Review: The Batman

Score:  B+

Director:  Matt Reeves

Cast:  Robert Pattinson, Paul Dano, Zoë Kravitz, Colin Farrell, Jeffrey Wright

Running Time:  175 Minutes

Rated:  PG-13

"I'm vengeance."

Bruce Wayne has been a mainstay in cinemas since Michael Keaton embodied the iconic comic book character in 1989. Originally created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, the billionaire vigilante has been deconstructed to the brink of extinction. So how is Robert Pattinson's collaboration with director Matt Reeves fresh and different? How is The Batman forging a new path in the world of Gotham? Authenticity.

The opening minutes of the film set the tone. It's a dark and rainy Thursday. Halloween night. A crescendo of events showcases a run of crime that filters through the city streets. A haunting voiceover sets the stage as Batman speaks of Gotham's growing crime. He can't be everywhere, but a confrontation in the subway with a band of criminals awakens our senses. There is little mercy behind the mask.

Dark and unforgiving, The Batman offers us a new look at Gotham. Picking up during the Caped Crusader's second year of vigilante work, Reeves spares us the origin story, skipping forward to showcase a man comfortable in his role working within a city that knows his potential. An occasional callback reminds us of critical moments in Bruce Wayne's past, but Reeves successfully maneuvers the history, highlighting the crucial points, grounding the story in the present.

Wayne Enterprises, often a character unto itself, is rarely mentioned. Neither is Alfred (Andy Serkis). Bruce Wayne's butler and Batman's most trusted confidant gets limited screen time as this story takes place within the streets of Gotham, not at home amid the quiet and serene.

More a crime thriller than an outright comic book adaptation, Reeves embraces his moment, allowing scenes to linger as he prioritizes his style. His use of electric hues delivers incredible visuals, notably when Batman and Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz) stand on an exposed terrace, the Gotham skyline behind them in the distance. Visually stimulating, the camera work gives the city grit as Pattinson's Batman moves in and out of shadows, bringing a sense of law and order to the streets.

Featuring a script that is, at times, laden with dialogue, Reeves occasionally spells things out in mass detail, hemorrhaging the flow of information as the story becomes layered with complexity. Batman himself is one of the only characters of few words. Though the low, harsh delivery that has haunted past incarnations remains consistent, his actions do most of the talking as he keeps to the shadows.

Paul Dano scores high marks for his work as the Riddler. Near flawless in both concept and execution, the villain is presented as a sadistic serial killer making quick work of Gotham's corrupt officials. Hidden from viewers for much of the film, Dano works miracles as he pushes the narrative forward with his allusive presence. The horror of his potential is a constant thought in the rear of your mind as he generates a similar sense of discomfort to Heath Ledger's work in The Dark Knight.

Zoë Kravitz also gives a solid turn as Selena Kyle (aka Catwoman). Though much of Selena's history remains unknown, she offers a courageous, independent female who, like Riddler, pushes the story along. Kravitz and Patterson share undeniable chemistry that yearns for a deeper study as their characters flow between a cohesive unit and enemies. Neither ever fully trusts the other as they work towards a similar goal for dissimilar reasons, resulting in a rich tension.

As more of Bruce Wayne's past unfolds, and the Riddler zeros in on his presumed final target, you can't help but appreciate what Reeves has created. Often humored as an "emo" take on the famed vigilante, The Batman ushers in a new era. Partly made possible by Christopher Nolan's aforementioned The Dark Knight and Todd Phillips's Joker, this film is of its own kind. A well-earned sequel would be sure its type is here to stay.


About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.