It may not be the best Batman movie of all time as many insist it to be, but it damn well tries. And for that, I approve!
Set during his second year on the job, The Batman sees Bruce Wayne aka Batman (Robert Pattinson), as he wrestles with becoming the hero Gotham City needs him to be. Young and still learning the rules of the nightly game he plays with the criminal element of the city, Batman is soon challenged by a psychotic menace calling himself The Riddler (Paul Dano), a mob-related villain named The Penguin (Colin Farrell), and a sly thief known as Selina Kyle aka Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz), all the while dealing with the nefarious schemes of a corrupt city that isn’t about to change its ways overnight. What follows is a dark take on a Dark Knight, one that has just as much to prove to himself as he does to the people he has sworn to protect. Now bring that thumping theme song in Mr. Giacchino!
First off, this movie looks absolutely stunning. From the shot composition to the color palette to the general lighting and more, this film truly takes the cake as one of the best-looking superhero films to have ever hit the big screen. And while things can look a little too dark at times and a bit muddled during specific action sequences, it can’t be denied that The Batman raises the bar for the superhero genre, blowing away anything the MCU is doing visually at this point in time.
Focusing more on the rise of a Batman who’s still learning the ropes of being a hero rather than a seasoned veteran years into the game a la the DCEU’s Batfleck, Robert Pattinson channels the Dark Knight in ways that don’t always immediately work, but within the framework of the world being built around him, he ends up doing exactly what he needs to do to sell a version of Gotham and its protector that’s far more different than anything we’ve seen before. And although Pattinson’s super slow bat-walk and the few Twilight-esque long stares into the eyes of his enemies seem a bit much at times, Pattinson has just enough of a handle on the character to enjoy his performance, despite his take on Bruce Wayne not doing much to win me over. Throw in some fantastic performances by Jeffrey Wright as James Gordon (his rapport with Batman is simply perfect), Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman (she’s better than Anne Hathaway’s version of the character), a near unidentifiable Colin Farrel as Penguin (he needs to get nominated for disappearing into this role), and Paul Dano’s Riddler (who hits more than misses), and you have a supporting cast that impresses more than expected while giving audiences something to get excited for when these characters inevitably return in future installments.
But for as stellar as most of this movie is (especially that Batmobile sequence), there are a few things about the story and clarity of what’s going on during it that lessens the experience for me overall. Compared to The Dark Knight, which is basically a perfect film even without being Batman-related, The Batman struggles with story beats that simply don’t hit the way they’re intended to, made doubly apparent by the fact that this movie is just too long. Feeling more like a “Director’s Cut” than a theatrical one, cutting a good half hour from this film would have done wonders for a story that no doubt has the right intentions, yet still stumbles from time to time when trying to elevate its mostly solid script, the superfluous and tacked on third act being the main culprit in this particular instance. Sure, the ingredients are there to make an even better movie than what’s presented here, but having the best spices and top-of-the-line cooking equipment doesn’t always equate to a dish that hits all the taste notes it initially sets out for, and for that, I was left a bit wanting.
So while I can’t stress enough that I genuinely enjoyed this movie, it can’t be denied that the high praise it’s been receiving is slightly overblown. This one has a lot of great elements in it as well as a look, tone, and direction that this iconic DC Comics hero deserves, but with a sometimes unfocused script, too long a runtime, and some execution on a story level that leaves a bit to be desired, and The Batman is no doubt only the opening salvo in a new series of films that will eventually give fans a perfect bat-movie; it’s just not this one.