In recent years, we have seen many franchises emerge with plenty of reboots, prequels and sequels dominating the film industry. A lot of these films tend to provide plenty of nostalgia and familiarity that is enjoyable to watch, but offers nothing new. One such franchise that is reinvented time and time again is DC’s Batman. Following Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, it felt as though the franchise couldn’t get more gritty and dark, but Matt Reeves proves it can be done with this year’s The Batman. The film is filled with characters that we all know and love including the titular character himself (Robert Pattinson), Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), and Detective Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) to name a few. Rather than fill the film with the usual villains such as the Joker, Reeves has chosen villains who have been overlooked or not as widely used cinematically with the Riddler (Paul Dano) and the Penguin (Colin Farrell) being the major villains in the film. Unlike other Batman adaptations, this Batman is not as refined in his fighting skills, making him more realistic, while also finding out more about what his parents were really like and the mystery surrounding their untimely death.
The Batman is directed by Matt Reeves who cowrote the screenplay with Peter Craig. Reeves development as a true visionary feels as though it has come full circle since he became a household name in 2008 with Cloverfield. Just as Cloverfield pushed narrative boundaries and explored alternative filming techniques, Reeves applies this innovative way of thinking with The Batman. From the telescopic point of view that opens the film, to the brilliantly shot climactic scene in which Batman beats up a load of cronies in a dark hallway with the only lighting provided by gunfire, Reeves brings an element of true imagination to a studio blockbuster and shows that not all superhero films need to contain a formulaic structure and content. The screenplay is particularly brilliant and perfectly delves into Bruce’s character without feeling too over the top, while also having plenty of fun with the Riddler’s character and his clues.
Robert Pattinson proves himself more than capable of taking on the Caped Crusader and can simply be explained as a perfect mix between Michael Keaton’s and Christian Bale’s performances. The film has more interest and focus in seeing the character as Batman rather than Bruce Wayne, which serves the narrative brilliantly. Pattinson’s Batman is unlike others because his fighting skills aren’t perfect and there are moments when he is getting beaten up by thugs. The Batman is a much more violent take on the character, but one that feels more realistic and less like a regular superhero film as it feels as though Batman is just a man wearing a suit who can fight. Pattinson’s Bruce is moody and isolated from the world, despite living in the centre of the city, while his Batman is relentless and will do anything to get to the bottom of the situation. The scene in which Batman confronts the Riddler in Arkham State Hospital is the best in the film as it shows the character break face as he tries to figure out what the villain has planned.
Playing opposite Pattinson is Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman in a turn that feels revolutionary for a character that has been overtly sexualised over the years. Kravitz’s Catwoman is unapologetic in her actions and isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in, even if it isn’t necessarily the morally right thing. From the moment that Kravitz steps onto the screen, the audience is immediately drawn to her. What is amazing about Kravitz’s performance is how well she develops Selina’s character throughout the film, so her turn never gets boring or loses steam. Not only does she have great chemistry with Pattinson which makes the film gripping to watch in its entirety, but Kravitz’s Catwoman is incredibly strong and capable of asserting her own agency without the need for male assistance or approval, which feels revolutionary and authentic in how it is portrayed onscreen.
The main antagonist in the film is the Riddler, who is played phenomenally by the always fantastic, Paul Dano. In a career that has shown gigantic range, Dano appears to be getting the recognition that he has long deserved from mainstream audiences thanks to his menacing Riddler. It’s an unpredictable performance that shows the same level of dedication and characterisation that he brings to films such as There Will Be Blood and Prisoners. Even when he is not onscreen, his presence is felt through the entire film in the game of cat and mouse thanks to his ability to be a perfect match for Pattinson’s Batman. Dano may not be obvious choice for a superhero villain, but he’s proven that he is more than capable of performing exceptionally well in any genre.
In a film full of brilliant performances it’s difficult to choose which one was best of all, but in this instance, it has to go to Colin Farrell who is completely unrecognisable as the Penguin, a sleezy mobster who helps Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) run Gotham’s crime scene. Although he only has a small role in the film, Farrell is absolutely magnetic and steals every scene he is in. The chase scene between him and Batman is brilliantly executed and highly intense. Farrell has been knocking it out of the park for years and proven that he is a flawless character actor who is able to fully immerse himself into each character he plays. His Penguin doesn’t feel like a caricature, although there are some funny moments, and it’s exciting to see if he will star in the sequel.
The score is composed by Michael Giacchino, who has brought us a slew of iconic soundtracks over the years spanning across various genres including family films such as Ratatouille and Up as well as blockbusters such as Jurassic World and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It only makes sense that someone like Giacchino fits the bill considering his resume, and he delivers his best score in years. The main character theme consists of four hard-hitting notes that have become immediately identifiable. The opening track “Can’t Fight City Halloween” is riveting and atmospheric, instantly transporting the audience into the grime and horror of Gotham City.
The Batman delivers brilliance from start to end thanks to its gritty aesthetic, innovative filming techniques, and incredible characterisation filled with great performances from both the heroes and the villains. Pattinson’s career has gone from strength to strength and with The Batman, he is able to translate his indie successes to a huge blockbuster. Reeves has done a great job of setting up this particular Batman universe, and with the hint of a new villain (probably the Joker) incorporated into the film’s narrative, it’s only a matter of time before we see a sequel to The Batman.
What did you think of The Batman? Let me know in the comments below!
The Batman is available to view in cinemas now!