What dawned on me while watching Matt Reeves’ ‘The Batman’ is how we are experiencing a resurgence of proper high-quality blockbusters. Movies like ‘Dune’, ‘Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse’ and ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ have all left an imprint on both Hollywood and pop culture. They evaded the rushing wave of disremembrance because they provided something new and exciting to audiences all around the world even if they weren’t exactly box-office hits. ‘The Batman’ however, more or less lies somewhere in the middle as it doesn’t really break any new cinematic ground but is instead a comic-book movie that doesn’t solely rely on its story to captivate the audience. In a sea of superhero saturation, ‘The Batman’ is an atmospheric masterpiece, prioritizing classic filmmaking to not just bring iconic comic-book characters to life in captivating ways but to have them inhabit a masterfully crafted Gotham. Whereas previous comic-book movies simply brought their source material to life, ‘The Batman’ truly takes you within the borders of Gotham among its characters.
minor spoilers for ‘The Batman’ are featured in this review.
Truth be told, this is only my second proper Batman movie. I remember watching the 1989 movie to get ready for ‘Batman V Superman’ and that’s pretty much it. I decided against watching Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy before watching Reeves’ interpretation because I wanted to go in as blind as possible. I didn’t want to have a biased opinion on a trilogy that is intensely beloved. Growing up, Batman was one of those icons that I knew about purely because he was so popular. I saw glimpses of ‘The Brave and The Bold’ as a kid and my first theatrical impression was Ben Affleck who really didn’t capture my attention, his performance didn’t line up with what I had created in my head as the Batman. I never understood why Batman was so beloved, that is until I watched ‘The Batman’. Everything became so clear after watching this movie. The opening fifteen to twenty minutes of this movie sold me immediately. The increasing anticipation building as the movie teases his appearance was so well done. I love that the movie introduced Gotham first and then Batman since the latter is essentially a product of Gotham just like the other characters. Gotham is just as much a character as the others. Through its masterful cinematography and gorgeous set designs, they evoked suspense out of showing dark alleys and corners because at any moment Batman could walk out. There was a fear and anticipation that kept you on the edge of your seat. That is how you introduce a character!
What Robert Pattinson and Matt Reeves accomplish with this movie in terms of exploring Bruce Wayne and Batman is genuinely understated. This is the first time ever I found Bruce compelling as a character. The constant torture and conflict in Bruce’s soul, his reasoning, what essentially makes Batman… Batman. It all becomes so clear with this movie. Even if his origin story is never explicitly shown, the movie doesn’t treat it like an event that doesn’t need to be talked about because other movies have done it. It explores his origin story through his connection to the Riddler but more importantly through his trauma. Catwoman’s arc intertwines with his beautifully in the third act when he stops her from ruining her life by making a brutal mistake. The look of a thousand words when he looks at the newly orphaned boy in the beginning and again at the funeral. You can constantly tell what he’s thinking even when he doesn’t utter a single word and that’s all due to Robert Pattinson’s riveting performance. He embodies Bruce Wayne, he is Batman. Every move he takes is deliberate, his eye movement is calculated and his silence speaks volumes. His entire reasoning for creating the Batman persona is challenged in this movie which works because it’s only his second year. He is still not as confident and secure as this larger than life symbol. With the way the ending wraps up and how Bruce changes the Batman’s symbolism from fear to hope. He goes from emerging from the shadows to becoming the guiding light of Gotham and it works perfectly for this Batman. Helping people through trauma and being there for them when no one was for him.
As if Pattinson wasn’t a good enough reason to watch this movie, the supporting cast is just as fantastic as he is. The chemistry he has with everyone in this cast is just as much a compliment to him as it is to his co-stars. His dynamic with Jim Gordon was one of my favourite elements of the movie, Jeffrey Wright was simply excellent casting, I loved his performance! Zoë Kravitz’s Selina Kyle mirrors Bruce with her emotional arc however her character is wholly original. Her line delivery, slick movements and action sequences contrasts beautifully with Pattinson’s more silent and steady, dead-pan Batman. Paul Dano’s Riddler is truly terrifying at times, that first shot of him really took me off guard. There is an unbearable intensity whenever Riddler shows up or presents one of his schemes. Dano does a fantastic job bringing the horrifying qualities of this character while simultaneously keeping the well-known humour attached. His riddles, livestreams and lair were all terrifying but there were moments in each of them where that humour really shined. The USB drive and the polaroid photos on the wall, if you know, you know. However, he is for the most a menacing presence that looms over Gotham quite massively. The funeral scene was such a fantastic example of growing tension, the increasingly louder screams, the tense score building up, the car crashing through the church, you never knew what direction this movie would go in. It also helped that I did not watch a single clip before watching the entire movie. I urge anyone to go into this movie as blindly as possible. The entire third act was another great surprise, one that I never saw coming. It was refreshing in the sense that I had no idea where the plot was going which is usually not the case with these huge blockbusters.
To me, the reason why ‘The Batman’ is so successful in captivating its audience is because it knows exactly the type of movie it wants to be. While the movie’s three hour runtime can definitely be felt, I can’t really say there was ever a dull moment. There is a masterful cohesion in this movie that I don’t see many people talking about. The reason why Gotham feels lived in, why characters like Batman, Catwoman, Riddler and Penguin don’t feel ridiculous or over-the-top, it’s because the tone is perfected. The cinematography, shot composition, musical score, script, acting and visual scope all come together to create the ideal atmosphere and tone for the movie. It is why the Batman’s punches feel brutal and raw, why Riddler can go from being horrifying to humouros so well, why Colin Farrel’s Penguin is a goddamn delight. The car chase scene with the Batmobile resulted in an audible ‘goddamn’ from me. I’m not the type to speak during a movie but the word just left my mouth as soon as the Penguin’s car landed on it’s side. Words also cannot express how much Michael Giacchino’s score does for this movie. One of my favourite cinematic scores in recent memory. It’s thrilling, haunting and gripping all at the same time. This is what happens when a movie knows what it wants to be. ‘The Batman’ never falters in its identity, it is truly consistent in that manner and for a three-hour movie, that is quite the impressive feat. To me, however, this will be known as the movie that made me understand Batman and I think that’s the best compliment I can give.
‘The Batman‘ is now showing in theatres and will head over to HBO Max on April 18th!
If you feel safe, watch it on the biggest screen possible before streaming.