The Batman is the best live-action Batman movie to be released within the last decade. It shows a new and refreshing take on the caped crusader and brings some lesser-known Batman villains back into live-action. The Batman serves as a worthy interpretation of Batman which makes its predecessors proud by giving audiences a comic-accurate Batman to grace the big screen.
Before the film was released, one big worry for the film was casting Robert Pattinson as Batman. How could the brooding Twilight star take on the caped crusader? In all honesty, he does it well. Luckily, both parts called for brooding. Ever since Christian Bale’s Batman, each subsequent interpretation seems only to try and make Batman darker, grittier, and raspier in his speech. Pattinson keeps true to this sentiment. Pattinson captures Batman’s dual nature of hardened vigilante and inquisitive detective masterfully, but his interpretation of playboy billionaire Bruce Wayne, the true mask that Bruce puts on, could have benefitted from some more variety in respect to his Batman. Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne feels like Batman without the suit, and there is little difference between the two in their demeanor and voice.
The Zoë Kravitz Catwoman also does a better job at portraying the feline thief than her The Dark Knight Rises counterpart. Seeing Selina Kyle in her humble apartment with her myriad of stray cats helps set the tone of who Catwoman is, a low-level cat burglar. The Batman also helps humanize Catwoman by adding two stirring emotional plots driving her throughout the film instead of the simple desire to steal shiny objects. Understandably, Catwoman’s suit is what an average person without billions of dollars would be able to put together, but perhaps a minor upgrade to the suit within the film would have been appreciated. The ski mask covering half of her face beings to look silly in comparison to Batman’s suit.
Jeffrey Wright gives audiences a spot-on performance of Batman’s partner in crime-fighting, James Gordon. The Gordon portrayed in The Batman is one who is almost entirely on Batman’s side, a relief for Batman and audiences alike. He doesn’t try to stop Batman or get him to let the police handle things. On the contrary, it’s Batman who sometimes has to rein in Gordon. A little more of an internal struggle concerning Gordon’s allegiance to the GCPD and Batman may have helped give Gordon more conflict, but this partnership does wonders for the tag team they’ve created and is a treat to watch. Their rapport is smooth and riveting.
Every superhero movie needs an equally endearing villain to juxtapose with the hero. The main villain of The Batman is a villain called the Riddler, one that hasn’t been portrayed in a live-action movie since Jim Carrey’s portrayal of the Riddler in the 1995 film Batman Forever. The Riddler tortures Batman and Gotham with deadly puzzles and intricate riddles that have deeper meanings to push the Riddler’s agenda. Needless to say, Paul Dano gives audiences a dark and sinister Riddler worthy of Pattinson’s Batman. The Riddler is a sociopath with a superiority complex and some despicably complex means of chaos. However, Dano’s Riddler is the best Batman villain to appear in a live-action Batman movie since the late Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. It sometimes feels as if, like many villains since the release of The Dark Knight, Dano tries to mimic Ledger’s unique insanity too much.
The Gotham portrayed in The Batman feels very modern, yet also traditionally noir. The film shows a Times Square-esque city center and the dirty underbelly of Gotham’s concrete jungle. The film uses a very specific set of colors, including dust browns, gravel grays, burnt oranges, and pitch blacks in its shots. The posters for the film reflect these choices. The manner in which the film is shot and the sets are built makes the film feel like one part crime noir, one part thriller, one part horror, and one part superhero movie. There are only a few really wide, open shots in the film. The majority of the film uses closer, more claustrophobic shots in order to make the viewer feel tense during the action scenes.
All of these factors, including acting, cinematography, set design, and more, all help make this film great, but it’s the story that makes any film worth watching. A film can stand out in every single one of these categories and more but can still fall prey to a poorly written script. Luckily, The Batman does not suffer from this issue. The entire movie is one long chase after the Riddler to end his puzzling, murderous rampage. Each scene in the film pushes the story forward to the next scene as one clue is discovered, which leads to the next, the one after that, and, hopefully, to the Riddler himself. The story feels focused and driven, with some emotional side plots scattered throughout, but a few more scenes concerning the side plots would have helped make them more memorable.
Traditionally, Batman is a detective who solves mysteries that the Gotham City Police Department is unable to. He is extremely intelligent, and his crime-solving prowess earns him the title of “World’s Greatest Detective” (a name mentioned in the film). The Batman is a true detective story with some trademark Batman action throughout, a refreshing and welcome change compared to other interpretations, including Bale’s Batman. Surprisingly, the almost three-hour runtime that the story inhabits doesn’t feel unnecessary or drawn-out.
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Although an amazing film and the best Batman adaptation in more than a decade, The Batman runs shy of 5 stars for the reasons mentioned earlier and some other smaller ones. 5 out of 5 stars, a perfect score, is reserved for outstanding and masterful pieces of storytelling that go above and beyond. The Batman meets the high expectations audiences have going into it, but it’s just shy of outdoing said expectations. That being said, perfection is very difficult to achieve, and films should not strive for perfection one hundred percent of the time. The Batman is a great film, a great live-action Batman film, and the best Batman audiences have seen in years.