It seems like ever since cinema was invented, Hollywood has been making Batman films. He has endured in the zeitgeist for what seems like forever. A watchful protector stalking the shadows of the theater to give us all a breathtakingly good time. Whether your first introduction to Gotham's protector was West, Keaton, Conroy, Kilmer, Clooney, Bale, or the myriad of other voice actors who have inhabited the role, chances are that your first experience watching Batman was a memorable one. And now in 2022, writer/director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, War for the Planet of the Apes) and actor Robert Pattinson (Good Time, The Rover, Tenet, The Lighthouse, and yes even *sigh* Twilight) have given audiences a new take on the Caped Crusader. But is this Batman up to snuff? Or is he just one big joke? Well fellow Bat-Fans, read on and see how our team here at The Holy Goof felt about the Dark Knight's newest adventure!
It is Batman's second year as a crime-fighting avenger. He has a working relationship with Officer Gordon (much to the ire of the rest of the GCPD) and has fought to put as many criminals as he can behind bars. But when a new killer emerges in Gotham's underbelly (The Riddler), it will take all of Batman's cunning, smarts, and know-how to solve the riddles and stop Riddler before he causes the city's greatest catastrophe to date.
Writer and director Matt Reeves brings Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson), aka "Vengeance", to the big screen once again for the 6th movie rendition of the famous caped crusader. (12 total actors have played Batman since 1943.) I went into this movie worried that it would be “just another batman”, but it proved to be completely original while also taking the best elements from all of the movies preceding it. I am intrigued with Batman’s imperfection and the realistic take on a new (but not too new) vigilante in Gotham. I also enjoyed how Batman worked with the police instead of against them (not always to the officers' enjoyment). The movie features my now favorite bat-suit, bat-mobile, bat-cave and even Batman. Andy Serkis manages to be the best Alfred even with so many great versions before him (Shout out to Michael Caine) and Jeffery Wright does the same with his take on Commissioner Gordon (Shout out to Gary Oldman).
The Wayne family is not portrayed as perfect, as they are in past films, and someone finally touches on the dark side of Gotham’s elites and the corruption within. Bruce is just as flawed as his family and so is his partner in crime Selina Kyle aka Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz). Paul Dano (as the Riddler) delivers a frightening, sadistic performance and Colin Ferrell (in very heavy prosthetics) brings on the laughs and the fear with his menacing take on the mobster, The Penguin. These performances set them above all, placing them with Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker in 2008. There are a few moments that I felt needed deeper explanation, but I am hoping this is to be a trilogy and the unexplained moments are just being saved for a better time. Even the soundtrack was undeniably intoxicating and the scores throughout gave me chills.
Who was that at the end of The Batman?
When Matt Reeves was asked about the ending scene at a Q&A, in early February, his answer was, “Who do you think he is? The unseen prisoner… he’s who you think he is. That’s who he is.” The unseen prisoner is heard saying, “What is it they say? One day you’re on top, the next you’re a clown.”) and a joker-like laugh is chuckled at the end. One thing is for sure, the actor behind the curtain is Barry Keoghan (a great actor) and it seems to set up a sequel, so regardless of who it is, I'm happy. I personally love the Joker, but would much rather see some new characters brought to the big screen, like Hush. (NOTE: on March 24th, Matt Reeves released a deleted scene from the film which confirms this WAS Joker!)
"Something in the way...YEAH!"
Kurt Cobain croons as the camera hovers over the crime-ridden streets of Gotham; the Caped Crusader waxes poetic of his inner turmoil, and you're in your seat thinking, 'Why won't anyone just leave this fucking town!?"
Robert Pattinson embodies Batman's true nature as the ultimate "sad boy" in this one. While you can't relate to the sadness that a billionaire with seemingly everything (sans parents) may somehow possess, you can totally understand the angst that comes with being truly misunderstood. The blank 'dead' stare under black battle worn eye-paint and greasy hair, the grunts fueling every punch thrown to completely obliterate a bad guy's face - you feel this man's trauma.
All in all 'The Batman' whelmed me...not over, not under...just whelmed. That being said, there's nothing wrong with an 'ok' film. But, it can certainly be done in a tight two hour time frame, right? The worst part is, I'm not sure what they really did with the extra hour, because those moments of orchestral peacocking during mildly dramatic scenes certainly didn't add to the film. I held a bathroom break for as long as a normal person could before running to pee with about 30 minutes left. I came back to Gotham bursting into flames about to turn into some dark and twisted version of Atlantis. I felt like I'd miss nothing. I'd seen this before. This is perhaps my biggest critique of the movie, nothing surprised me. While I like to see someone's face get blown to pieces as much as the next guy, where was the sharp plot twist I felt this was building to from the first chord of Nirvana? All we got was several intense confirmations that many of the characters are named after winged animals (seriously, if Robin were in this it would be an hour longer). I will however, give props to whoever came up with Batman shooting himself with adrenaline and going absolutely berserk...give us more of that please.
For those of you who probably hate me by now. Here are some flowers:
It's entertaining and definitely worth the watch. The youth of Pattinson (Batman), Zoë Kravitz (Catwoman), and Paul Dano (The Riddler) is a refreshing and much needed take in Batman's long filmography, which probably makes this my favorite cast.
Pattinson > Ben Affleck and Christian Bale
This is probably DC's best film. I'll give it a slight nod over The Suicide Squad (2021) for cinematography alone. It's a superior visual experience.
I think I've finally come to terms with something I've been trying not to admit for a long time. This movie has confirmed it for me.
I'm not really into Batman. So take everything I just said with a grain of salt...
It’s hard to sum up what makes The Batman so good in such a short amount of time because every element of this film is at the peak of its craft. From the directing, to the cinematography, to the performances, to the music; everything is handled with such care and devotion. Robert Pattinson gives us the most brooding Batman to date, showcasing a Bruce that is so utterly obsessed with his pursuits of justice that he turns a blind eye to nearly every other element in his life. This is something Michael Keaton tapped into, but never to this extent. This Bruce feels hollowed out and depressed. He only feels alive when he’s Batman. Zoe Kravitz’s Catwoman is brimming with sensuality and sexual tension. Yet she never feels two dimensional. Here is a multi-layered woman who shows us incredible emotional range throughout her journey. And Paul Dano’s Riddler is terrifying and mesmerizing. But even supporting roles like Andy Serkis’ turn as Alfred, John Tuturro’s Falcone, and Colin Farrell’s Penguin feel completely real and lived it.
One of my (very few) issues with the Nolan films was the fact that Gotham never felt distinct. It just felt like Detroit or another real world city. Here Matt Reeves makes sure the world of Gotham feels alive and moody, yet distinct from previous renditions. It feels like it’s own real city, but constantly shrouded in rain and darkness. It fits perfectly with the detective story told here. It is important to note that this is NOT a superhero film in the traditional sense. Matt Reeves has crafted a dark noir story that feels right in line with some of Batman’s more mature adventures like The Long Halloween, Year One, or Hush.
The last thing I’ll bring up is the thematic writing. This is an incredible film for studying how to weave an emotional theme very subtly throughout a film. The dynamic of family and particularly the role of the father is hidden within nearly every scene. Riddler thinks he and Batman are the same because he recognizes them both as orphans. Similarity, Catwoman doesn’t exactly have the best worldview either; no surprise considering who her father is revealed to be. Now compare those two to Bruce. He’s also an orphan, but he really isn’t. He had one thing the others didn’t: Alfred. Through this case, Bruce realizes that Alfred is the father he needed. And if it weren’t for Alfred, it’s possible that he would have become just like Riddler or Catwoman. Pay attention to Bruce’s conversations with Alfred next time you watch this film. The theme of fatherhood is very subtle, but it’s there.
Matt Reeves has crafted a nuanced, intense, brooding detective film. And he has done an impeccable job. This is Seven or Zodiac but with Batman as the detective and Riddler as the serial killer. Which, I'll be honest, is not a mash-up I expected Hollywood to tackle, let alone handle so well. Mad props to everyone involved. The Batman is my favorite film of 2022 so far.
Firstly, let me say that aesthetically this may be my favorite Batman movie. The apparent comic influences of Year One and The Long Halloween shine through with every high contrast shot. I also loved the gritty noir influence. A jaded main character narrating his movements through a seedy underworld is right up my dark and sinister alley. Now for the opinions that are gonna have me watching my back like a thug searching the shadows for any sign of the caped crusader. I was so excited to hear that this was going to be a take on Batman that focused on aspect of his persona that's often overlooked in adaptations: this would be a detective movie. And, as a perfect counter point to the world's greatest detective would be the incredible Paul Dano playing a fresh version of The Riddler (my favorite villain ever). And this is one area where I feel the movie missed its mark. I love the new imagined version of The Riddler, but I feel like an opportunity was missed to have him weave a crime mystery full of twists and turns for Batman to solve. I just never felt like that happened. The Riddler certainly sets up puzzles and Batman solves them (kinda), but I found myself missing a big unexpected reveal. I was never uncertain of how things would end up. The plot felt predictable and frankly a bit drawn out.
And that brings me to my last point, the length of this film felt unjustified. There were many moments that seemed to hold for just a few beats too long. Some entire scenes seemed unnecessary to me. And before you yell at me...I like long movies! I just felt that this one could've used some tightening up.
All that being said, The Batman is certainly worth watching. I'm even planning a return trip to catch it again while it's in theaters. The score, the aesthetics, the cast, are all amazing and I will definitely tune in to any new iterations of this Batman universe. I just hope the writing and editing take a note from Battinson and get a tad bit punchier.
While some of us may have liked the film more than others, it is clear that this new Batman is a winner. The aesthetics, directing, performances, and action are all fantastic. But this film may be a bit slow and/or long for some. For anyone out there looking for a dark noir take on the Caped Crusader, you have found your film. For anyone not familiar with Batman, or expecting a typical superhero film, keep your expectations in check and you may end up enjoying it. But one thing each of us can agree on is that all of us here are very much looking forward to where this new franchise takes us! Battinson for life!
GOOF'S GROUP RATING: 8/10
A Final Word
Batman is a pop culture icon. He will endure forever. He doesn't have super powers like Superman or Wonder Woman, he's simply a man with the right strength, knowledge, and drive (and wallet). And even though everyone will have their personal favorite actor who inhabited the role, it's safe to say that each one has brought a new layer to Bruce Wayne. Hollywood will never stop making Batman films. And as long as they keep making them, we'll keep watching them!
So to all our fellow Dark Knight fans out there, goodnight. And travel safely on the streets of Gotham.
But before you take that shortcut down Crime Alley, don't forget to check out Brett's related article: Who Played the Best Batman... Ranked By Theme Song!