gordon, providing an outstanding balance of dark comedy and sternness to the cast. In addition, Farrell’s funky take on The Penguin has the potential to be a crowd-pleaser.
Another exciting stand out is Dano’s unsettling performance as The Riddler, a villain unseen in a live-action film since 1995’s Batman Forever. The Riddler has been a character many fans have been yearning for since The Dark Knight trilogy. Unfortunately, Warner Bros.’ monotonous obsession with the Joker has reigned for more than a decade. It’s exciting to see a member of the best rogue galleries a superhero could have finally receive some screen time. And Matt Reeves is clearly ready to dive into it.
If one were to critique this film’s faults, it would likely be with its pacing. It has an indulgent three-hour runtime, and each hour is its own contained act. The Batman is certainly a slow-burn thrill, with a heavier approach to building tension that makes the awaited action land even harder. Any lulls in the story never go on too long, quickly picking itself back up to keep the viewer engaged. Once again, Reeves’ meticulous eye for detail connects practically every point in the grand mystery.
The Batman is as sublime as superhero films can get. Reeves has devised a divine, gothic entry into the genre whilst paying homage to the character’s detective novella-inspired origins. The entire film is bathed in nuanced storytelling, brought to life by some of the best working creatives in the industry. – Ileana Meléndez
The Batman will release in theaters on March 4, 2022.