It’s no secret that Batman is one of the most well-known and beloved comic book superheroes of all time. He’s been around for over 80 years and has appeared in TV, movies, cartoons, video games, novels, and audio books. There have been countless takes on the caped hero and more are always on the way. The latest media to focus on Batman is the highly anticipated live-action film simply titled The Batman. Where there have already been several live action Batman movies to hit theaters, this newest film has some big Bat-boots to fill. Does The Batman soar to the heights of 1989’s Batman or 2008’s The Dark Knight, or should it have remained in the shadows? Let’s examine all the evidence to find the answer.
Be warned, as spoilers for The Batman lie ahead.
The Batman truly feels like a noir detective story. In the source material, Batman is often referred to as “the world’s greatest detective,” yet he hasn’t really done much detective work in his previous live action outings. It’s nice to see him actually acting as a detective here. Investigating every clue and every bit of evidence to solve the crime and figure out what the Riddler is truly up to is absolutely gripping. It’s almost impossible not to be pulled in as you try to piece everything together with the Dark Knight.
The film taking place during Batman’s second year as a crimefighter is cleverly used throughout the story and leads to it feeling unique from the many other Batman movies. Bruce is still finding his footing as Batman which has a fun effect on his gadgets, Batmobile, and relationship with Gotham. His tech still mostly has a “homemade” quality to it. Gotham’s citizens fear him and the police don’t want to cooperate with him. This all allows for an entertaining Batman movie different from those we’ve seen before.
Adding to how intriguing the Year Two time frame is is how it impacts the characters’ development. The haunting opening narration claiming that the Bat Signal isn’t just a calling for him and that it’s also a warning to Gotham’s criminals is exciting, but it also showcases how people view him during this stage in his superhero career. The people of Gotham becoming inspired by him instead of fearing him is powerful. The cops eventually warming up to him compared to how they saw him toward the beginning of the film is rewarding.
Bruce’s relationship with Alfred also receives satisfying development. Early on, Bruce tells Alfred off, saying he’s not his father. There’s a moment later on in the film in which Bruce visits Alfred in the hospital after he’s injured. When the nurse asks if there’s any next of kin, Bruce realizes that it’s just him. He’s all that Alfred has. He realizes that Alfred raised him, loves him, and cares for him. This realization is genuinely heartfelt and makes Bruce an even more sympathetic character.
Robert Pattinson manages to pull it off as well. Without a whole lot of dialogue from his character, he portrays a wide range of emotions so well that the audience not only can tell how he feels, but feels those emotions along with him. In fact, the acting from everyone throughout the film is absolutely incredible. Pattinson’s Batman is one of the greatest portrayals of the character ever, if not the best. He truly becomes Batman without his “Batman voice” ever sounding ridiculous or Cookie Monster-like. His version of Bruce Wayne perfectly captures the psyche of someone who witnessed his parents die at a young age and shut the world out because of it.
Jeffrey Wright’s Jim Gordon is another shining performance throughout this noir film. He’s portrayed as a take-charge leader who doesn’t blinkin the face of danger, but is also compassionate and trusting. His relationship with Batman feels like a very real friendship. There’s a scene in particular where he helps Batman get away by tricking the rest of the GCPD that showcases their amazing trust and friendship. Gordon serves as the perfect best friend character here, and even feels like an early member of the Bat-family.
Zoë Kravitz kills it as Catwoman. Her portrayal as Selina Kyle matches the source material perfectly. She’s a lost cause with a big heart who is willing to perform criminal activity for what she deems to be the right reasons. She actively fights to help people she cares about. The writing and her performance capture the many moral gray areas that her character represents. Her onscreen chemistry with Pattinson truly makes the character and the relationship feel real. This is Catwoman done right.
Colin Farrell is completely unrecognizable as the Penguin. This is partly due to the Oscar-worthy makeup he’s disguised by, but his performance is unlike anything he’s done before. He transforms into Oz. His accent and mannerisms bring the character of Oz to life in one of the most memorable performances in a Batman movie.
The Riddler is terrifyingly insane. Paul Dano gives a chilling performance that makes this serial killer feel like a true threat. The interrogation scene with him and Batman is gripping and suspenseful. He steals the spotlight whenever he’s on screen, and his unhinged behavior comes close to rivaling Heath Ledger’s Joker. He may be crazy, but he’s certainly entertaining to watch.
There are many scenes and elements throughout the film that feel like they were pulled straight from a horror movie. There’s a couple of jumpscares and the Riddler is just plain terrifying. There are moments when he feels like a slasher villain. This is definitely the creepiest Batman movie to hit the big screen.
There are several big surprises throughout the film. There are twists and turns that aren’t quite easy to see coming. The unpredictability adds to the already suspenseful thrill ride and keeps the audience guessing as to what could come next. There’s a major moment in the movie where the Riddler could have literally looked at the camera and shouted “but wait, there’s more” Billy Mays style and it would have served a similar purpose. When everything feels almost wrapped up, there’s a moment when Batman (and the viewer) finds out there’s still something coming but does not know what. This moment is absolutely jaw-dropping. It’s one of the most spine-tingling scenes in any Batman movie.
Since this is still a comic book superhero movie, there needs to be some action sequences. The approach to the action in The Batman is certainly unique, but it works exceptionally well. The violence is mostly very grounded, which makes every single hit feel real. When someone is getting beat up, it feels like you’re actually watching someone take a beating in real life. It’s a bit uncomfortable, but that’s also part of the point. Other action sequences are extremely well-choreographed as punches, kicks, gunshots, and grappling hook shots hit their targets. There’s one especially satisfying scene in which Batman fights some goons in a dark hallway only for it to be illuminated by their guns firing. The action is a true spectacle that must be seen to be appreciated.
This is a Batman movie, so of course there is a Batmobile chase scene. The car chase in this movie is nothing short of epic. The Batmobile racing after the Penguin is absolutely exhilarating. What makes it stand out from other times we’ve seen good Batmobile scenes is that, like many of the fight sequences, it feels real and how it would actually play out (if one of the cars had a science fiction-like booster on the back of it). They’re not speeding down Gotham’s open, empty streets. This takes place on a narrow road and bridge filled with the traffic you’d expect to see in a major city. Many drivers are at risk and plenty of vehicles serve as obstacles, which makes this a wildly entertaining scene.
The cinematography in this film is absolutely beautiful. Each shot is a visual treat for one reason or another. The darker scenes are gut-wrenching and brighter shots are filled with emotion. Batman and Catwoman’s silhouettes against the orange sunset is breathtaking. The visuals and cinematography are truly something to marvel at in The Batman.
The sound is just as incredible. Not only is the brooding theme music enough to raise your blood pressure, but the sound effects are used well. The sound of Batman’s boots is intimidating, striking fear in his enemies when they hear him approach from the shadows. His boots stomping on Gotham’s wet concrete is reminiscent of the boots of a cowboy on his way to a shootout. Riddler’s heavy breathing is eerie and further adds to how unhinged his character feels.
Since this is a Batman movie, Gotham City needs to play an important role and be interesting. This version of Gotham is fantastic, as it feels closer to the source material than just a slightly different version of New York City. It’s lacking the random blimps and the giant gargoyles on every rooftop, but it still feels and looks different from a real-world city. It also feels just as dirty and scummy as you’d expect Gotham to be. Plus, it feels like it’s own character. We discover so much about its history throughout the story and see it develop over time.
One of the most interesting elements of the movie is its themes centered on the differences in social classes. At first, it appears that the criminals in Gotham are all poor people mugging others on the subway or robbing convenience stores, but we later find out the real criminals are the wealthy individuals who wronged them. We find out about all the corruption hidden among Gotham’s elite, including the Waynes themselves. This is such an issue that Riddler gains followers by bringing the dirty deeds of the rich to light and killing them for what they’ve done. Bruce even gradually realizes how out of touch he is throughout the movie, making him question if he’s the right influence Gotham needs. Riddler’s murder weapon of choice is a carpet tucker, which Bruce doesn;t recognize as it’s a working man’s tool. There are plenty of metaphors throughout that showcase this social class theme and they never fail.
There are a handful of hints of what we could see in a potential sequel or spinoff, but it ultimately feels like a solid standalone story. It’s genuinely a relief to see a superhero movie in this day and age that focuses on telling a great story rather than only existing to set up the next big project. It gives the film even more rewatchability as well.
After the movie ended, it’s hard not to wish we got to see Alfred Pennyworth get more screen time or Batman using his gadgets more. Alfred plays an important role in Bruce’s development, but we don’t see much of him. Batman uses grappling hooks, camera contact lenses, and a flight suit, but none of which a whole lot outside of the grapples. What else does he have on that utility belt of his? Where these are both important elements in any Batman media, it would have been nice to see more of them. That being said, being left wanting more is far from terrible. Plus, we could always see more of Alfred or Batman’s gadgets in a sequel if one is made.
The Batman is another “grounded” take on the DC hero, which was already got to experience with The Dark Knight trilogy. It’s time Warner Bros. realizes that more fantastical elements can be in a darker Batman movie. It would be quite fun to see him take on the likes of Clayface, Poison Ivy, or Man-Bat with their comic-accurate powers. That being said, that realism doesn’t feel as out of place as it does with The Dark Knight since characters like the Riddler, Catwoman, and the Penguin are grounded in realism regardless of the version. It’s still a fantastic take on the character, and perhaps it’s still possible to see superpowers or other fantasy elements rear their heads if this carries on as a series.
The Batman is an outstanding superhero comic book adaptation and an all around incredible film. It’s easily one of the best live action takes we’ve seen of the iconic character and one of the best Batman movies ever. It’s thrilling and even scary at some moments, serves as a deep dive into the psyche of multiple characters, features fantastic character development, touches on important and interesting themes, has brutal action, and contains several memorable characters. This film is great for those who are well-versed in Batman lore and those just looking for a good movie-going experience.