‘The Batman’—A Stellar Achievement In The Superhero Genre: Review

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‘The Batman’—A Stellar Achievement In The Superhero Genre

The first solo Batman film since 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, Matt Reeves’ The Batman is finally here—and well worth the decade-long wait.

★★★★★

The Batman’s caped crusader is brought to life by Robert Pattinson who, alongside Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman, goes up against Paul Dano’s The Riddler in a mystery-thriller which will terrify and take The Batman in directions he has never been on screen before. 

Reeves’ approach to Batman is refreshing, which is saying a lot considering how many talented directors have tackled the tale of the dark knight over the years. DC’s prize possession has been dropped in the middle of a Se7en/Zodiac style serial killer mystery. However, don’t take that to mean that Pattinson’s Batman feels out of place—Batman perfectly slots into this gritty, real-world that Reeves has created with production designer James Chinlund. No longer just a modern city as in Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, nor overly fantastical like the Tim Burton films, Reeves’ Gotham feels real with just a hint of detachment from our reality.

The Batman has two narrative plots; one solving the Riddler’s murders, and the other exploring Gotham’s criminal underbelly. These are constantly working alongside one another and that does inevitably mean that some people will feel it is a little too long, clocking in at three hours. It could have been trimmed down a little bit but, it is paced very well, and the two narratives work together perfectly and collide in a very satisfying crescendo. Reeves has successfully fit the stories for the first two films in a trilogy into one. The weak link, if there is one, would be the screenplay, with the odd goofy line. But overall, The Batman is impactful and surprisingly funny.

Given a 15 rating in the UK, the violence here is beyond what we are used to in Batman films. Some of Riddler’s kills are brutal and torturous and, while we don’t see them take place, the characters’ reactions capture the horror. The shot featuring Riddler’s introduction is taken straight from a horror film and sets the tone perfectly for what you will get for the next three hours. Pattinson makes for a wonderful Batman, and he gets a lot of time in the mask. In fact, we barely see Bruce Wayne as himself. Pattinson only has a small handful of scenes when he’s not wearing the suit, beautifully crafted, alongside all the other suits, by Academy Award-winning costume designer Jacquelin Durran. There are even fewer scenes when Bruce Wayne is being Bruce Wayne, who in this interpretation is a recluse meaning there are only a handful of scenes where Pattinson gets to play Bruce Wayne the billionaire. In these scenes, Pattinson gives a wonderfully aloof and intriguing performance just as layered and interesting as when he has on the mask. Some will leave the cinema wishing they get more time with Bruce the person rather than Bruce the vigilante, although it works perfectly well with the overarching theme of the film—vengeance. 

The rest of the cast is just as good, Zoë Kravtiz’s Selina Kyle is layered, complex, and possibly the best Catwoman put to screen. John Turturro’s performance as Carmine Falcone is fantastic. The whole criminal underworld of Gotham is done better here than ever before and that’s not just down to the writing but the wonderful performances. 

Colin Farrell is truly unrecognisable as The Penguin. Farrell’s face may be hidden under flawless and unnoticeable prosthetics, but his performance shines through and seeing more of Penguin is definitely something you’ll want more of in the future. Jeffrey Wright gets a lot more to do than most interpretations of Jim Gordon; he is incredible in the role, and it makes you even more excited for DC’s planned GCPD spin-off show. While the Riddler is a huge presence in the film, Dano is given little to do but what he does get he hits out of the park.

Greig Fraser is the man of the hour, though. His cinematography is breathtaking. The Batman, like Fraser’s last film, Dune, went through a relatively unique cinematographic process. The film was shot entirely digitally, then scanned onto 35mm celluloid film, then scanned back to digital. The Batman’s visuals are stunning for it. There are tight close-ups verging on microphotography as well as big expansive shots of the Gotham landscape. Fraser grounds you in this world and frames the shots beautifully. The lighting and shadows are used to the utmost effect and really emphasise the threat of Batman. From the first reveal of Batman, the first reveal of Riddler, or the first reveal of the batmobile, Fraser knows how to hide things in the shadows and reveal them to you in the best way possible. 

It’s difficult to compare this to other Batman films; others have tighter narratives and more compact stories that flow better as a whole product, but Reeves’ The Batman is made up of many moving parts that all work flawlessly together like no other Batman film before. The action and violence are brutish. This Bruce Wayne is younger and angrier than other versions of the character; the harshness of Pattinson’s Batman is captured in every punch Batman throws, every scream, every glance. 

The Verdict

Overall, Reeves has crafted a Batman film that impresses and intrigues, an achievement in the superhero genre. The Batman soars above every contemporary superhero film both technically and thematically.

Words by Lewis Royle


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