For years there has been one thing separating the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the DC Cinematic Universe, and that was a love for the source material. You could tell that every director for the Marvel films really analyzed and cared about the source material, knowing when to stray away from it, and when to stick right to it. Films like “Spiderman: Homecoming” taking some of the most iconic scenes from the comics and putting them right on the big screen is what comes to mind. “The Batman,” which hit theaters on March 4, is the first DC movie I have watched in a long time that I can firmly say the director and the writers all understood who and what the Dark Knight is. The plot, acting and cinematography are all qualities that make this the quintessential “Batman” film with only minor issues.
Matt Reeves, who serves as director and writer, made a daring and incredibly smart decision by forgoing the backstory that a majority of “Batman” films introduce. The film takes that step even further by restraining itself from showing the brutal murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, which is something I have seen multiple times throughout the “Batman” films. Now even with their deaths not being shown, the movie doesn’t shy away from showing the impact the Waynes had on Gotham. The central plot of the movie surrounds two points: The immense corruption of Gotham at its heart, which all divulges from the history of the Waynes. The second being The Riddler’s serial killings of major police and political figures among Gotham. The movie sets itself in an era of Batman we have seen and also not seen enough; it’s a young, Robin-less Batman, fighting crime and trying to keep Gothman from the brink of tearing itself apart. It takes pieces from the many different authors of the “Batman” comics and lumps them all together that feels eerily like what Batman is: he’s not funny, he’s not cracking jokes like in the “Dark Knight” trilogy, he’s a man that’s been broken by a city’s corruption and is doing whatever he can to make sure nobody experiences what he did.
Robert Pattinson, known for his work in “Twilight,” was announced as the next to don the cowl in mid-2019 according to Variety, and to say the reaction to the decision was mixed would be an understatement, according to screenrant. But from the start I had a gut feeling that he was going to succeed in the role despite his previous work, and I can say proudly I feel that Pattinson did an amazing job at understanding the character and the mannerisms that accompany Batman. One thing I have not seen mentioned nearly enough is the movement patterns that he shows throughout the film while he is in the suit; he walks almost like a predator does when stalking their prey. His movements are all purposeful, which makes you really understand and connect with his portrayal of Bruce Wayne. He carries his voice well into the role and most importantly, looks the part. My favorite of the minor additions they gave to the new Batman is the eye black that he wears when in the suit just to add to the intimidation factor. Now with every Batman actor comes two sides of the role, The Bat and the man. While the majority of actors take a similar approach to the character of the Dark Knight, it seems they take the billionaire differently, and that is no different when it comes to Pattinson. He has a perfect combination of confidence alongside extreme unease in being Bruce Wayne. This connected with me as a fan because I felt it really did encapsulate the famous idea that Bruce Wayne is the mask that Batman hides under, that Bruce Wayne died in that alley with his parents and Batman was born. I continue to applaud Reeves in the decision to limit the time we see Bruce Wayne. That was always a critique of mine when it comes to the “Dark Knight” trilogy, I wanted to see Batman, I didn’t care about the runnings of Wayne Industries, I wanted to see the world’s greatest detective being the world’s greatest detective.
Now with a hero comes and villain, and the choice made to have The Riddler serve as the main villain for the film is one that at first confused me, but also interested me. We have seen more than enough of the Joker, whether through the “Dark Knight” trilogy, The “Arkham” games, “Suicide Squad” or even the stand-alone “Joker” movie. However, we have not seen The Riddler since Jim Carrey’s portrayal in “Batman Forever,” and what we see out of Paul Dano is a much different character. Our first interaction with the The Riddler is seeing him brutally murder a mayoral candidate with a carpet tucker, a tool used for installing carpets and this starts a line of actions that all have a purpose. Throughout the film we are revealed more and more about the The Riddler through several riddles, and after the first couple crime scenes Batman ventures to, it is clear that the murder at the beginning of the film and subsequent riddles was not the first time Batman had faced his famous comic book foe. This is revealed through Alfred, the famous butler and pseudo father figure to Bruce, helping Bruce translate the strange symbols. The Riddler continuously leaves notes and riddles for Batman in a ploy not only to see if the Bat is “smart enough” but also to use the Batman as a tool to uncover the dark underbelly of Gotham and bring it to light. Without spoiling the twist, this all end’s up revolving with Bruce Wayne and his family.
Beside Batman and The Riddler, the two other major players that we see throughout the film are Catwoman, played wonderfully by Zoë Kravitz, and Lt. James Gordon, played by Jeffery Wright. The pair of them act as allies to the Bat throughout the film with Catwoman doing it with her own goals in mind. The dynamic these two bring to the story helps really keep the focus on the plot and keep the notion that while the movie is called “The Batman,” it’s really a story about Gotham City and the world that is in it.
The acting, while amazing, is not the only bright spot this movie brings. It’s cinematography and soundtrack combine in a way that makes you feel a connection to the world around Batman. The dark and gritty feel of Gotham combined with the music that doesn’t overpower these scenes is great. I will say, being able to toss in the classic “Batman” theme on several occasions was a great decision that left me with a smile on my face.
No movie is perfect and “The Batman” has one big issue that I cannot help but feel holds this movie back. It is too long, sitting at a two hours and 56 minute run time. While the story and the acting is great, the movie suffers from a lull in pacing which makes the movie drag at parts. I had a bad habit of checking my watch wondering when the ending would actually come.
“The Batman” is one of the best renditions of the famous crime fighter I have ever seen, and with announcements that we will not see him enter the DC Cinematic Universe to join characters, like Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman, receives a sigh of relief from me. I am a fan of the current run of DC movies all existing in their own universe. DC is taking a step I wish Marvel would have years ago in that they are allowing their directors to have more control and create the movies they want to, and “The Batman” is another in the line of movies like “Joker” which show a true passion from the writers and the directors. This movie makes me excited for a potential new series of “Batman” films featuring Pattinson, who to me is now the definitive Batman.