Matt Reeves has brought a different version of The Batman to the screen with his new film that mostly is outstanding, but won’t likely leave the audience feeling blown away. There is an abundance of greatness on display, and some things fans of the Dark Knight will enjoy. Despite this, there are a few lines of dialog and a couple of lackluster performances that tarnish the otherwise exceptional film. This is a film that I not only want to rewatch but feel confident that those subsequent viewings will further shape my overall opinion of whether this is the best adaptation of the character, or simply just another one.
The Batman (Robert Pattinson) has been fighting crime in Gotham for two years, but now a new villain has reared his head, taking credit for the murders of two prominent Gothamites. The Riddler (Paul Dano) leaves clues for The Batman to possibly stop future murders, which lead him to team up with or fight against other well-known characters, Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), Oswald Copplepot (Colin Farrell), and Alfred (Andy Serkis). This villain and his agenda send the Batman down a tunnel he was not fully prepared to travel.
Colin Farrell’s Penguin is one of my favorite Batman elements ever put to screen. I absolutely loved his performance. He is so absorbed in the character and the costume that it is hard to tell that Colin Farrell is even in there. The very first interaction with him and Pattinson’s Batman is quite outstanding. I found myself smiling from ear to ear with this gangster version of the character, which is such a great turn from the disgusting portrayal in Batman Returns that haunts me to this day.
In fact, Reeve’s awareness of how to use the villains or the neutral party shines throughout the film. Paul Dano’s Riddler is different than I remember him ever depicted in any other version of the character, but I love his performance and this character. It is the first time I remember ever feeling that The Riddler was menacing. Dano’s performance is big at times, but it always feels consistent with the character that Reeve’s film is going for. This story and the look of the film lends itself to David Fincher, with specific reference to Se7en (1995).
Kravitz and Pattison have great chemistry, as does he and Wright. I took a lot of enjoyment in seeing these iconic pairs working together in this film. In fact, I don’t really recall ever getting to see Gordon and Batman work as closely as they do in this film. There was a moment that really made me laugh, and it was largely in part to Wright’s rebuttal of “that’s your thing”, or something of the sort. The Bat and the Cat have long been a compelling dynamic as there is always a push-pull to their relationship. The performances here sell it for sure.
The thematic elements that Reeves is playing with managed to feel fresh by the end of the movie. As I have sat with the film for just about 24-hours at this point, I keep processing what the film and Reeve’s seem to be saying, and how it makes the possibilities of this Batman universe different than Nolan’s. In many ways, this film is more akin to Reeve’s Planet of the Apes films than the other Batman movies that came before.
I look forward to a rewatch of this film and really digging into what was going on. In my initial viewing, I feel it necessary to confess that I’d had a rough day at my regular job, and may not have been in a place where I could “love” this movie. I did really like it, and that feeling has only grown since the last line of the credits. The Batman earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.