I know what everyone wants to know, so I’m going to start with it.
“Is Robert Pattinson a good Batman?” I am happy to respond to this with a resounding and overwhelmingly confident “HELL YES.” In fact, I would go a step further. I would argue that Pattinson is the best live action Batman to date. Although, for me, Matt Reeves’ The Batman falls short of being the best Batman film to date; the Dark Knight still reigns supreme. I strongly believe that Pattinson’s portrayal of the tortured soul is my favourite yet. So. What about the movie itself?
Coming in at just under three hours runtime – the longest solo Bats film to date – The Batman absolutely earns its marathon of a runtime. Part gothic horror, part David Fincher serial killer mystery, part graphic novel, The Batman is an exceptionally exciting, engaging and visceral piece of cinema that deserves to be seen on the big screen. From its gorgeous direction and cinematography, to its perfect score and impressive sound design, to the strong performances from its committed cast, The Batman shows how much DC has to offer when it’s done right.
The story picks up two years into Bruce Wayne’s journey as the costumed marsupial (Sorry, I’m not a zoologist and this line sounded great). Wayne is jaded, brooding, intense and over it. He doesn’t care what happens to him, he just doesn’t want to suffer losing the people he loves ever again. This is a different Bruce Wayne than we are used to seeing on screen: less charismatic and charming in the public eye and very much still struggling with the weight of his parents’ death and the decaying city of Gotham around him.
The writing, combined with Pattinson’s performance, present a deeply conflicted character. A bat with a clear sense of morality even if his concept of good and bad is greatly skewed; a Batman who is still learning how to bat and how to man and how those identities conflict with each other. Pattinson is pitch perfect, from his voice, to his look, to his vulnerability. He brings everything to the role in what could be a highlight of his already impressive career.
The villains are several, but unlike many superhero films before it, it isn’t over-bloated. Reeves doesn’t bite off more than he can chew and manages to set up enough for future films without negating the story he is telling in this one. Paul Dano portrays an interesting version of Riddler, fit for the modern age. Although he may not be the Riddler you are familiar with, his portrayal is chilling, disturbing and a good blend of over-the-top and grounded believability. Special mention to, Colin Farrell’s superb rendition of Penguin, who I hope has a lot more of a role to play in the inevitable sequel.
Stylistically, the film is excellent. Reeves’ direction is as confident and assured as it has ever been. Despite being long, the pacing never drags. The use of lighting is mesmerising at times, using layers of darkness throughout but without it ever feeling unengagingly (yes, I know that’s not a word but I’m sticking with it) bleak. One sequence is shot entirely without lighting except for the gun fire – and it is incredible – one of the best Batman fights I have ever experienced. We really feel how Batman uses the darkness as his greatest weapon, fear as his tool of vengeance. The colouration creates a Gotham deeply rooted in the gothic noir aesthetic.
The musical score by Michael Giacchino reminds us yet again that he is one of the top composers of our generation. The score, like all great scores, works as a main storytelling device, driving the emotion, the pace, and the entire tone of the film. All these technical aspects work in harmony to create a film that feels all engaging and enthralling from start to finish.
Overall, The Batman is a huge step forward for DC Films. After the luke-warm reception of Snyder’s attempts at creating a world worth pursuing, this feels much more like a welcome leap in the right direction. Continuing a similar artistic vibe as Todd Phillips’ Joker a few years prior, it feels as though DC may finally have found the way forward for their cinematic universe.
– Ashton Brown