Directed by: Matt Reeves, Written by: Matt Reeves, Peter Craig, (Batman created by Bill Finger with Bob Kane), Starring: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Colin Farrell, Paul Dano.
SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!!
I giggled in my seat. It was 2020 and The Batman trailer was rocking my world, a lighthouse in the midst of an uncertain year. I was watching Batman exact brutal justice on a nameless goon and something occurred to me: something felt different. I’ve seen Batman punish goons across comics pages and the silver screen. From O’Neil to Snyder. From Keaton to Affleck. Many a bat-fist was thrown and I gazed, slack-jawed, at them all. . . but like a bat through a window, it hit me. This wasn’t just another Batman. This was The Batman.
The Batman's story focuses on the Caped Crusader at an early point in his career. Struggling to determine if his mission is actually accomplishing anything, Bruce is faced with a mystery that could bring Gotham City to its knees at the hands of the Riddler. Simultaneously brutal, focused, and untempered, this Batman is trying to understand his role in the very city he is trying to protect. Add glimpses of a more gothic return to Gotham City, alongside a terrifying take on the Riddler, and I thought that The Batman would quite possibly check every single box on my “in a perfect world” Batman movie.
That being said, The Batman is the best live action Batman movie.
A few things are made clear in the opening minutes of The Batman. Our titular Dark Knight has been active for two years, inspiring fear on the streets of Gotham. Batman is treated like an urban legend, as if he could be lurking in any and every shadow. This idea is presented so well in the beginning, the cinematography and music working together to build the myth of "The Batman".
We also learn that the story is a deliciously noir detective story with grit and self-reflection aplenty. The stark lighting and somber atmosphere establish a mysterious tone, each detail or sentence a clue to be dissected over and over.
I was immediately drawn in to this new Gotham City through its neo-gothic stylistic approach and its respect for those that came before. Looming towers, burdened skylines, and melancholic weather pull from all the Gothams of movies past to create a setting that doesn't breathe so much as rasp maliciously. The city feels dynamic, and every location we see throughout the film boasts gorgeous detailing and history. Technology and gothic architecture merge brokenly, with some buildings wearing neon ads like a mask to hide the corrupted foundation beneath.
Pattinson astounds as the Caped Crusader. He brings a new dimension to the character that, in my opinion, hasn't been adequately explored anywhere but the pages of a comic book. The rage and sadness of Bruce Wayne is often pushed to the side to make room for flamboyant or scene-stealing villains. We often get comfortable with familiar characters and assume there's nothing new to be found. Pattinson shows us the error of our ways.
Kravitz's Selina Kyle is brilliantly complex and avoids (for the most part) the usual objectification associated with Catwoman. Selina is kind but corrupted by the anger that permeates the foundation of Gotham City. The same anger in Bruce. The same in Riddler. I loved every moment with Selina on-screen, and her banter with Bruce is always meaningful rather than stereotypically provocative. All this to say that every character felt like an individualized person with quirks and unique thought processes. This ensures that every relationship between characters feels like it has history without relying on exposition. That character-centered world building enhances those oh-so-sought-after fan service moments by earning them first.
I left out A LOT of things that I want to talk about. I could go on about the Riddler, about the story, about the so on and so forth, but some things are better experienced, and I won't contribute to the blight of spreading spoilers. What I can say is this: I've watched a lot of Batman. Like . . . so much Batman. Robert Pattinson is now my Batman and, as far as I'm concerned, the Batman. However, that doesn't mean I'm right, it just means I'm at a keyboard. Go see this movie for yourself. This original, captivating film maintains a narrative balance between the old and the new in order to give us a story with timeless characters. Experience it if you can when The Batman hits theaters March 4th.
While watching The Batman, a few graphic novels made their way into my head that I'll share with you all. You can always find them at YOUR LOCAL COMIC BOOK SHOP or online.
Austin Kemp read Batman #315 (Batman vs Kite Man) when he was 5 years old, and hasn't stopped reading comics since. Austin is a college writing teacher and has a masters degree in Comics Studies. Austin and his partner, Savanah, live in Massachusetts with their master, a cat named Chaplin.