Have you ever been so wrong that it actually felt right?
That’s not usually something many of us generally feel upon being wrong. Yet, walking out of the cinema after watching The Batman was so incredibly satisfying that I’ve never felt more grateful for being wrong.
Yes, that’s right. I was one of those who opposed the casting of Robert Pattinson as the caped crusader known as Batman. In fact, I even abhorred the idea of Zoë Kravitz playing Selina Kyle, a.k.a Catwoman. From day one of the announcement, I thought “here we go again, another Batman movie that doesn’t do the source material nor the characters justice”. How wrong I was.
The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves, takes a unique approach to the masked vigilante’s early years, setting up a universe that not only can fans of yester-year enjoy, but one that allows for a whole new generation of fans to be born. The film dives right in and follows billionaire, not-so-playboy Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) in his second year as the masked vigilante known as Batman. That’s right! There’s no origin story detailing the tragic murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne and how Bruce Wayne came to become Batman. Thank goodness! Instead we get to see Batman be, well, Batman.
Like previous live-action adaptations, this version of Batman is hell bent on protecting the already broken and crime-ridden Gotham City, though being so early on in his career as a vigilante, his prime motivator is still very much on vengeance and instilling fear in his enemies.
Kicking off the plot of the film with a series of gruelling high profile murders, followed by a film noir-esque introduction of the criminal underbelly that is Gotham City and narrated by Batman himself, The Batman managed to set itself up to be much more of a detective thriller than other films before it. In this way, the entire film felt like a brilliant combination of original story, as well as, the best bits and pieces taken from Tim Burton’s Batman films, Batman: The Animated Series and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.
Each of the characters were introduced in a profound way that allowed the film to focus on each equally. The film’s villain, The Riddler (Paul Dano), was an absolute masterpiece. His brilliance as a maniacal genius made for a performance worthy of being akin to that of Heath Ledger’s The Joker in The Dark Knight. Where other iterations of The Riddler gave the character a bit of a sense of humour and a sort of ‘screw loose’ comedic edge, Paul Dano’s take was darker, more calculating and dare I say, more akin to what a villain obsessed with puzzles and riddles should be like. The calm yet chaotic mind behind the villain was far more terrifying than the acts of violence occurring within the film.
The way in which The Riddler was crafted within the narrative of The Batman was so well done that it didn’t detract from the other characters within Batman’s rogues gallery that appeared in the film. Of course I’m speaking of the likes of Oswald Cobblepot, a.k.a, The Penguin (Colin Farrell) and Selina Kyle, a.k.a Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), who, granted, isn’t a villain per se, especially in this film.
I’m the first to admit that I balked at both Farrell and Kravitz’ involvement in the film when I first read the casting announcements but having seen the film, I’m now the first to admit that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover.
Kravitz’s performance as Selina Kyle is one of the most spectacular takes of the character since Michelle Pfeiffer’s tenure. This version of Selina Kyle was as sassy and alluring as she was tormented, brilliant in the art of deception and seduction, while also being able to show a great deal of sincerity that makes it difficult to think of her as a villain, or even a criminal, for that matter. The way in which Kravitz portrays Kyle is so strikingly similar to the Catwoman depicted in many popular Batman comic book stories that it was too difficult to find even a single flaw with her performance.
This was the same with Colin Farrell’s shocking transformation as The Penguin. Granted, the version of the villain we see in this film is more of a lackey, having not yet ascended to his own throne. That doesn’t take away from Farrell’s take on the character. Throughout the entire duration of The Batman, I could not for the life of me see Farrell and The Penguin as one in the same. It was as if The Penguin was a whole other person, which goes to show the astounding effects that makeup and spellbinding acting have.
With such fantastic performances by the ‘villains’ in The Batman, how did Robert Pattinson fare as the titular character? As mentioned earlier, I couldn’t stand the idea when he was initially cast, having been let down by the most recent iterations of the character. Suffice to say I was blown away by Pattinson’s performance. Finally, a Batman that embodied the very essence of a character bent on vengeance and cleaning up his city from criminal scum.
Throughout the film, Pattinson’s Batman portrayed the character for what he’s always been known for, that is, being the world’s greatest detective. Batman wasn’t just a masked vigilante in this film, he was a detective, working closely with Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) that it really did feel like Pattinson brought The Batman Animated Series version of the character to life.
Interestingly, Pattinson’s Batman also reminded me of Michael Keaton’s take on the character, though with a more serious tone. In this way, it made for the chemistry between Batman and Selina Kyle to feel akin to that between Keaton & Pfeiffer’s version in Batman Returns, though with a little less sass and turbulence on the part of Kyle in The Batman.
Also worth noting is that we see very little of Bruce Wayne as himself in this film and while his relationship with other characters are akin to the source material, the dynamic between Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis), his butler and also the man who raised him upon his parents’ death, was unusual. It was the only relationship in the film that felt ‘off. Perhaps it was written in a way that diminished Batman’s ties to his past or perhaps it was simply that Andy Serkis just didn’t strike me as the best fit to portray Alfred. Heck, I’m still unsure about Jeremy Irons playing the character in Batman v Superman.
Character performances aside, the film’s visuals and soundtrack were equally masterpiece. The noir-esque depiction of Gotham City was alluring in itself but the car chase scene between Batman and The Penguin, along with the music accompanying it, is truly a class above. While the new Batmobile isn’t anything to make a fuss about, the pacing, editing and graphics helped bring the scene to life and was simply quite exhilirating to watch. This was much the same with many of the combat heavy scenes that looked really good to watch on screen.
There’s so much more I could say about Matt Reeves’ brilliant take of one of my favourite DC characters but I’d be giving too much away. So instead I highly recommend you watch the film for yourself to see what I mean when I say that I’m so happy to have been proven wrong. Bear in mind though, The Batman has a run time of three hours and if you’re anything like me, you will at some point ask yourself, when will this end? Don’t fret though, it’s all for good reasons and I can guarantee you’ll walk out of the cinema wishing you could go right back and watch the film again from the start.