Reviewed for Shockya.com by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: Matt Reeves
Writer: Matt Reeves, Peter Craig
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Jayme Lawson, with Andy Serkis and Colin Farrell
Screened at: HBO Max, LA, 11/26/22
Opens: March 4th, 2022
Remakes and reboots may be a great way to bring audiences to a theater, but it’s important to deliver on expectations since unhappy fans can be an equally spectacular way to destroy a film’s reputation and the possibility for any future franchise entries. Batman is a superhero who has been interpreted on film many times, with positive examples, like The Dark Knight, and laughable ones, like Batman and Robin. Matt Reeves’ new vision for his title character is exceptionally dark and intriguing, providing a fresh invitation to get to know Bruce Wayne and his alter ego in a strong film already slated to spawn multiple sequels and spin-offs.
This portrait of the Batman sees him as someone who calls himself vengeance and enjoys a prickly relationship with just about everyone he meets, with the exception of Lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), while Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) is a recluse who essentially speaks only to his longtime butler Alfred (Andy Serkis). The Riddler (Paul Dano) is terrorizing Gotham by abducting political leaders and torturing them before publicly murdering them to expose their alleged corruption. Batman sees an ally in Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), a cat burglar looking for her missing friend and suspicious of mobster Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) and his associate The Penguin (Colin Farrell).
These are all characters who should be familiar to those casually knowledgeable about Batman, and all have been seen in Batman comics and films in the past. Yet the way they are presented here feels new and bold, and honestly more terrifying than comic book movies often tend to be. The Riddler wears a mask and seeks to scare the people he kills before he does so, and to communicate to a fearful public that any one of them could be next. There isn’t all that much violence shown on screen, yet there is a viciousness to all that he does that is made more disturbing by the fact that he goes to such lengths to engineer brutal deaths that will have an enduring impact on those watching.
While the Riddler himself is this film’s clear villain, another deeply unsettling element that works well in this film is that there is a groundswell of communal support for his antiestablishment views, people very willing to help serve his purpose of cleansing Gotham of elements they believe are problematic and impure. It’s reminiscent of the way in which Joker shows the masses providing cover for its title character by all wearing his mask and embracing the chaos, and also far too similar to the way in which emboldened white supremacists and other hateful figures seek to take it upon themselves to cleanse society from itself in today’s real world.
The casting of Pattinson in the lead role of Wayne and Batman works well since he speaks softly, deeply, and without any true emotion. This version of Wayne doesn’t feel as charismatic as Christian Bale and certainly not Michael Keaton, George Clooney, or Ben Affleck, and that adds to the sense that Batman isn’t widely seen as a hero, but instead a masked vigilante who has his own version of justice that he metes out as he sees fit. Pattinson’s chemistry with an equally no-nonsense Kravitz enhances the film even if it makes it less open and accessible since neither character they portray is warm or friendly.
The Batman contains such a large cast that there are many standouts, including Dano in a role that feels different in every way from the performance this year that may earn him an Oscar nomination in The Fabelmans and Farrell under unrecognizable makeup as a talkative operator who will get an increased spotlight in his own HBO Max spinoff series. In a film that’s crowded with so much, the score from Michael Giacchino helps to anchor its tone, and the cinematography by Greig Fraser combined with the ambitious building of Gotham City make this feel like a truly hellish real place audiences would never want to actually visit. This portrait of the Batman is haunting and intense, and that there’s more on the way is a positive step given this strong and powerful start.
Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – A-
Overall – B+