By EMMITT MURPHY
Warning: This review has spoilers.
When it comes to comic book movies, no character has had a better track record than Bruce Wayne, better known as Batman. From Tim Burton’s 1989 adaptation simply titled Batman, a film that shot the defender of Gotham into worldwide popularity, to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, which revolutionized the comic book genre and gave one of if not the greatest comic book film of all time in The Dark Knight.
Matt Reeves’s The Batman can be added to the caped crusader’s repertoire of great comic book films, giving a gritty detective film featuring the world’s greatest detective that is beautifully shot, well acted, and genuinely refreshing in a genre that is slowly being filled by more and more mediocre films.
Like any great comic book films, The Batman took influence from many great Batman comics and it shows. The film prominently took from Batman: Year One, a four issue series detailing the beginning of Bruce Wayne’s escapades as the dark night, and Batman: The Long Halloween, which takes place in Batman’s second year of crime fighting, like the film, and follows him trying to hunt down the allusive Holiday Killer.
Year One’s influence in The Batman is noticeable from the start, as the film depicts Bruce early on as Batman showing how he’s still learning the ropes when it comes to being Batman and how he’s not quite as competent as Bale or Keaton’s rendition just yet. This take on Batman is incredibly interesting as it shows him making mistakes, like how he crashed into a bridge while fleeing the cops. Mistakes like that give Batman a sense of relatability and are a good way to show that Batman is still human and still makes mistakes.
The Long Halloween’s influence on the film is far more prevalent to the point where the first issue of the book was handed out in some theaters across the country. Both the book and the film dive into the relationship Bruce Wayne’s parents had with the mob boss Carmine Falcone, called “The Roman” in the book. This dynamic proposes the idea that the Wayne family weren’t always good people and explores how Bruce would react to that which is handled very well in both the film and the book. There are also some scenes from this film that are one-to-one recreations of comic panels like Catwoman and Batman’s first meeting, where in both the film and book Batman discovers Catwoman stealing information about Falcone. The Long Halloween is one of Batman’s greatest books and if you have any interest in the comics, it is a must read.
Outside of the previously mentioned comics, the love for the world of Batman and him as a character is seen very clearly in Matt Reeve’s direction. His impressive attention to detail can be seen in his interpretation of Gotham, depicting it as a cesspool of crime and corruption where it feels like Batman is the only solution to this problem. The love for the Batman mythos is also clearly on display in the screenplay, written by Peter Craig and Matt Reeves, due to how well each character is fleshed out and written. The Penguin is a good example of this, as he is generally seen as the comic relief character but still works very well in the world and doesn’t stick out too much.
Speaking of the characters, every single performance in the film was steller and perfectly encapsulated each of the character’s comic counterparts. The lead role in the film is of course Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Pattinson’s portrayal of Batman is fantastic, delivering a genuinely terrifying and intimidating version of the character using mostly subtle facial expressions, mainly with his eyes. His Bruce Wayne is also very interesting, because of how broody and simply edgy he is as opposed to the cocky, playboy persona that is put on in most interpretations.
Another standout performance in the film is Paul Dano as the Riddler, which is pretty surprising because the character is usually portrayed as a pretty goofy character in most media. This is completely changed with Reeve’s writing and Dano’s acting, giving an incredibly terrifying and very unique take on the character. Dano’s riddler is a perfect villain for this film, a shut-in orphan who believes he is helping Gotham by being its “vengeance” by brutally and publicly executing corrupt officials and causing overall mass terror becuase he looks up to Batman. This pushes Batman to realize he must not only be the city’s sword, but also its shield. Dano is usually a standout actor in any film he’s in and that is no different here, where he perfectly plays this psychopathic character with his eerie and creepy performance making him feel like a genuinely good horror villain as opposed to a standard, basic supervillain.
The only issue with the movie for some are its pacing which is very similar to Blade Runner 2049, meaning that movements by the character’s are made intentionally slow to build suspense. While this kind of pacing does put some members of the audience on the edge of their seats, some could be taken out of the movie due to the runtime.
Overall, The Batman is an amazing comic book film and one of the best adaptations of Batman to date, giving an excellent early years story for the dark knight with amazing writing, cinematography, and performances to boot. Hopefully The Batman will push comic book films to create enthralling stories like this in the future.