Warner Brothers (studio)
19 April 2022 (released)
26 April 2022
Marvel is a powerhouse of superhero filmmaking. But they can also be largely considered a machine that pumps out the same film over and over and could be running out of steam with the likes of The Eternals. What I like about DC (and why I’m a DC fan overall) is that all their films, both recent and older, all have their own style, feel, and unique touches from their directors to make them their own ventures of filmmaking. I would say that DC films do indeed have a soul, regardless of if they’re good or bad. The Batman has been a film a long time coming and through many changes, departures and Covid, it’s finally time to see the Dark Knight rise once again.
The Dark Knight Rises once again
I saw a meme that said with the current trend and timing of Batman reboots, by 2050, there will be a Batman film reboot every 15 seconds. And you know what, I would be totally fine with this. Batman is a timeless hero and throughout its nearly enough 100-year journey in comics, films, and video games, there is always a compelling and unique approach to his return. Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher, and Christopher Nolan all had their own thought process and goal for their interpretation of Batman, and now Matt Reeves has his own brilliant vision for Robert Patterson's take on the Dark Knight.
What you will notice early on is the very grimy and bleak outlook of Gotham and its crime wave. Resembling much of a gritty 70’s crime drama, with convenience store robberies and mindless gang violence, The Batman clearly takes a few notes from 2019’s The Joker and places Batman within a crumbling and broken society. Greed, social care and so much more have to lead to the breakdown of common law, and while the villains are still recognisable to their comic counterparts, they feel frighteningly more human. But so does Batman.
The Cape Crusader tale of vengeance
This darker tone comes full force into the story, as Batman is facing off against a rather sinister portrayal of The Riddler, who appears more like a sadistic yet cunning serial killer like The Zodiac Killer. With the rather brutal murder of Gotham’s mayor having shocked the city, it’s only the beginning of horrifying things to come. Batman has been personally summoned by The Riddler and left a series of clues on what this murder and the many more to come to mean.
Batman (Robert Patterson) will have to use all his smarts, resources, and the aid of his fellow crime fighters, including Jim Gordon (Jeffery White) and the master cat burglar Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz) to apprehend The Riddler and stop his crusade of violence. But the path Batman and Bruce Wayne will have to follow might reveal some dark truths about his family and the major crime bosses of Gotham.
At the start of the film, we see crime is rampant and everyday people are terrorised by gangs and criminals in every inch of the city. But Batman is there and fully in the mindset of every Gotham citizen. He’s only been doing his vigilant services for nearly two years and thus many of the criminal element still feel he is no threat. But the epic beatdown at the start of the film shows otherwise. Batman is relentless, but also still finding his wings and does have his clumsy moments here and there.
But what this Batman does so well, and is immensely thrilling to finally see, is to see him solve crimes. Batman is the world’s greatest detective and for a large part of the film, is solving the crimes left by the Riddler. Along with Jim Gordon, with who the pair have great chemistry, Batman will go through the criminal underworld, facing the likes of Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) and the brilliant portrayal of the Penguin (Colin Farrell). There’s plenty of bare-knuckle fighting, gathering clues, piecing together major evidence, and gruesome endings to various political and authority figures in Gotham.
Everything from The Riddler’s grander plan of a chaotic uprising and the major criminal elements of Gotham all come together in a finale desired to show the world the true and corrupted colours of the crime-infested city. And those who run it.
The Batman’s version of Gotham is one of the best to date, with that grimy, gritty, industrial Gothic look that perfectly suits the Noir tone Mart Reeves wanted for this venture. The lighting, visual presentation, camera work, and general framing of iconic moments are all done beautifully well (for the most part). There are some weird moments when the camera work is done with a Go-Pro and it works well enough in the car chase scene, but not when Batman is gliding. Just weird seeing some of the shots here, which feel totally disconnected from the rest of the film which is beautifully shot.
Yet, what makes this version of Gotham so bleak and godforsaken, yet entertaining is everyone starring in it.
Everyone gives it their all, from Paul Dano as the Riddler, Jefferey White as Jim Gordon, and the best performance of all … Colin Farrell as The Penguin. He steals every scene he’s in and continues to make the Penguin one of the most disgusting yet loveable villains in the Batman universe.
I generally like Robert Patterson and felt he was a good Batman. I liked that Batman was still in his early days as a crime fighter and did make mistakes. I thought Patterson was perfect for this type of Batman. Where I felt he felt a little bit flat was with the emo portrayal of Bruce Wayne, which didn’t have much going for it. Batman is seen more than Bruce and when we see Bruce, he’s not massively interesting. It’s worse still as Alfred (Andy Serkis) is massively underused. Here, he feels more like a way to push the story, rather than be Bruce’s and Batman’s rock/shoulder for support.
Andy Serkis is a fine actor, but he is given too little to work with. Alfred should be someone who supports and guides both Batman and Bruce. But here, the pair bicker or just push the story forward. This was disappointing. Even in one of the most iconic moments in Batman: Arkham City, where Batman is tempted to flee the burning prison city and not spare anyone, Alfred tells him and insists he save those who are innocent and trapped. A powerful moment where Alfred is the guiding voice of both Bruce and Batman. But here, he lacks that.
But everyone does a stellar job at their roles and really does keep you invested from start to finish.
Batman meets Saw?
The general story is solid, with a great setup and finish to Patterson’s first venture as the Dark Knight. The detective work, uneasy relationship with the police while solving the Riddler’s sadistic riddles and the development of old and new relationships are all thoroughly compelling. Seeing Batman solve the crimes before him was a lot of fun, and clearly, the filmmakers took some notes from the Arkham games. And it really pays off. The evidence gathering, finding out information about the Riddler through sleuthing and epic beatdowns and the general flow of the investigation has some neat beats and great payoffs. Some of these moments lead to some darkly humorous moments.
I did wonder if Matt Reeves wanted to do his own “Joker – Look at me” moment as there are a few TV News shows seen in the film, where they keep saying “the content in the video is disturbing”. These are fine and Paul Dano’s version of a Twitter troll, weird fanboy Riddler really is uncomfortable yet amusing. But it reminded me of Blade Runner 2049’s moments where they so desperately wanted to recreate the “enhance” scene in the original 1982 film. But The Batman does it nowhere near as awkward as 2049 did, and they do add more layers to the world-building and plot.
The finale is pretty excellent and cements a frightening idea of social media misuse and gathering those who are lost, without a cause or direction in life, to cause harm and destruction. It’s ballsy for a film to do that, let alone a comic book film. And I give Matt Reeves and DC credit for pushing this frightening subject matter into the fold. It was immense, intense, and gripping to see the Riddler’s plan develop.
The crime aspect, with Carmine Falcone, lacked the same impact personally and within the second act, things felt a little less exciting. The conclusion to this story within the plot felt more so to tie up some loose ends with certain characters and potentially set up the next film. But the first half, right up to the point with Batman chasing the Penguin (by the way, the car chase in The Batman is amazing!) and the finale with the Riddler’s plan coming to light, are truly the best parts. But the remainder of the story is absolutely fine and entertaining enough, even if the film, in general, might be a little too long.
Personally, if Batman was trapped in a Saw like maze with plenty of games of death, I would have totally dug this more.
It’s Darkest before the Dawn
Batman’s journey here is one filled with many developments and dynamic twists. We see him as a brutish vigilante (which is awesome), we see him as a crime-solving detective (which is also awesome), and we finally see him in a new light. One as a sign of hope in a crime-infested city. For the last major set-piece, Batman becomes a saviour more than that relentless fighting machine, which is a cool, if not controversial twist to his mythos. But one, as a Batman fan, does highly respect and admire in many ways.
Robert Patterson as Batman is an excellent choice, as a young superhero who’s going down a complex path of vengeance, redemption, and salvation, and doing everything he can to stop crime, solving crime, and beat the absolute s*** out of it when there’s no other option. Batman has always been seen as a right-wing superhero (I disagree for the most part) much like Charles Bronson in the Death Wish films. But I like that the filmmakers have given Batman that hopeful edge and included all the elements that make him the greatest superhero ever. Being a badass fighter, the world’s greatest detective, and having a great cast of supporting allies and foes in his world.
Plus, I’m super excited to see where this new Batman goes and who he fights. Robert Patterson has been quoted he would love to see Batman fight “The Court of Owls”, which I and my partner (she’s a massive Batman fan) would absolutely love to see. To Matt Reeves. Please include other villains who have not had the chance to shine, like The Court of Owls, Hush, and Clay Face.
The Batman has some serious boots to fill, since the departure of Ben Affleck and the crowning glory of the Christopher Nolan trilogy. But Matt Reeves and everyone involved has done a stellar job with this new, darker version of the caped crusader. While it might be a little long in the tooth, and certain story elements aren’t as compelling as others, the darker tone, the entire cast, the Riddler, and his involvement, a cool Batman that solves crimes and the epic action-packed moments make this one of the best Batman films to date! It goes above and beyond any recent Marvel film, and sets a new bar for compelling superhero films, since 2019’s Joker.
I highly recommend you check it out!
A screening link for The Batman was kindly provided by the distributers for the purpose of this review.