When it comes to comic book movies, DC Films’ output has been a much more mixed bag than Marvel. Though their films have had immense commercial success, their critical reception has been inconsistent with each release, ranging from monotonous to being nominated for Academy Awards. With their latest release, Matt Reeves’ “The Batman,” DC is hoping to distance itself from its usual routine of international-level conflicts and tonal dissonance by reinterpreting one of its most famous heroes in a much more intimate way.
For the most part, this film reaches that goal with flying colors; balancing tension, mystery and intensity with near-flawlessness, “The Batman” easily stands out as arguably the best film about the Caped Crusader, and is a slow burn that is satisfying with every second.
Taking place in a separate universe from the DC Extended Universe, “The Batman” follows Bruce Wayne two years after he starts fighting crime. When a serial killer calling himself The Riddler starts killing some of Gotham City’s most public figures, Batman finds himself entrenched in a conspiracy spanning the city, from the crime underworld to the city’s so-called protectors to even his own past. Teaming up with the inquisitive Officer James Gordon and cutthroat thief Selina Kyle, it is up to Batman to unravel the Riddler’s web of conspiracies before he brings Gotham to its knees.
Reeves has had great success with his previous films, namely “Cloverfield” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” and his direction in “The Batman” is breathtaking to say the least. Nearly every shot in the film sticks out, with everything serving a purpose, whether it be showing the griminess and claustrophobia of his version of Gotham or following intense, well-choreographed fights. Certain scenes are guaranteed to become iconic in the realm of “Batman” films, and Reeves is a director that will quickly be recognized as a mainstay in Hollywood.
Paired with the film’s incredible direction and cinematography, this is the best portrayal of Batman to be put on-screen. Robert Pattinson gives the role his all and more than delivers, balancing his sullen disposition as Bruce Wayne with a version of Batman that has brains on top of brawn. This is the smartest live-action Batman so far, and all the subtleties in his performances, from his eyes to his movement patterns, make for a powerful lead.
The supporting cast is on par with Pattinson, serving their parts well and cementing themselves as essential moments to see. Zoë Kravitz is a blast to watch as Catwoman, having the right amount of ruthlessness and suaveness to balance off Pattinson, all while sharing some of the best romantic chemistry seen in superhero movies.
Jeffrey Wright maintains a strong grounding figure for Batman as Jim Gordon, bouncing off his peers with the right amount of realism. Stealing the show though is Colin Ferrel as The Penguin; though his screen time is limited, he exudes the conceited energy one needs to bring as Oswald Cobblepot, bringing a good amount of surprisingly fitting humor to a film that is usually bleak.
That is not to say this is a fault of the movie; in fact, its writing is stellar. The mystery itself is a blast to watch, and even if you can see where the story is going (which is difficult on occasion), it is no less engaging. One of Batman’s nicknames is the World’s Greatest Detective, so seeing him actually putting together clues and deciphering the Riddler’s signals is a blast.
This slow burn is complemented with thrilling action scenes that manage to look beautiful and be easy to follow without sacrificing their danger element. All of these factors make a three hour film that feels like a flash, and do not be surprised if rewatches feel appropriate after the credits first roll.
“The Batman” is a breath of fresh air that revitalizes its hero with a glorious slow burn that challenges and rewards those that pay attention to its narrative. With stellar direction, powerful acting and a tone that balances drama with brief moments of levity, it is a must-see for any lovers of Batman. DC may have more films in store for this year, but it will be hard to top what they have already done with this take on the Dark Knight.