Film Review: The Batman

Words By Gerry Otim


I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. A very long time. Almost ten years to be precise. Almost ten years of waiting for a solo, standalone Batman movie. My anticipation for Matt Reeves’ ‘The Batman’ peaked the moment Warner Bros released their first official trailer on the 23rd of August 2020. Finally, the wait is over. Robert Pattinson has arrived as our newest and darkest depiction of Gotham’s infamous caped crusader, and he doesn’t disappoint.

‘The Batman’, which is directed by Matt Reeves, is arguably the most ambitious, and most complex attempt at a Batman film in my lifetime. Having spent more than a year as Gotham’s lone vigilante, we meet a Batman who has quickly garnered a fearsome and brutal reputation amongst criminals and law enforcement alike. This is apparent during one of the opening scenes of the film, which brilliantly illustrates the major distrust between the police force and the world’s greatest detective. Furthermore, it sets the tone of the relationship between a Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Jeffery Wright), in need of an ally who isn’t susceptible to corruption, and a Batman laser focused on carrying out vengeance in the corrupt city of Gotham.

In a recent interview with online medium NNESAGA, Reeves discussed his reasoning for not wanting to do an origin movie and the relationship between Gordon and Batman: “That had been done really, really well in the movies. We’d seen it more than once. If we could do any early years Batman, I knew that in reading the comics so many of the rogue gallery characters and the major characters like Gordon, were sort of coming into their own in relation to Batman and so it could be their origin stories. And so that ‘Year One’ relationship where Gordon and Batman earn each other’s trust… it would be really cool to make that very central to this movie. The relationship that Jeffery has with Rob in the movie is so satisfying. I mean, they’re like partners. It’s like the French Connection. They’re like these two cops, except one of them is wearing a cowl and a cape”.

Reeves, referring to Batman as a ‘cop’, ties in perfectly with the noir-inspired detective story that he has gone for, which gives the film a realistic and grounded feel. A world away from the fantastical tone of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the DC Extended Universe. The focus on this depiction of Batman being a detective is not only a recognition of his title as the world’s greatest detective but is also an acknowledgement of Gotham being a city riddled with crime and corruption.

One of the standout aspects of the film is the stellar performance of the acting cast throughout the duration of the movie. Alongside Pattinson and Wright, the cast includes Paul Dano who puts on a sensational performance as Edward Nashton a.k.a the Riddler, who is brilliantly written as the main antagonist. The captivating aspect of the conflict between the Riddler and Batman is that it’s a battle of knowledge and intelligence rather than combat based upon power and strength. Brains over brawns. In the world of the Riddler,  knowledge is power. The fact that the Riddler barely has any on-screen time with Batman, yet causes so much chaos amongst Bruce Wayne, Batman and Gotham, is a testament to the acting of Dano and how well written a character the Riddler is.

The rest of the cast includes Colin Farrell as The Penguin, a.k.a. Oswald Cobblepot, even though it’s near impossible to believe that this is Farrell. The makeup and costume team did a wonderful job to completely alter Farrell’s appearance which only aided the great acting performance he put on as a rogue gallery member of Batman’s main foes. One of the best scenes from the movie includes The Penguin and Batman in a car chase which features in the main trailer, and aesthetically is a beautiful visual. It signifies that this is a relentless Batman. A Batman intent on vengeance and someone not to be reckoned with.

Andy Serkis is the newest version of Alfred and whilst both his acting ability and credentials can never be questioned, I found it hard to buy into the dynamic between Alfred and Bruce in comparison to the way Batman’s chemistry with other other characters felt seamless and natural. This could be down to the fact that for most of the film, Bruce Wayne finds it easier being Batman than he does being himself. This is a character yet to unpack and come to terms with the trauma he experienced as a child. The history of the Wayne family is explored in this film in a way that it hasn’t been done previously which only heightens the apparent identity crisis that Bruce Wayne is experiencing. 

Zoe Kravitz plays Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman. The film explores her dual role as an ally and love interest of Batman, which is derived from the comic book story ‘Batman: Year One’ by Frank Miller.

Reeves explains: “To me, that was an exciting idea of seeing him see Selina Kyle before she was Catwoman and see the elements of Catwoman already there. To have him make certain assumptions about her that were wrong and came from him being sheltered. They’re really both orphans and have had similar traumas in their childhood.”

Another aspect of the movie that is particularly enjoyable is the way in which the aesthetic of Gotham City perfectly intertwines not only the darker tone of the film but also this depiction of a Batman. This is a Batman “dealing with the shadow side and the beast within’ according to Reeves in which he drew inspiration from Darwyn Cooke’s Batman Ego comic. The feel of Gotham, through both the look of the city as well the people within it, depicts a place that is overwhelmed by fear, corruption, and vengeance. For much of the film we are met with a black, grey and rainy Gotham City. However, this is also met with some gorgeously shot bright yellow, orange, and red colour pallets which show that despite the crime and corruption that reigns supreme in Gotham, it is still a city that can be beautiful and hopeful for better days ahead. 

Whilst my love and adoration for the film and the job that Matt Reeves and co did reign supreme, the film doesn’t come without its flaws. At two hours and fifty-six minutes, it is an extremely long movie which could have been at least 20 minutes shorter, if not more. With the film being so lengthy in time, it’s asking for a huge amount of patience and tolerance from its viewers, despite how great a film it is. Furthermore, it would have been great for the film to allow Pattinson more screen time as Bruce Wayne. He does a fantastic job as Batman and has put his doubters to shame, but Batman and Bruce come as a package and the story would have benefited from more of a Bruce Wayne focus.

Overall, this is a film about performance. The performance of a wonderful acting cast for one of the most anticipated films of the years. Many people within the Batman fandom initially struggled to see beyond what they best knew Robert Pattinson for: his time in the Twilight film saga. Yet he puts his own darker twist on a much-loved character. This is the best version of Batman we’ve had, and the exciting thing is there’s scope for so much more in future films. It’s a film about beautiful visuals and aesthetics that not only make the film look better, but also tells the story of the setting and the people within it. And it’s a film about tone. An action led, detective noir which is realistic, dark, and gritty. The movie is superb, and one of the closing scenes hints towards a sequel which I am ready for. Matt Reeves will have no choice but to give the people what they want.

Rating: ★★★★★


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