Movie Review: ‘The Batman’ (Second Opinion)

Plot: Two years into his one-man crusade to save Gotham City, and Batman/Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) is wondering if he’s making a difference. Crime is up and his interest in Wayne Enterprises is non-existent. However, when a new serial killer known as The Riddler (Paul Dano) emerges onto the scene and begins killing Gotham’s elite, Batman finds himself drawn into a conspiracy that has roots in his own family history. Aided by Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and cat burglar Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz), Batman must unravel the mystery before The Riddler burns the soul of Gotham to the ground.

Review: As a movie lover I find it the height of hilarity that pundits and casual film fans have asked the question, “Do we really need another Batman movie?” in the leadup to director Matt Reeves’ latest film. Going as far back as the sixties, seven people (including Pattinson) have worn the cape and cowl across nine different live-action films. It should be patently obvious to anyone by now that Batman has assumed a James Bond status in the movie world. Hollywood will continue to churn out Batman films as long as there is interest. Robert Pattinson is just the latest to take up the mantle of the Batman, but he will certainly not be the last.

Even though the question might be rhetorical, I’ll answer it anyway: yes, we really did need another Batman movie and I am floored by the direction Matt Reeves has taken the Caped Crusader. With The Batman, Reeves delivers a stylish, aggressively noir mystery thriller with horror elements that, for the first time, really showcases Batman’s detective skills. Heavily influenced by David Fincher’s Zodiac and Seven, The Batman’s script (co-written by Reeves and Peter Craig) also owes a great deal of debt to Frank Miller’s Year One, Jeph Loeb’s The Long Halloween, and Darwyn Cooke’s Ego. Yet the tale itself feels wholly original. Although punctuated by moments of intense action, The Batman is a slow burn that culminates in a stunning climax that will keep you guessing until the final reel.

For those uncertain about Pattinson’s ability to don the title of the Dark Knight, fear not. Pattison makes for an excellent Batman and indeed the character is front and center throughout the film, appearing in almost every scene. This is a Batman truly haunted by the trauma of his parents’ deaths. Bruce Wayne is an aloof recluse who barely ventures outdoors, while Wayne’s Batman persona wonders constantly if he’s actually making a difference or just another part of Gotham’s problems. Batman has a true arc throughout this movie in that he evolves from someone merely obsessed with vengeance to someone who needs to be a symbol of hope to the citizens of the city. Those of you expecting billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne though are in for a disappointment. As I said, Pattinson’s Wayne is a haunted recluse, but I expect him to develop the playboy persona as time goes on.

Pattinson’s chemistry with Kravitz’s Catwoman is nothing less than lava hot. The sexual tension permeates the entire film, but they are definitely allied in common cause even if their motivations and methods may differ. Kravitz’s Catwoman possesses true agency and is a complex character dealing with her own scars and a complicated connection with mob boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro). It may be blasphemy, but I think she makes a better Catwoman than Michelle Pfeiffer. Kravitz pulls off the physical tasks and emotional moments with equal ease. Even with a three-hour run time, I could have watched another hour of this duo onscreen, and I eagerly await more escapades from the Bat and the Cat.

While Pattinson and Kravitz are front and center, The Batman’s supporting cast is just as excellent. Wright makes for an excellent and grizzled James Gordon. His dynamic and chemistry with Batman feels completely natural and more personal than past iterations and feels closer to the comics than ever before. Gordon is one of the few clean cops in the entire city but holds a simmering rage that bubbles to the surface at times. While Andy Serkis makes for a strong Alfred, his presence is limited in The Batman and the relationship between him and Bruce is much more strained than you’ve ever seen on screen before. That said, the Bruce/Alfred scenes are all dynamite, especially one late in the third act. Paul Dano’s Riddler is a certified psychopath, a monster for the social media age. He’s about as far from the goofy machinations of Jim Carrey and Frank Gorshin as you can get. He’s a villain mostly in the shadows but when he does appear, man does it make an impact. Colin Farrell also steals every single scene he’s in as Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin. Not only is he the center of the highly touted chase scene involving the Batmobile, but he’s also funny as Hell, sleazy, malevolent, and uniquely memorable. It’s no wonder he’s getting his own spinoff show.

What impressed me the most about The Batman is how well Matt Reeves did in capturing this world. There’s a specific mood and tone he creates with this movie that defies description. Greig Fraser delivers arguably his best work as a cinematographer as there are so many indelible shots that I can’t get out of my head. There’s no argument when it comes to Michael Giacchino’s score though. This IS his best work, full stop. It’s haunting and beautiful and just as memorable as Danny Elfman’s and Hans Zimmer’s scores. I would be shocked if he doesn’t get a nomination come Oscar time next year.

Matt Reeves’ The Batman is a staggering piece of work that goes toe to toe with The Dark Knight as the best Batman film to date. From start to finish it is a true revelation and a movie not to be missed.

My rating system:

God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad

2 Straight Garbage

3 Bad

4 Sub Par

5 Average

6 Ok

7 Good

8 Very Good

9 Great

10 A Must See

The Batman: 10/10