The Batman

If there is one thing I know beyond all certainty it is that the world does not need another Batman reboot, but since recycling these major Comic Book icons over and over seems to be the only way a studio can guarantee that people will show up to a theater, we’re gonna see a whole lot more. If we have to have a new Batman and a reimagined Batman universe every 15 or 10 years, I’m glad we’re getting one that stars Robert Pattinson as the titular anti-hero and I’m even more glad it’s helmed by writer-director Matt Reeves. With Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) Reeves proved to me that it actually can matter who directs these CGI-mega movies based on other movies and/or well-loved IP.

The Batman starts out promisingly. The emphasis on this Batman doesn’t seem to be on his hardware, his backstory, or even his psychological underpinnings. Reeves and co-writer Peter Craig (The Town, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, and the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick) don’t feel they must create yet another origin story for the most cinematically explored Comic character ever. The film is patiently paced, with a real emphasis on solving a mystery rather than a character making amusing wisecracks while witnessing or administering unspeakable brutality. The fight scenes are actual cinematic fights, not rapidly edited blurs of people waving their arms around a constantly moving camera. And this movie seems to understand that all Batman’s vigilanteing would really get in the way of all of Bruce Waynes’s millionaireing - so that whole double life aspect is paired down to the bare essentials. Most of all, Robert Pattinson looks great in the cowl. This Batman’s outfit looks far more like armor than a costume.

The rest of the cast is pretty great too. Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman is a more fleshed out character than we normally get, yet she still kicks ass while looking sexy as hell in her catsuit. Too bad there is zero chemistry between these two spandexed oddballs. Jeffrey Wright’s Commissioner Gordon is written here much more like Batman’s partner than his sceptical ally on the police force. Andy Serkis brings a fresh take on Bruce Wayne’s butler and confident, Alfred—also a rare low-key performance from the most famous Mo-Cap performer who usually chews the scenery in movies where he plays a real person. John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, and Colin Farrell are all used well in villainous roles.

With the bleak setting, pessimistic view of public institutions, and intensity of violence that goes as far up to the PG-13 line without crossing it, Reeves is clearly trying to out-Dark Christopher Noland’s The Dark Knight (2008)—still the most successful (and best) of the Batman movies. But the film owes far more to David Fincher than Christopher Nolan. The echos of Seven, Fight Club, and Zodiac start to feel like imitation rather than homage. It doesn’t help that Reeves seems to borrow from the least effective aspects of Fincher’s early work, not the stuff that made his later films (Mank excluded) so thrillingly low-key.

Still, The Batman kept me fully engaged far longer than the typical superhero picture—I’d say the first 60 of its 176 minutes! Alas, by the time the characters start to put the pieces of the puzzle together the intricacies of the plot stop coalescing organically and begin to feel pretty silly. The story makes less and less sense as the film goes on and the contemporary themes are driven home far too bluntly to resonate. This movie clearly wants to comment on the dangers of vigilantes, the fallacies of billionaire philanthropists, and the need for law enforcement officials to prosecute, not protect, the dirty members in their ranks. But as the narrative wears thin, the subtext sticks out awkwardly. By the time of the big reveal—the first of this movie's seven endings—things have pretty much fallen off the rails. Oh well, a solid effort.

Twitter Capsule:
Reeves tries to out-dark The Dark Knight, but since he goes about this merely by apeing David Fincher's early work, it's not exactly an original take on the series or character. Pattinson looks great in the cowl, though.

Directed by Matt Reeves
Produced by Dylan Clark and Matt Reeves

Written by Matt Reeves and Peter Craig
Based on the character created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger

With: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Colin Farrell, Paul Dano, John Turturro, Andy Serkis, Peter Sarsgaard, and Barry Keoghan

Cinematography: Greig Fraser
Editing: William Hoy and Tyler Nelson
Music: Michael Giacchino

Runtime: 176 min
Release Date: 04 March 2022
Aspect Ratio: 2.39 : 1