Synopsis: Two years into his crime-fighting career as the vigilante Batman, Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) is put to the ultimate test when a sadistic serial killer known as the Riddler (Paul Dano) starts murdering the Gotham elite. Its up to Batman, his ally Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), and the mysterious Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz) to uncover a mystery that threatens to topple Gotham City from the inside out.
NOTE: This is a spoiler-free review.
Breakdown: I want to get this out of the way right at the jump–I really liked this movie. But… it wasn’t perfect. Let’s talk about what I didn’t like first.
At just shy of three hours, this movie is way too long. I don’t mind a long movie, if it earns its length. There are just so many pregnant pauses between lines of dialogue that I feel could have been shaved off and would have made the movie a good twenty minutes shorter. There were also some establishing shots that went on for a bit too long. There isn’t a specific scene or story beat I would cut out, I just would have trimmed the fat a bit more to make the movie just a tad bit leaner.
The movie also shifts tone wildly. It goes from film-noir to horror to outright campy to action, and while most of those tonal shifts are called for and executed well, some of them gave me whiplash and made me have a different reaction than I think the Matt Reeves, the director, was intending. I’m speaking mostly here about Paul Dano’s performance as the Riddler. Don’t get me wrong, 92% of the time, Dano is excellent and absolutely compelling to watch as the Riddler. There are just a few times where he veers more into the 90s Riddler territory that just felt a bit out of character for me. But for the vast majority of the film, Dano cements himself as one of the top Batman movie villains to date.
Because this is a spoiler-free review, I can’t get into details about the third and final thing I didn’t like about this movie, but let’s just say there is something that Batman does towards the end of the film that I felt was completely out of character and did not like one bit. Maybe a small nit-pick to some, but for me it completely took me out of the movie.
Now let’s focus on what I did like, because there is a lot; starting with the score. Michael Giacchino is one of my all-time favorite composers, and he delivers a score for this movie that is hands down the best of his career. The score for The Batman is equal parts gothic, bombastic, romantic, terrifying, chaotic, and beautiful, sometimes all at the same time. It is one of the greatest Batman movie scores, and that’s saying something when you are in the company of Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, and James Newton Howard.
The cinematography, led by Greig Fraser and his team, also delivered some of the best shots I’ve ever seen in a Batman film, full stop. There is an absolutely amazing upside down shot of Batman walking up to the Penguin’s (Colin Farrell) overturned car as a fire rages behind Batman that is just absolutely gorgeous, and that’s just one of the beautiful scenes in this movie. Gotham feels real here in a way it never really has, but it isn’t just grimy and overrun with trash and criminals. It is a beautiful city, and Fraser and Reeves put this beauty on full display.
The cast, minor quibble about some of Dano’s performance aside, is tremendous. Pattinson brings to life an absolutely terrifying Batman, yet one who isn’t afraid to show his human side every once in a while. And while his Bruce Wayne isn’t the billionaire playboy we are used to, it was a nice change of pace to see him fully reject his alter-ego and focus fully on who he really is. Kravitz is the first fully-formed Catwoman we’ve seen on screen yet; equal parts magnetically dangerous and tragically wounded, every scene she is in crackles with energy. Her chemistry with Pattinson is ripped straight out of the comic books, and I can’t wait to see more of these two together.
Andy Serkis does an admirable job as Alfred Pennyworth, though the role is a bit of a thankless one. How much more can an actor bring to this role that has been interpreted so many times but really is just there to serve as a sounding board for the main character? Another standout for me was Wright’s Jim Gordon. The dynamic between the good cop and Batman was superb and provided most of the moments of levity throughout the film.
The character who takes the cake, however, has to be Farrell’s Penguin. Hiding behind a fat suit and pounds of facial prosthetics, Farrell relishes the role of a third-tier mob boss, and he absolutely stole every single scene he was in. Penguin needs to be in every project moving forward, no question.
Lastly, the story was one of the best Batman stories we’ve seen on film yet. Intricate and complicated, but not in a way that is too difficult to follow as some blockbusters tend to be. This is a detective movie first and foremost, and it was nice to see Batman earn his title as the World’s Greatest Detective for the first time on film. Other Batman movies have had him dabble in forensics and detective work, but this was the first Batman film to really use his detective skills as the central hook of the movie. Pattinson’s Batman is both a master of intelligence and physical prowess, as the Caped Crusader should always be.
The Batman is a movie that makes me excited about Batman on film once again. Like Batman Begins, this movie creates characters and a world that I want to see more of, and can’t wait to see how they improve upon it in future installments. And future installments there will be, as the door for a sequel is blown open with a batmobile-sized hole at the end of this film. Not to mention the HBO Max TV shows that are coming out at some point. With The Batman, Reeves and Pattinson have delivered one of the most fully formed versions of Batman that has ever been seen on film. While not the best Batman film of all time, a case can be made for putting The Batman in the top three, which is quite the pedigree. Welcome back, Dark Knight. I’ve missed you.
Mark Pereira is a senior writer for Boss Rush Network. He loves all video games, but his top three favorites are Skyward Sword, Super Mario 3D World and Batman: Arkham Asylum. You can find him on Twitter where he’s usually talking about Nintendo, video games, movies, and TV shows.
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