The Batman is sure to be the most divergent and compelling of Batman movies, feeling more like a detective movie than past iterations.
Published on March 4, 2022
Rating 4.5 /5
Director Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes) finds a lot of new stuff to explore in his take on Batman. It helps that he doesn’t just reboot this character with yet another origin story. Most audiences are familiar enough with Batman’s tragic origins, having been told three different times. This time, we’re treated to a Batman who is in his second year of fighting crime. And rather than just accept the darkness, he’s constantly questioning it.
For the role of Batman is Robert Pattinson and he thankfully doesn’t try too hard to put up a gruff facade for Batman or a swanky mask for Bruce Wayne. Here is a Bruce Wayne that is weary and frustrated, quietly waging a war on the criminal underworld while rarely looking at himself in the mirror. If he hopes to solve the latest crime, he’ll have to do some serious self-reflection as the loss of his parents may have more unanswered questions besides who pulled the trigger.
The villain Batman tackles with this time is The Riddler, played by a masked, cackling, and screeching Paul Dano. He has been murdering a series of politicians and police forces across Gotham City, leaving cryptic clues about his intent. It’s up to both Batman and Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) to figure out who The Riddler is and why he’s killing these prominent figures in Gotham politics. With some sleuthing, they manage to piece together an intricate web of crime and corruption that has been progressing for decades. It’s not going to be enough for Batman to merely utilize his tech and fighting skills to save the day.
He does have some help though. Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), aka Catwoman, is also on the tail of some mafia leaders to find out what happened to her missing friend. She finds herself on a mission of revenge but perhaps the elusive nature of Batman may turn her away from a life of murder, if not a crime. Bruce’s trusty butler Alfred (Andy Serkis) also provides some assistance with deciphering riddles but also provides some insight and guilt about Bruce’s upbringing. There are dark secrets he was hoping to take to his grave but soon realizes they may be crucial to solving the string of murders.
The focus remains on the corruption and serial killer aspect that villains like The Penguin (Colin Farrell) work well as supporting players. I really loved how this Penguin feels more like a sinister businessman of the Iceberg Lounge than a monster who bites off noses and strikes at Batman with umbrellas. There’s also some brilliant brooding in the soundtrack with a striking score by Michael Giacchino with a powerful new theme for Batman with just a few piano notes. The atmosphere is also perfect, perpetuating a Gotham City where it seems as though it’s raining every single night, including the sequences for the big car chase.
Speaking of car chases, the action does not disappoint. You’ll get plenty of Batman punching out criminals and using a handful of his gadgets, but mostly grappling hooks and spy tech. There are some fantastic sequences of chaos, where bombs go off and snipers take aim, turning Gotham into a nightmare for all its citizens. There’s little doubt that Reeves could deliver on such a spectacle given his resume, but if you needed some reassurance that Batman punches criminals, rest assured it’s present.
So much of The Batman is an understated take on the character and his world that I almost hoped it remained with smaller goals. The premise of Batman solving a series of murders and unraveling his past is a far more compelling story than just another villain who wants to once more burn Gotham City down in ablaze. Unfortunately, the picture does end with this explosive finale once again. At the very least, the film works to this point and there’s a real lesson learned by Batman beyond just that he’s destined to be a sad-sack fighting criminals.
The Batman is sure to be the most divergent and compelling of Batman movies, feeling more like a detective movie than past iterations. It’s brilliantly moody with some strong acting, a complex plot, and deep moral questioning of the character and his ideals of justice. It may not be the Batman most fans want but it certainly is the Batman movie we deserve.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.