After a few delays and halted production due to the pandemic, The Batman has finally hit theaters, and initial reactions have been pretty good for a Batman movie. Critics are loving it, audiences even more so. Is this finally what fans of the Dark Knight have been longing for?
A couple minutes into the film, and it becomes quickly apparent that this is not a look at the Bat we have ever seen. The introduction to Gotham City and its inhabitants is dark, surreal, even scary at times. Gone are the gratuitous butt shots and rock-hard nipples of Clooney's movies, the color and camp of Tim Burton's films, the crazy over-the-top villains, the cheap special effects. Instead, what we have here is something out of the darker side of comics: no happy endings, no crossovers or universe building, just a story about a man who suffered a terrible tragedy pulled into the darkness of a city wrought with corruption and crime. A man turned vigilante on a mission to rid the city of evil by any means. A man on a path of vengeance.
Adapting primarily from the Batman: Year One comics, the film takes place in year two of Batman's career as a vigilante. The Bat solely focuses on striking fear into criminals. The Bat logo shines at night, and you know an ass-kicking is coming soon. Instead of crazy super villains, the film veers into government corruption and crime families, concentrating more on visceral, gritty action and deception.
Every frame of the film feels like it could have been pulled directly from the pages of a comic book. The shot of Batman walking toward us next to the new Batmobile while a fire rages behind is an eerily beautiful sight. Every shot on cinematographer Greig Fraser's list feels so meticulously calculated. Michael Giacchino's musical touch feels angsty, broody—any adjectives that could be placed in front of "Batman." From the production design to the editing and special effects, everything in the film feels like it was done with a passion and with a love for these characters.
Paul Dano as the Riddler is haunting, maniacal, terrifying. It's an incredible performance from a truly underrated actor. Zoe Kravitz absolutely nails it as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, playing the role with an impeccable elegance and sexy sophistication. No stupid cat puns, no leather everything, just a badass woman being exactly that. Matt Reeves accomplishes something so pure with his direction—so real. His every decision feels like an artful brush stroke.
Robert Pattinson possibly shines brightest of all the elements in the films as a tortured Bruce Wayne. Pattinson’s vision for the character feels so much more layered than any other live action version of the character before. He looks tormented, broken, and disconnected from reality as Bruce Wayne and then viciously driven as Batman. He portrays a character so deeply hurt by the cards he was dealt and, in so many ways, shows that he is still that scared little boy who witnessed his parents murdered right in front of him. He feels a sort of responsibility to prevent that from happening to anyone else no matter the cost. Yet he has no idea how to be human anymore, no idea how to deal with his pain. He is a man so scorned that it becomes a part of him. Many might still pre-judge Pattison from his sparkly vampire days, but he brings an unmatched sincerity to this role that proves what a phenomenal acting talent he really is.
So, is this finally the gritty comic book film that Batman deserves? The answer… unequivocally yes! Now while the film does run a bit long, this film is dark, genuine, and a truly faithful adaptation. This is finally the Batman we deserve, the Batman we can look up to, that feels real, and someone we can relate to, learn from, empathize with. And while it may be a dead heat with 2008's The Dark Knight for the title of best Batman film, it is certainly a film that will be talked about for a long time to come. For me, it's easily an early front runner for the best film of 2022. It's a film that leaves us all thinking one thing, "Holy-Cinematic-Masterpiece Batman!"