Movies & TVReview: The Batman (2022)

Review: The Batman (2022)


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The Batman Trailer – Warner Brothers

“Batman ventures into Gotham City’s underworld when a sadistic killer leaves behind a trail of cryptic clues. As the evidence begins to lead closer to home and the scale of the perpetrator’s plans become clear, he must forge new relationships, unmask the culprit and bring justice to the abuse of power and corruption that has long plagued the metropolis.”

– Official synopsis for The Batman
Image from The Batman Trailer (Warner Bros)

How do you take an 83-year-old character and make it fresh, but also appeal to long-time comic book fans? That was the riddle that Matt Reeves had to answer in The Batman.

Like James Bond, Batman had gotten a bit stale and over-the-top by time George Clooney had finished his time in the cowl. The Dark Knight trilogy is great if you only want your Batman to be an action hero. Affleck, unfortunately, never really got the chance to shine although I maintain he makes a fantastic older Batman.

Now then we get Robert Pattinson. The best way I can describe his take on Batman is like this – he is to Batman what Daniel Craig is to Bond. Meaning, he has taken a cult icon, made it his own and delivered an incredibly realistic and raw performance. The voiceover is reminiscent of the finest noir movie of old. The Batman voice is great without being gimmicky. As Bruce Wayne he portrays a brooding soul lost in the world, a small boy still mourning the loss of his parents in a brutal attack.

As Batman he delivers a realistic, raw, gritty performance where presence is everything. He is menacing and while you know he wants to do good at times you see him really try and show restraint from just beating people to oblivion. There is an anger there. An underlying sense of blame on every crook in the city for the death of his parents. He gets hit, he falls when he leaps buildings, he gets tired. This is a Batman you can believe in. A Batman at the beginning of his journey who hasn’t quite got it all figured out yet. It’s perfect.

In fact, all the casting is perfect. Andy Serkis plays an all too little seen version of Alfred, Zoë Kravitz plays Catwoman wonderfully and you can really tell she studied up on the movements of cats with the almost ballerina-like grace she employs. I like this new take, like Batman she is at the beginning of her path too. The chemistry is sizzling and every interaction between the bat and the cat reminds me of scenes from the comics.

It is Colin Farrell as Penguin who stands out to me though. If I hadn’t known he was in the movie I would have never known. His look, his voice, his mannerisms all perfectly Penguin and totally unrecognisable as Farrell. It was a masterclass in character acting. The shift to make Penguin more a Mafia type of old noir fiction makes far more sense for this world. Jeffrey Wright plays a great Jim Gordon, although sadly never really got enough screentime to develop. That then brings me to Paul Dano, Batman’s foe for the film – the Riddler.

The Riddler is not an easy Batman villain to do well. But the decision by Reeves and Craig to twist the essence of the character into a sadistic, deranged, Zodiac-style serial killer was both genius and chilling. It fitted perfectly with the new Batman world being created; one that is more realistic and grounded than perhaps the franchise has been before. The puzzles, the riddles all of it works seamlessly to present a challenge, give you creepy chills and really show off just how intelligent the character really is. Even when you think all the pieces are in place; there’s one last spanner in the works. He remains a step ahead which in this type of movie is never usually an easy thing to do.

The whole film is presented as a dark, noir detective thriller starring the world’s greatest detective – The Batman. Finally. Batman does some detective work! I’ve been waiting for this in a movie for so long that I almost jumped out of my seat with joy when he paced the scene looking for clues and talked forensics with the cops.

The film has a slow pacing, it indulges in some truly beautiful shots and really Gotham City itself is as much of a character as any of the cast. The silhouette outlines of Batman, especially during visceral fighting, were truly breath-taking. Everything felt purposeful though, which is important as the run time of this film is just shy of three hours. At no point did it feel boring, slow, or unnecessary. Similarly, the score fits every moment. Building tension when it needs to, providing an eerie backdrop to a sadistic moment or showing tenderness and true raw emotion. There were a couple of instances where I think the scene would have been more impactful with no music at all – but that would be me nit-picking.

Gadgets, cars and fighting all grounded in realism. The most ‘out there’ gadgets Batman really has is his grapple gun and camera contact lenses. This film, however, gave us a new car. I love this car. You can really believe a young Bruce Wayne, two years into his crime fighting life, built it. It has presence, it will get down and dirty and when it needs to it will unleash raw power. I’m thankful The Batman gave us such a great scene utilising it and one moment where it roars out of the flames is almost applaudable.

The new Batmobile roars into action!

When it comes to fight sequences in The Batman, there are many. They, like all the movie, are raw with some beautifully paired camera shots so you can really appreciate the full physicality of hand-to-hand combat. The Batman takes punches, falls but gets up and hits back even harder. You can certainly feel the power of each punch and kick and feel the exhaustion at the end. This isn’t a refined Batman, and it makes perfect sense.

The film draws on the essence of some of the best Batman comic books. The shot framing a topless Batman revealing a back full of scars straight off an Alex Ross page for example. There is clear inspiration from some of the best Batman stories ever written; Batman Year One and Two, Batman The Long Halloween to name a few. I read an interview with Reeves where he explained his inspirations and you can really feel their impact.

Is The Batman a reboot? Not really because there’s been very little on-screen continuity for Batman movies from version to version. Technically this version is outside of the DCEU movies (which may or may not have Ben Affleck as Batman depending on day of the week) and very much on its own. This, in my honest opinion, is for the best. Mostly because it allows Matt Reeves to create a totally different style of superhero film. Rob Pattinson’s Batman wouldn’t fit in at all with the likes of Wonder Woman, Superman, Cyborg and Flash and that’s ok. This film is grounded in gritty realism in every regard. Much like The Joker (2019) you could see something like this happen.

Is The Batman good? Well, this is the question. Simply. Yes. It is by far some of the finest cinema released in the last decade from a visual, auditory and story perspective. Not only that but it’s a great crime adventure story even if you aren’t a fan of the comics. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it’s the best version of Batman we’ve ever been treated to on screen. This is Batman’s Casino Royale.

This is a realistic, dark and gritty take on The Batman
James Refelian
James Refelian
When I was seven years old I tried to write a spy novel. It was terrible; in case you wondered, but I’ve always loved stories. Then I got to play videogames and suddenly here were stories that could be told in so many ways, coming to life in front of my eyes. I’ve been hooked ever since and have enjoyed games on pretty much every platform you can imagine. If you love stories too then I hope my reviews help you discover something new. You can always celebrate storytelling with me on Twitter, Twitch and YouTube - @Refelian66.

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