Matt Reeves’s The Batman gives long-time fans what they’ve been missing from the last thirty years of seeing the Dark Knight on screen: actual detective work.
Set during Bruce Wayne’s second year as the titular Batman, the film cleverly skips over his origin story in favour of capturing his development from masked vigilante into Gotham’s hero.
Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne truly captures what a detective obsessed with fighting crime looks and acts like. Bags underneath eyes that continue to analyse the events of yet another sleepless night, the gaunt-yet-muscular physique of an unhoned body coping with its daily stresses, and the awkward social interactions that typify someone who has avoided socialising for many years.
Just as Tom Holland did in his portrayal of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Pattinson makes it easy to believe that he is the definitive cinematic avatar of Bruce Wayne/The Batman.
In fact, this film has more in common with Spider-Man: No Way Home than it does with previous Batman films in that it focuses on the development of the hero through realising the danger his actions puts his loved ones in and the lonely path that one must take to serve one’s city wholeheartedly.
This is also due to the fantastic work of Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth. Both Kravitz and Serkis take full advantage of the additional attention that this film affords them (compared to previous cinematic outings), with Kravitz especially shining as the witty, athletic, and inexperienced vigilante counterpart to Pattinson’s brooding, heavy-handed detective.
Paul Dano similarly shines as the film’s “main” villain, Edward Nashton/The Riddler, as he taps into the profile of a man wronged by a corrupt political and judicial system and willing to go to extreme measures to uncover a decades-long conspiracy. If a good villain is one that brings about change in the hero, Dano’s Riddler is a great one in how well he affects Bruce Wayne to question the legacy that he wants to protect as Batman.
Speaking of legacy, The Batman also features the most use of the Dark Knight’s gadgets since the 1990s animated series. You definitely see the titular hero rely on grappling hooks, tasers, cameras, his armoured cowl, and even Venom gas to even out the ever-increasing stakes. The film even depicts the Batcycle and Batmobile in a very realistic manner as a custom-built motorcycle and muscle car respectively. Realism also extends to the Batarang, and we see Batman use it in the most utilitarian way: as a makeshift knife.
This is a great example of how Director Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes and Cloverfield) approached telling the story of the Batman in a new way: if there’s a campy (think Tim Burton or Joel Schumacher) or polished (think Nolan or Zack Snyder) way of representing something, go for an untapped realistic option.
The Batman is a must-see for comic book movie, action, and thriller fans alike. If you’ve wondered why we needed a third Batman portrayal in ten years, I’m sure that you’ll find an excellent answer in The Batman: a film that properly explores the work of “the world’s greatest detective”.
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