Film review: The Batman might be the best superhero movie of 2020s so far
Every minute in this three-hour long movie is absolutely needed.
Batman is the superhero who has been played by the most actors throughout history, with Robert Pattinson the latest to join the ranks when The Batman premiered on Mar 3.
In spite of the legacy Pattinson had to live up to, The Batman is absolutely one of the best superhero movies in recent history.
In this film directed by Matt Reeves, The Riddler is the main antagonist, leaving behind cryptic clues for Batman as he embarks on a serial killing spree throughout Gotham City. Batman, who has been a lone wolf up until this point, finds himself working with unlikely allies in order to track down The Riddler before things escalate into a city-wide catastrophe.
The movie hinges on the themes of vengeance, corruption and how far good people must be pushed in order to start making questionable decisions.
The highlight of The Batman is undeniably the actors and their chemistry. Though star-studded casts can be detrimental to some films (see our review of Marvel’s Eternals), every character in this movie feels flawlessly portrayed, no matter how well known the actor portraying them.
Zoë Kravitz — known best for her roles in the Fantastic Beasts, X-Men and Divergent series — continues Catwoman’s legacy of being an anti-hero with questionable allegiance. However Kravitz’s portrayal of Selina Kyle is grittier than previous iterations, with a penchant for violence to match the movie’s grim tone and a dark backstory of her own.
Similarly, Hollywood icons like Andy Serkis and Colin Farrell are unburdened by their celebrity. They portray Alfred and the Penguin without a hitch, making the audience truly believe that the wacky arms dealer from Black Panther can also be a distinguished butler, and that the suave detective from Miami Vice can somehow be a mob boss with anger issues.
However no actor does as good a job as the film’s star. Robert Pattinson has had a truly storied career, with his most iconic roles in the Twilight and Harry Potter series having pigeonholed him into the image of a teen heartthrob.
The Batman makes you forget all of that. Here, he disappears into his role, and is able to be vulnerable and unsure of himself without the audience ever forgetting how dark and violent his Batman can be at a moment’s notice.
Pattinson’s performance has already been compared to Christian Bale and Ben Affleck’s, the two most recent live-action Batmans. However Pattinson portrays a much darker Caped Crusader than Bale or Affleck.
This version of Bruce Wayne is much more tortured than his predecessors, donning his batsuit to fight crime every night without fail but still unconvinced if he is making a difference in Gotham. He remained plagued by his parents’ death, and it affects all his actions.
Unlike in The Dark Knight trilogy, here Bruce is burdened by his billions and chooses to retreat into his mansion — and his mind — when not fighting crime. The movie makes a point to portray how Bruce’s childhood trauma could have affected him, which Bale’s Batman completely glosses over.
And unlike Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne, this Batman is focused solely on Gotham. While Affleck did a good job of portraying how billionaire Bruce Wayne would try and protect Earth, Pattinson’s Batman cares only about the wellbeing of his city and how he can better protect it- which harkens back to Batman’s origins in the comics.
He also does much more detective work than Bale or Affleck’s Batmen ever did, with his tortured mind also being highly analytical and able to keep up with Riddler’s games.
Despite how grim the plot and characters are, The Batman surprisingly maintains some comedy. Scenes where Bruce has to interact with other characters are laced with ironic dark humour, and Paul Dano adds some comedy at unexpected moments with his over-the-top Riddler.
On top of it all, the movie is gorgeously shot and scored. Expect poignant scenes and music that transitions between eerie and dramatic, both of which only add to the tension present throughout.
Overall, The Batman is a fantastic retelling of a story that’s been told countless times. Though there are hints at a sequel, at the moment this film is a dynamic standalone that truly captures the character as he was originally written, without the burden of the DC Extended Universe weighing it down.