The Batman has been a long time coming. Not only have fans been waiting since Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises for another solo film featuring the Caped Crusader, but Matt Reeves, the movie’s director, was first hired for the project back in 2017––half a decade ago. Well, now it’s finally here, and Robert Pattinson’s take on the famous DC Comics hero is days from hitting the big screen.
But fans want to know: is it any good? Did Reeves live up to the hype? Well, that’s a complicated answer.
Robert Pattinson as Batman
How is Robert Pattinson as the Dark Knight? Well, his Batman is great. Maybe a bit too stoic at times, but generally speaking, he nails the part.
The Batman perfectly showcases The World’s Greatest Detective side of the character. Sure, there are fight scenes, but not as much as one would think, and all of them focus on serving the greater investigation instead of simply existing to have a brawl.
His costume isn’t news to most, but it’s worth noting how fantastic it looks. The suit is intricately designed and perfectly represents where the character is in his vigilante career. Pattinson also has the honor of possibly the best Batmobile introduction yet.
It’s his Bruce Wayne that falls through the cracks, though, to no fault of Pattinson’s. The entire movie showcases the same depressed, angsty billionaire with not much personality or anything for audiences to grab on to. He’s only ever given the same one beat to play from the script, over and over, with nothing more. Bruce really needed more range for Pattinson to play with, as his one-note angst just wasn’t cutting it.
As for those closest to Batman, Jeffery Wright’s Gordan is fantastic, and their dynamic gets plenty of time to shine. This film may be the best live-action take on the duo’s partnership, and audiences really get a feel for their mutual respect.
Then, of course, there’s Alfred. Sadly, Andy Serkis’ take on the character isn’t all too notable. While he isn’t bad by any means, there’s nothing here that elevates him from those who came before.
Catwoman’s Nine Lives
It doesn’t take long before Batman has a run-in with a familiar cat burglar: Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman. She’s excellent in the role and brings a unique elegance along with her.
The sad part about it all is how her story both works and doesn’t. Some themes at play in regards to her relation to Batman, and her own struggles, service the story well. However, a good chunk of her time in the film could have been taken out with little effect on the wider Riddler plot and, in doing so, would have tightened up the film––something that was very much needed.
Selina’s partnership with Bats also seemed a little too easy, but it obviously wasn’t too hard to swallow in the first place, knowing the history of the two from the comics.
However, on that same note, the chemistry between the two of them left a lot to be desired. When the movie makes those moves to play on their romantic history, it just doesn’t land as well as it should.
Feeling Every Minute
The weakest part of the piece, by far, is its pacing. The story clocks in at a whopping three hours, and you feel every minute of it. There’s a good third of the runtime that could have been trimmed, making the entire story flow better.
For most of the film, it’s point A to point B; here’s a riddle, investigate, solve, next riddle, repeat. Of course, that’s an oversimplification, and things are thrown in to mix the formula up, but not nearly enough for it not to strain the overall flow.
A majority of the scenes throughout the movie feel prolonged, with shots staying on someone’s reaction a little too long for dramatic effect and some tedious setups to bigger plot elements.
The Batman also inherits the problem of multiple endings, something which exacerbates the pacing issues present.
A Visual Spectacle
This adaptation of the Dark Knight is, without a doubt, the most gorgeous outing he’s had yet. Every frame is a work of art, and the color palette is equally impressive.
Some shots were simply breathtaking. From an explosive car takedown to the Cat and the Bat’s silhouetted kiss, or even a simple shot of the Dark Knight’s cowl—the project is truly a visual feast for the eyes.
Thankfully, when it comes to the fight sequences, they were all-engrossing and interesting to watch. The choreography, while not groundbreaking, was solid, and the brutal moves of Pattinson’s vengeance echoed throughout the theater.
One battle sequence in a pitch-black hallway was a particularly fun and satisfying experience.
It would be remiss of me not to mention some sporadic clunkiness in the action scenes, however, which can be attributed to not switching between practical and visual effects with grace.
Riddle Me This?
When it comes to The Riddler, don’t go in expecting a comic-accurate take on the character, something that was likely clear to anyone who has watched the trailers. Instead, go in expecting a mix of the Zodiac killer and Jigsaw.
Paul Dano is fine, for the most part. Though, there is no doubt that his performance will click with some viewers more than others. Either way, his demented mind comes across, which is what matters most for the plot.
The best parts of Dano’s performance don’t happen until closer to the end of the film, and there isn’t nearly enough of it. Speaking of which, the villain is also oddly absent for prolonged times throughout the story, leaving a feeling that he should have been more involved than he was.
When it comes to the look the villain sported, it was honestly entirely forgettable. Sure it was creepy, but nothing about it will stick with audiences after the credits roll, which is a shame given the character’s fairly iconic over-the-top looks that he sports in his various comic appearances.
Those Other Cronies
The Riddler isn’t the only member of Batman’s rogue gallery to make their appearance in the film. There are also the likes of Penguin and Carmine Falcone.
Colin Farrell takes on a new version of Oswald Cobblepot, and he’s great. He isn’t the big crime boss that many fans might be used to, but this is him taking the steps to get there—in a similar way to how Bruce is growing as the Dark Knight and a more heroic presence for the city.
Despite being absent for a good chunk of the film, John Turturro’s Falcone makes a great impression once he starts factoring into the events. He plays the sleezy slime ball well and is sure to send shivers down the spines of viewers.
While the story generally juggles jumping back and forth between its various villains decently, sometimes it can feel like continuous detours. Yes, even if they are all tied together, in some way, to the central mystery of the story.
The Sound of Vengeance
The main theme for Gotham's protector, “The Batman,” by the film’s composer Michael Giacchino, is next level. The melodies at play perfectly evoke the Dark Knight, so much so that it’s now hard to associate anything else with the hero.
The rest of the score is great as well, though there are many occasions throughout the runtime where the movie leans too heavily on musical cues, almost as if trying to push for audiences’ reactions more than it needs to.
Then there’s the iconic Batman voice. How did Pattinson’s take fare? Well, it was the usual lower, intense voice, but no particularly unique flare was present. At the very least, his intimidating vocals shouldn’t insult any fans, which is a win in and of itself.
A Good, But Flawed, Batman Story
While this still isn’t the quintessential take on Batman, there’s plenty to merit its existence. Robert Pattinson made for a good Batman, Gotham had more personality than ever before, and the cinematography was a sight to behold.
It’s a shame Matt Reeves feels the need to take the gritty “grounded” route and nothing else. It almost feels like a step back in the genre, where the storytellers have returned to avoiding aspects of characters from the comics that made them who they are; a key example being how Riddler has very little in common with his source material counterpart, except by name.
The film could have benefited from pulling back, even just a little, on the gritty angst and easing its intense focus on being “grounded”. After all, Batman has worked for decades now, and he’s had plenty of stories outside of those tight boundaries.
Though, with the teases of what may be in Pattinson’s Dark Knight’s future, the story can still go to some exciting places. Hopefully, Reeves and co. can clean up the sequel a tad more and loosen their “grounded” grip. Then they might have something truly great on their hands.
The Batman hits theaters worldwide on March 4.