THE BATMAN review

by Taylor T. Carlson



THE BATMAN is directed by Matt Reeves, who co-wrote the screenplay. It stars Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, and Colin Farrell.


For two years in Gotham City, Bruce Wayne has taken up the mantle of The Batman, fighting against criminals and the underworld, putting forth his best effort to make the city a brighter place. Collaborating with Jim Gordon on crime investigations and mentored by long-time family butler Alfred Pennyworth, The Dark Knight finds himself in his most difficult challenge yet, investigating the puzzling crimes and ciphers of The Riddler, as well as clashing with underworld kingpins Carmine Falcone and Oswald Cobblepot. Teaming up with a beautiful young vigilante who has ties to Falcone's operations, he sets out to uncover corruption in the Gotham City Police Department and to uncover The Riddler's true objectives.


In the animated TEEN TITANS GO TO THE MOVIES movie, there's a scene where our heroes attend a movie called BATMAN... AGAIN. I have no doubt that's how a great deal of the public feels considering how many times the Caped Crusader has been recast and rebooted. We had a campy 60s incarnation starring Adam West. Two Tim Burton films with Michael Keaton under the cape and cowl. The animated incarnation voiced by Kevin Conroy. Two Joel Schumacher films with Val Kilmer and George Clooney, respectively, in the Batsuit (with nipples!) Christopher Nolan directing Christian Bale in a trilogy of films. Ben Affleck starring in films as part of an attempt at a (seemingly now defunct) DC Comics Cinematic Universe. Bruce Wayne as a child in Todd Phillips' JOKER. And that list isn't even all-inclusive!


Is your head spinning yet?


Affleck was supposed to star in the movie that became THE BATMAN, as well as direct. When Affleck eventually dropped out, many things changed, including, of course, recasting the lead, as well as removing the film from the continuity of the DCEU. Directed by Matt Reeves, we now have a BATMAN movie that claims it will focus more on the detective side of the character, not to mention launch a new "Shared Batman Universe" of sorts. Sequels and TV series are already in the works, even before the general release of the film. So how does this latest incarnation of the character, starring Robert Pattinson in the title role, measure up?


Warner Bros. clearly has high expectations for THE BATMAN given the future plans that already exist for this latest incarnation of Gotham City and its respective characters and plot points. I'm pleased to say that the movie mostly lives up to the hype Warner is building up for it, despite all the delays and tweaks involved. Pattinson gives a convincing performance as do all the supporting players, but the movie ultimately does bite off more than it can chew in terms of world building, characters, and plot points. Long story short, I enjoyed this film and look forward to seeing more stories set in this version of Gotham, but there's enough material to make two or three movies here. It didn't need to be nearly three hours long.


People are already wondering if Robert Pattinson will be successful with this role. Is "The Guy From TWILIGHT" really suited to play this character? I'm happy to say that Pattinson's performance is convincing, and he does make the character his own. While it would've been nice to see more of his personal life as Bruce Wayne, his dark and brooding persona here gets the job done, and he's convincing enough in our out of the Batsuit. While I don't think he's going to become anyone's favorite Batman, he's certainly not weak in this role, and it'll be interesting to see how he fares in future production. Setting the movie earlier in his crimefighting career is a smart story-based decision; seeing him clash with Alfred and how he views worldly and Wayne Enterprises-related matters is an interesting element that will hopefully get further development in later movies. If you're asking if Mr. Pattinson can play Batman, the answer is YES. He's not my new favorite or anything like that, but he gets the job done and fares better than those non-believers and people who only know him from TWILIGHT may initially think.


The supporting cast doesn't disappoint either, including Zoe Kravitz as a reinvented incarnation of Selina Kyle/Catwoman (although the movie never calls her Catwoman specifically), Andy Serkis as a disgruntled Alfred who has to keep Bruce Wayne in line, Jeffrey Wright as an up-and-coming version of Jim Gordon, John Turturro as Carmine Falcone (and the plot finally gives this character a chance to shine and be somewhat developed!), Paul Dano as The Riddler (far less campy than Jim Carrey's over-the-top version of the character), and Colin Farrell as a younger version of Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin. These are great casting choices, and I hope the characters are played by these actors for years to come.


Don't worry; the movie doesn't make us sit through Thomas and Martha Wayne's death scenes again, even if their legacy does play a part in the plot. The mythos of Gotham has been slightly rewritten; you'll see familiar characters developed and utilized differently. Many of these story beats were clearly inspired by the incarnation of the Wayne Family seen in 2019's JOKER film, and while Gotham City purists may scoff at a few of these revisionist choices, I personally was pleased by this reinvention of the matters at hand; keeping each incarnation of the mythos fresh and interesting and not a clone of the rest is honestly a breath of fresh air. Of all the BATMAN movies of recent memory, this one probably does the best job of Gotham City world building, so hopefully we'll be revisiting this incarnation of the city a few more times over the following years.


The tone of the film is noticeably different than other BATMAN films in that opts to focus on investigations and detective work. Other incarnations of the character did this to a lesser extent, but this is the first movie that dives deeper into this aspect. One of the best things about THE BATMAN is it isn't just a dark and brooding action thriller. It's a down-to-earth tale of a vigilante crimefighter doing what he must to learn more, and not just engaging in battle after battle. There are no icemen cracking puns and trying to freeze the city. No voice box-equipped megalomaniac who wants to detonate a nuclear device. And no menagerie of other DC Comics characters around or otherworldly invaders. These changes are for the best, and they're a refreshing change after the largely-failed DCEU.


Unfortunately, one of the biggest fears I did have for THE BATMAN does come to fruition here, even if my review is positive otherwise - The movie simply bites off more than it can chew. There are far too many characters and simultaneous storylines, even if many of them converge throughout the film, with many often sidelined and never given the proper emphasis. It didn't need to be a three-hour-long film; there's enough content here to make two or three separate movies. I loved so much of what I saw unfold on screen in THE BATMAN, but it's simply too much.


If you can overlook the long run time and the overabundance of characters and story points, THE BATMAN is pretty solid. It's nice to see the hero of Detective Comics actually doing, well... detective work for a change. Pattinson does the job well, and casting and world building are top notch, even if it's too much at times. Despite the minor shortcomings, THE BATMAN comes highly recommended.