'The Batman' Is a Rare Fresh Take on a Well-Worn Classic

Directed by Matt Reeves

Starring Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Jayme Lawson, Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell

Photo: Jonathan Olley/DC Comics

BY Rachel HoPublished Feb 28, 2022

After numerous delays, The Batman has finally arrived — and it's an operatic film noir that is badass, beautiful and befitting of the character's legacy.

Where Ben Affleck's Batman was in the back half of his career and Christian Bale's Dark Knight took us on a journey from origin story to his prime years, star Robert Pattinson and director Matt Reeves realize a younger, 20-something Batman, whose relationship with Commissioner Gordon (an excellently cast Jeffrey Wright) has already begun. While cleaning up the streets of petty criminals, Batman and Gordon are challenged by a serial killer who is murdering well-known political figures in the city. This killer toys with Batman, leaving word puzzles and clues addressed for his eyes only. 

Pattinson's Batman is complex. He's filled with the rage and strength of youth, battering his opponents with pure brawn. But his narration throughout the film, and his brief moments of dialogue, are calm and measured — a peek inside the mind of an intelligent young man struggling to determine what his role should be as Gotham's vigilante. At this stage, there isn't much distinction between Batman and Bruce Wayne. The womanizing playboy façade that Bruce will eventually adopt hasn't arrived yet. Instead, The Batman's Bruce Wayne is moody, sullen and kind of a weirdo (in the best possible way). Pattinson may have seemed like a curious choice at first, but in Reeves' Gotham, Pattinson's indie oddness is the perfect fit.

As in all Batman films, the supporting characters are what build the world. Zoë Kravitz lends an indescribable cool factor to Selina Kyle, and she brings an interesting depth to the character that we hopefully see more of in future films. And to no one's surprise, Paul Dano is fantastic as the Riddler. His unsettling vocal inflections and boyish face create a deliciously creepy foe for Batman.

Probably the most interesting of the supporting cast, though, is Colin Farrell, who plays Oswald "Oz" Cobblepot, the gangster who will become the notorious Penguin. In The Batman, Oz is merely a foot soldier for mob boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro). Layered in some very impressive prosthetics, Farrell is unrecognizable as Oz. He melts into the character and brings a nuance to the Penguin that non-comic book readers may not be familiar with. 

The Batman is not an origin story. Reeves wisely avoids rehashing the same alleyway mugging and murder we've seen one too many times. Instead the film is a detective story that relies heavily on film noir devices (using them with great effect) coupled with gripping and fun action sequences. Batman's car chase with Oz is an all-timer. Reeves builds a gritty and visceral world that feels familiar but entirely unique. Aided by cinematographer Greig Fraser, Reeves digs into the darkness and grime of Gotham. There's a tactile stickiness to the world that clings to you and immerses you. 

Rounding out the filmmaking is the tremendous score by Michael Giacchino, who also composed the music for Reeves' films in the Planet of the Apes franchise. The orchestral tonality hits audiences in the chest with every beat punctuating each character's movement. Giacchino fills Gotham with a dynamic vibration that's dark and flourishing, and elevates and emphasizes the story, drawing audiences further into the world. With all due respect to Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer, Giacchino has given us the best Batman score to date.

Batman is one of the most well-known fictional characters in the world, and his story is one that has been adapted and told countless times in animated and live-action films, television and, of course, comic books. Where Reeves succeeds the most is by respecting the lore and history of Gotham and its characters while also making a version of them that is entirely his own. As of writing, no sequels have been officially announced for The Batman, but it would be a damn shame if we don't get to see more of this world and more of Pattinson's evolution as the Caped Crusader.

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