Despite its three-hour run-time, “The Batman” surprisingly captivates its audience with brilliant storytelling, an amazing cast and mesmerizing cinematography — leaving many excited for what’s to come.
*No spoilers ahead*
“The Batman” does a fantastic job evoking the detective noir thriller genre. It’s about Batman going where the law can’t, using his intellect and understanding of the criminal underbelly to try and solve the horrific crimes committed by The Riddler throughout Gotham.
It’s surprising how far “The Batman” goes with some of its violence, considering its PG-13 rating. Body parts are dismembered, and suggestions of certain things happening to the Riddler’s victims remind viewers of movies like “Saw” or “Se7en.”
Batman has always lent itself to those darker and more mature storylines. It’s refreshing to finally see a live-action Batman movie go out of its way to show how dark and messed up Gotham City can be.
Despite being a superhero, Batman is a terrifying character in the movie. The film starts two years after Bruce Wayne first put on the Batman suit. Gorgeous shots in the movie’s opening sequence depict Gotham’s criminals in action. In the middle of committing their crimes, however, they look up to see the bat signal, and the audience can see the fear appear on their faces; the sight of their dread is alternated with shots of dark alleyways, the criminals desperately wondering if Batman is there, part of the darkness and shadows. Plenty of films conveyed criminals’ fear when face-to-face with Batman. However, this is the first time it feels like criminals genuinely pissed their pants at the mere thought of Batman down an unlit alleyway.
Robert Pattinson did a fantastic job portraying Batman as a broken and struggling individual early in his crime-fighting career. Something behind his eyes made him appear dead inside, a side of Batman audiences had not seen before. This is potentially the darkest, most brutal live-action Batman ever depicted, and the rage and pain can be felt throughout his performance.
Pattinson’s Batman goes out to try and make Gotham better. At the same time, he half hopes he’ll die in a fight or get shot trying to save somebody. Batman is so mentally destroyed, yet he continues protecting the city. Pattinson does an excellent job depicting Batman as psychologically disturbed. There is no real distinction between Batman and Bruce Wayne in the film. It will be interesting to see how Pattinson continues to portray them later on in the franchise.
Paul Dano’s The Riddler was awesome. The way the character is used throughout the film is ingenious. Batman villains have consistently stolen the spotlight in previous films because of their excellent depictions. The Riddler shares similar qualities to prior villains but “The Batman” uses him sparingly to up the tension and the fear factor of his character, plans and capabilities. The audience could not get enough of the Riddler.
Like Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne, it’s too early to have a definitive opinion on Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman. However, the version of Catwoman presented in “The Batman” complemented the superhero protagonist very well. Moreover, it’s a faithful adaptation of the character; she is a frenemy of Batman, an ally that will screw him over in a heartbeat for her own gain. Although their chemistry felt rushed and a little off, that pull and tug between their complicated relationship was presented very well.
Jeffrey Wright’s performance as James Gordon reinforced the detective-noir feeling of “The Batman,” although the scenes with Batman and Gordon together also feel like it could be out of a buddy cop team-up movie. Gordon almost takes the part of Morgan Freeman’s character in “Se7en” while Batman is Brad Pitt’s character — one is tied to the law and the other refuses to go by the book. Again, it leaves the audience excited to see the development of these two characters later in the franchise.
Finally, Colin Farrell as The Penguin was phenomenal. He was so transformative, and he fully merged into the role. Going into the movie, if one wasn’t told Farrell was playing the Penguin, it’s a guarantee they would have never noticed. He seemed to disappear with the prosthetics, the physical performance, the actual voice and the dialect. Farrell completely owns this character.
Like the Riddler, he’s used sparingly to drive the plot forward and facilitate Batman’s character development. The brilliant casting of these characters was well-received by the audience.
The Direction and Cinematography
As impressive as “The Planet of the Apes” films were, this might be Matt Reeves’ most beautifully directed, evident in the way that he frames shots, transitions between scenes, structures action sequences and employs slow, dark segments throughout the movie. Reeves magnificently visualizes the greediness and disgusting nature of Gotham City. He effectively uses the camera to convey these emotions without words.
One of the best scenes features the upside-down shot where Batman slowly walks toward the camera with fire blazing behind him. In another scene, Batman fights in the darkness as gunshots gently light up his every move. In one of the final scenes, Batman illuminates the path so people can safely follow him. Each of these moments establishes “The Batman” as one of the most beautifully shot Batman films so far.
Each time the story gets retold, the Batman franchise has a wildly different interpretation of the character. It’s impossible to please everybody because everyone has different opinions about the ideal Batman. Some people love the whimsical style of the Burton Batman films while others prefer the crime thriller elements in the Christopher Nolan movies. It’s essential to recognize that all these films carry merit. One may do something better than the other, but that doesn’t mean any of them have less value.