Director: Matt Reeves
Screenwriters: Peter Craig and Matt Reeves
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Colin Farrell, Jeffrey Wright, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, and John Turturro
Cinematographer: Greig Fraser
The Batman is the latest DC Comics movie in which a young Bruce Wayne relentlessly pursues criminals as the dark knight. When a merciless killer goes on a slaughtering spree of Gotham’s popular politicians, the Batman must leave behind petty crime. He ventures off to investigate a long history of corruption, uncovering dark and shocking secrets in the process.
In Peter Craig and Matt Reeves’s script, inspiration and novelty are prevalent throughout. It borrows from early-career Batman stories, integrating familiar tropes from the character’s lore with a fresh spin. With such an equilibrium in creativity and originality, it’s hard to grasp how the final product couldn’t measure up to the hype surrounding this film. But this weak attempt to unmask the caped crusader is both narratively and technically thin—even with encouraging achievements that its predecessors lacked.
The opening of this adaptation is an intriguing one that promised a character study of the Bat. At this point in Gotham, crimes have skyrocketed, and drugs are running rampant. Early into his vigilante career, Bruce feels the pressure of having to choose which criminals to target because he cannot be everywhere at once. This story is a good one to tell had it taken a holistic approach into analyzing who Batman is. Instead, this script neglects the important counterpart of the caped crusader. And it eliminates the key component of Batman’s existence in the first place.
You see, in Matt Reeves’s Gotham, everyone knows Bruce Wayne. Yet, his presence in Gotham is rare. Bruce doesn’t interact with the citizens of Gotham much. Nor does he involve himself with company affairs. In essence, his socialite status is absent in this else-world adaptation. Wayne’s entire existence is Batman unless his investigations as the vigilante come to a progression halt. In a film that makes an effort to tell audiences that Bruce Wayne is the mask, it rarely shows us that. This negligence ends up hurting the narrative.
The script does give ample time to its supporting characters, though. There’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz), the Riddler (Paul Dano), Falcone (John Turturro), Penguin (Colin Farrell), and Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright). Kravitz has a scene-stealing presence that is magnetic and electrifying even when the lighting problems attempt to take away her [literal] shine. She brings a sensual fierceness to her role as if she was born to play Catwoman. Paul Dano’s sadistic Riddler, who serves as Gotham’s inspiration for fear and violence, is a close second. Like Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne, most of the Riddler’s time onscreen is through a disguise. Yet Dano’s performance is unrestrictedly menacing even with his face covered.
Though the feature never feels overcrowded with supporting characters due to its convenient plot, it contributes to a runtime that could’ve eliminated at least 30 minutes. This all comes back to how little time we spend with Bruce Wayne. As a result, the supporting cast outshines Robert Pattinson. It’s no fault of his, though—he was a fine Batman. The screenwriters just didn’t give him much to do outside of the cowl. So, when Bruce’s highest point of vulnerability manifests or conversations try to pack emotional punches, they feel contrived and unearned. However, with a story as big as the one they’re struggling to sell in The Batman, it’s not good enough.
Moments like interactions with the supporting cast are when The Batman works well. When the movie doesn’t rely on its faux philosophical analysis, it also excels. The best aspect of this feature is the one thing its predecessors have failed to do. Instead of relying on viewers to expect Batman to be the ‘greatest detective in the world’, the filmmakers showed us. Heavy on the investigative work and technological advances, Batman puts the show in ‘show and tell’. With that comes fascinating camera work from Reeves’s lens. While confident, his directorial choices don’t always work. But when they do, they amplify these moments even more.
In line with the technical achievements is the extraordinary work done by the sound mixing team. Audiences might already be aware of the dark knight’s ability to instill fear into Gotham’s lawbreakers. That’s emphasized more so by cool moments like the sound of his footsteps piercing through the bleak quiet as criminals prepare for an intimidating fight. And while the actual choreography of these scenes is lackluster—likely due to Batman’s experience at the time of the story—the result is decent fan service.
When it’s all said and done, The Batman is good—not great. From technical and narrative standpoints, there are both gaps and achievements. The inherent problems restricting this project centers around a weak character study that didn’t need to exist if the concept wasn’t going to advance past surface-level inspection. Luckily, this rock-star cast brings a compelling energy that viewers may talk about for weeks to come.
Check out the trailer for The Batman — in theaters Friday, March 4th!