I recently was asked why we would need another Batman movie right now. The last live-action iteration wasn’t long ago and there are plenty of cartoons and comic versions that we could watch for years (Lego Batman may still be my favorite) but alas a new caped crusader has come to the big screen and despite scrutiny and months of belittling by those hung up for one reason or another, The Batman is a glorious theatrical experience that slaps aside the negative energy to give us what will undoubtedly be one of the best films of 2022. I suppose, like many plays and songs, a fresh take can make all the difference in the world.
Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) greets us with a voice-over as we see grimy and dismal corners of Gotham City. The age-old question is why would anyone want to live here, but perhaps its more so honest citizens have a bit of hope now that the Batman has begun beating up muggers and stalking the city at night. I certainly would be terrified and fear is Pattinson’s tool; a tool he shares with antagonist Riddler (Paul Dano) who quickly dispatches a politician with brutality and begins leaving clues to show he’s just getting started. The police still don’t trust Batman but Lieutenant Jim Gordan (Jeffrey Wright) is often giving him the inside scoop as Batman begins investigating, trying to decipher clues left by his foe.
When I say “investigating,” I truly mean it. This is Batman as the great detective most fans have always wanted to see. He uses recording devices, stealth, and still holds his own in the well-choreographed fights that often serve a purpose on a storytelling level. Action isn’t just there for action sake but the execution is first-rate. Director Matt Reeves, who helmed the underrated classic, War for the Planet of the Apes, knows how to keep an audience engaged even during a movie close to three hours long. The cinematography by Greig Fraser shows how bleak the city is with its mix of modern and gothic designs, but moments of levity are well-placed, many delivered by an early days Penguin (an unrecognizable Colin Farrell). With a longer runtime, we also get to see Bruce connect emotionally with the ever-loyal Alfred (Andy Serkis) and romantically with an early stage Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz). Balancing all these characters isn’t an easy feat and Reeves takes it a step further by having Gotham’s police force act as it’s own character to show how grand the scale is.
The chemistry between the cast is extraordinary and I could devote paragraphs to the growing attraction between Batman and Catwoman. People will be debating who steals the show for years to come. There are moments of moral conflict and although some of the Riddler’s puzzles may seem simple, Dano makes it all seem plausible. He changes tones, goes from whispers to pained yells, and has an energy and look reminiscent of the various serial killers in Copycat. His points on privilege, wealth, and fighting the corrupt system are well made and the first test for Bruce’s justification for vigilante justice....And yes, Robert Pattinson holds his own in their scenes together.
It’s a pretty sad tradition some DC fans have of bombarding an actor before the film even releases but with films like Tenet and The Lighthouse, Pattinson proved he had what it took and he doesn’t disappoint here. He spends more time in the suit than out of it and when he’s out in public in a simple suit, many take issue with how shy and out of place he feels. He isn’t the billionaire playboy we’ve come to expect. That’s the point. It’s a great jumping off point and he spends many scenes not using words but acting with his eyes, recognizing danger, connecting with a child losing a parent, and barely controlling his rage. We see the various ways the character can grow in future installments and I couldn’t be more excited.
There are few moments that may come across as questionable in The Batman but it will join the higher rated entries as one of the best. The character has survived the test of time and comes out gloriously on the wings of a killer score by Michael Giacchino. If there was ever a good time to return to the theater, this is it. Whatever the trailers may have loosely given away, it all plays out wonderfully on the big screen.
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