There have been so many variations and takes on the character of Batman, be it the 1966 Adam West driven Batman series and film, Michael Keaton in the 80’s/90’s, the Clooney and Kilmer years, then the fantastic Bale and Nolan Dark Knight trilogy and most recently the polarizing “Bat-Fleck”.
One could say MAYBE it was time to give the character a rest and explore some other super-hero territory for a change.
Then Matt Reeves (director) announced his new film, The Batman, and told us his version of the Caped Crusader would be played by Robert Pattinson and well… I think it is safe to say the word of the day was “cautious optimism”.
I mean, could the Twilight guy REALLY pull off the role of one of the biggest bad-asses in the Super-Hero world?
The answer is yes.
Yes he could.
Not only could he “pull off the role” but he and Matt Reeves and the rest of the cast and crew, brought us something we have never really seen before.
The Batman, released March 4th, 2022 by Warner Bros and DC Comics, IS a Batman/Super-Hero story.
There are popular characters we’ll all recognize from the comics. The Riddler, The Penguin, Catwoman, Commissioner Gordon, and more.
But this film isn’t a typical “comic book/super-hero” film.
Instead it feels more like a gritty crime or mobster movie from the late 70’s. And it’s exquisite. Everything in the film feels incredibly grounded, even the cool gadgets and tech that Alfred provides Batman has a very “real world” feeling to it.
It’s a beautiful throwback to the classic noir films of that era and it does something that most Batman films ignore. It allows Batman to BE a detective, to work to solve a crime.
The villians feel sinister without feeling over the top “comic bookish”. This is FAR from Jim Carrey’s portrayal of The Riddler. Paul Dano takes The Riddler to a dark place with just the right amount of loose canon mayhem and genius level intellect and he truly feels like a real threat.
The Penguin is not the “quack-quack” version we’ve seen in the past either. Colin Farrell is unrecognizable as he portrays the up and coming mob boss in Gotham and we can see the seeds of the larger villain he may become.
But the real stars of this film are Zoe Kravitz as a total bad ass Catwoman. She’s not the mentally unstable version we’ve seen portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer in the past, not the more prim and proper version from Anne Hathaway either. This version of Selina Kyle is an independent woman that’s loyal to her friends and will stop at nothing to do right by them.
She’s strong, independent, knows what she wants, and if fully capable of taking care of business by herself.
Her chemistry with Robert Pattinson’s Batman is off the charts, tapping into some of the more recent storylines between The Bat and The Cat. It brings a level of emotional connection to an otherwise fairly one note character, that of the angst and anger seeking only vengeance version of Batman, and pushes this film to the next level.
I know many will criticize Pattinson’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne.
I’ve seen a lot of talk already about “Oh he’s too whiny, too emo, to much of a freak”.
To that I say, you’re wrong.
This story takes place 20 years after his parents were killed. Which places him at around 27-28 years old. He’s grown up without a family, being raised by Alfred who did his best to teach him to fight and be a man, but he didn’t have a family.
He’s a boy that became a man with one, and only one, thing on his mind.
He doesn’t care about anything else.
Mainly because he was never shown there was anything else TO care about nor was he shown HOW to care about it.
So as Bruce Wayne, he is isolated and withdrawn from society. He hasn’t yet become the “billionaire playboy” we see in other versions. And most importantly, Pattinson’s portrayal of Batman/Bruce Wayne holds true to one of the biggest questions facing ANY Batman variation.
Who is the REAL person?
Is Bruce Wayne the real man and he puts on the mask to become Batman?
Or is Batman who he REALLY is and Bruce Wayne is the version of him wearing a mask?
This film presents a version where that struggle is real and where we start to see an evolution from one side to the other through the course of the story.
It’s a journey that, with the help of Selina Kyle, we see Bruce evolve and find a purpose beyond vengeance and punching bad guys.
Now, to sort of wrap things up here.
First off, I loved this film. I left the theater feeling like it MIGHT be my favorite Batman film I’ve ever seen so far. I’m still thinking about that.
But it was beautifully shot, I won’t go into too many details because I could talk for another hour about that, but the mood and look of this film through the cinematography were simply beautiful. The colors, the lighting, the action sequences, all so good.
Cinematographer Greig Fraser nailed the look of this film that matched so perfectly to Matt Reeves vision.
Yes, we get tons of cool “Bat-Gadgets and vehicles”, including one of the coolest Batmobiles yet, and we see it in a scene that is nothing short of heart pounding intensity. Which brings me to the last piece of the puzzle… the sound.
Whether it’s the roaring of the muscle car inspired Batmobile, the percussive soundtrack, or the subtle moments of hope, the music and sound design of this film by Michael Giacchino is superb.
At the end of the day, I know there are some that feel this film was just not their thing. It’s NOT for young children. Bruce Wayne is too “emo”. But for me those comments all miss the point of this film.
It’s a classic noir/crime/mobster film that happens to feature The Batman as the hero instead of a “hard-boiled detective” in a trench coat.
Bringing the DC universe into a more grounded and story-driven feel without becoming over the top, ultra cartoony offerings may prove to be difficult with many of the other heroes with actual superpowers, but I’d love to see it done.
The Batman brings a fresh feel to a franchise that was beginning to feel a little tired and I, for one, can’t WAIT to see more in this style and feel. It’s a bold new direction and I’m excited for the possibilities it opens.
Matt Reeves The Batman gets a 5 out of 5 stars.
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