OVERVIEW | The Batman delivers a euphoric experience and I can’t wait to see it again later this week. Best way that I can describe this film: it’s like if The Dark Knight (2008) and Se7en (1995) had a darker, creepier baby.
Action, Crime Drama
March 4, 2022
Shrouded in darkness and a seemingly never ending rainstorm, we are cast back into the underbelly of Gotham City. Crime is running rampant and the mob organizations control most facets of society. A new player has emerged spreading chaos like wildfire, causing panic and fear in the powerful. The Riddler, a serial killer veiled in mystery, starts picking off high profile victims, leaving clues to uncover the truth of Gotham’s elite. Batman is forced into investigating the hidden corruption plaguing the city to solve the Riddler’s puzzles, and in doing so finds answers within his own past.
Writer and Director Matt Reeves delivers Batman’s darkest live-action film adaptation to date. The Batman (2022) is a dark and gritty detective style plot that is drenched in noir thematics. Bringing this story to life, we are given a star studded cast with the likes of Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Andy Serkis and Jeffrey Wright to name a few. Based on the last few DC films from Warner Brothers, I was not holding my breath for this new iteration of Batman. The trailers I had seen did not stoke my interest and I went into my screening with a cloud of doubt before the lights dimmed. I kept thinking, how could anyone contend with the Nolan Batman trilogy? To my surprise, I was completely blown away by The Batman.
One of the first things I noticed during my screening, was how methodical and slowly paced the scenes are. For the most part, superhero films tend to follow a similar rhythm where we have fast paced, quick cutting scenes of exposition that help get the story to the main objective, action sequences. Seemingly never letting a scene breathe or play out longer than a few seconds. The Batman takes an opposite approach, and plays the story out like a detective drama. Long takes give the actors space to carry the scene, instead of the editing choices driving the narrative. This is apparent from the first few scenes of the film and it continues this trend throughout a lot of the action sequences as well. This stylization choice provides a lot of depth into the character’s perspective by allowing more time for non-verbal reactions to things happening in a scene. This also allows for darker scenes to crawl up the back of your neck and have a creepier effect.
I would recommend against taking children to see this film. Even though it’s rated as PG-13, The Batman is incredibly dark and macabre. It is not a bubble gum popcorn superhero movie like we have become accustomed to. Instead, we are brought into the darkest, grimiest shadow of Gotham City at night, watching a serial killer take victims for sport. Paul Dano delivers one of the creepiest villain performances I have ever seen. He steals the show as the Riddler with his bone chilling take on the famous Batman villain. You can’t help but constantly compare everything in this version to other Batman films, but I remember watching the Riddler scenes, receiving flashbacks of how I felt when I first saw Heath Ledger as the Joker. Dano was able to reach deep inside himself and transform into something only found in nightmares.
A fully cemented creepy performance requires chilling musical support to back it up and thankfully for this film, Michael Giacchino was at the helm of the score. I think Giacchino is one of the best composers in the industry at the moment and every time I see his name flash up on a credit I’m always excited for what I’m about to hear. With how dark the subject matter is in this film, Giacchino delivers his most sinister score to date. Haunting, ominous string swells and pulsating orchestral percussion slither across the soundscape of the film. The sonic nature of the score reminds me of detective noir films of old combined with massive elements of horror to create something new and fresh. For me, a lot of the emotional expression of a film relies heavily upon the music and how the composer is able to draw out the intangible weight the characters are carrying. Giacchino masterfully orchestrates the brooding darkness of this version of Gotham and is, in my opinion, one of the driving forces for the success of this film.
Now a lot of you must be thinking, okay you’ve talked about Paul Dano, and the score, but what about BATMAN?! What about Robert Pattinson?! Will I be upset that the vampire tween sensation is playing the caped crusader!? Let me assure you that anyone going into the screening with that mindset will be wildly surprised at the transformation Pattinson sustains to become The Bat. His brooding presence as the world’s greatest detective is fueled by his quest for vengeance, and he will stop at nothing to get it. The script is reserved with the amount of lines given to the star of the film, instead you experience the events that unfold through his body language and facial reactions. When he does speak, it’s commanding and meaningful. Pattinson has had an amazing track record the last few years by becoming a notable method actor, in films like The Lighthouse (2019) and Tenet (2020). I was impressed with his visceral performance of the infamous dark knight. Amidst how hauntingly tense this film is, you don’t see a wide range of personality shifts when he transitions between Bruce Wayne and the Batman. Instead of Bruce Wayne needing to become Batman every night, it’s Batman that struggles to become Bruce Wayne in the daylight. It might be described as the most Emo Batman, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This is an intentional decision made by Matt Reeves, and in my opinion it enhances the story and leaves a lot of the tropey fluff of these kinds of films out of it. No cheesy one-liners or cheap audience pleasers, every line is precisely gifted. Wrapped in the traumatic burden carried by this unsettled vengeful soul.
Among the talented and seasoned all star cast, Zoë Kravitz surrenders herself to her character and delivers a stellar performance, shining above the rest in her portrayal of Selina Kyle, the Catwoman. She plays a major part in the complete story and it’s refreshing to have a strong female presence in this grim reality. Reminiscent of Ripley from the Alien series, Selina Kyle is tough and doesn’t need anyone’s help in infiltrating a crime syndicate. Instead she reluctantly teams up with the bat because of common interests, but she will get revenge no matter the cost and she will do it with or without his help.
The action sequences are top notch, and The Batman features one of the best Batmobile chases of all time. This adaptation doesn’t feel as fantastical as the previous versions from the past, but more so rooted in reality. There isn’t an overbearing amount of unbelievable technology or over the top gadgets, it truly feels like a rich guy with nothing to lose decided to put on a bullet proof suit to become a shadowed vigilante. Heck even the Batmobile seems more realistic than the armored tank from the Nolan series. Instead, we have a souped up muscle car with a jet engine attached to the back. When that engine ignites for the first time, you are surrounded by a huge booming roar, and in my experience, chills ran up the back of my neck. The sound design fucking rules, and in my opinion, this should be the deciding factor for why you must see it in theaters.
The Batman delivers a euphoric experience and I can’t wait to see it again later this week. Even though the runtime butts up to right about the 3 hour mark, it didn’t feel as long to me. When I’m completely immersed into a story as expertly designed as The Batman, the gripping events taking place erase my concept of time as I’m transported through the consciousness of imagination and pick myself back up on the other side. Best way that I can describe this film: it’s like if The Dark Knight (2008) and Se7en (1995) had a darker, creepier baby. Matt Reeves provides the world with an expertly crafted take on the caped crusader, and the grimiest Gotham we have ever seen. I need a few more viewings before I can ultimately make this decision, but The Batman is flirting to contend as my new favorite Batman film.