The Batman (2022)
Directed by Matt Reeves
In director Matt Reeves’s “The Batman,” Bruce Wayne’s (Robert Pattinson) cowled alter-ego is more like the great detective Sherlock Holmes than ever we’ve seen before. Just…hear me out. This Batman is not only bad with women and married to his job like Holmes, but he also works closer than ever with the police, takes careful notes about crimes, and is smart enough to point out overlooked crime scene clues. If only Sherlock had a Batterang. “The Batman” begins twenty years to the day after Wayne’s parents were gunned down, when Batman is signaled by James Gordan (Jeffrey Wright) to the scene of a grisly murder. The mayor has been killed in his home, just days before his likely re-election. The killer leaves a note for the Batman in the form of a riddle. What happens next is the unraveling of years of corruption in Gotham City, as the Riddler (Paul Dano) begins taking to task other public officials he has dirt on. Batman gets help from a night club server (Zoe Kravitz) with close ties to the mob as he attempts to solve his riddles faster than the Riddler can keep making them.
I’ve always found it funny that the city with a vigilante crime-fighter is the city that has never been able to clean up its crime. It’s almost like never killing criminals—and instead trusting the cops and lawyers to get it right—isn’t working for Batman or for Gotham. The city is especially dark in Reeves’s moody version of the story. A bit scary, actually. Especially with the Riddler running around killing people like he’s Jigsaw. Sadistic. Paul Dano does a tremendous job in the role, which isn’t surprising if you’ve seen “Prisoners”—he plays a similar role there. It helps that he hasn’t appeared in a movie since 2017’s “Okja.” He’s a private person, too, so it’s almost as if he’s been lying in wait just to reappear in this role. Like his whole life the past few years has been method. Speaking of hiding, Colin Farrell—if that really is him—completely disappears in the role of Penguin, right-hand to the mob’s most powerful man (played by John Turturro). Penguin is a mix between a peak Robert De Niro wiseguy and Jared Leto in “The House of Gucci.” Whatever the goal was, Farrell makes it work. Then there’s Zoe Kravitz’s Selina Kyle, as charming and slick as the character ought to be, but with an extra kick (she’s great as kicking people). And Robert Pattinson is a great Batman. Maybe my favorite one yet. His Bruce Wayne is young and still greatly affected by the deaths of his parents. He’s still a bit naïve. But his Batman kicks butt. We also get to know Wayne a bit more in this movie than in others. He keeps a journal of observations and contemplations, and sometimes we hear them through voiceover narration. It gives us insight into the mind of a character that typically keeps to himself. While Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies were always more about the great villains, this Batman doesn’t cede the floor entirely to his antagonists.
At nearly three hours long, there’s a lot in “The Batman” to work with. Truthfully, I always hesitate to write reviews of movies like this after only one viewing. Take this as my initial reactions, more so than a firm recommendation. Maybe I’ll like “The Batman” even more the second time, or maybe I’ll find that the long run time feels more like a drag. Maybe both. But for now, I think “The Batman” is at least the best first Batman iteration yet. There have been many who have tried to revive the superhero. I still hold Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” in the highest regard, but maybe after watching both of these movies again I would have a different opinion about which is the best Batman movie. The fact that it’s even a contest, though, is a big victory for “The Batman.” If only all DCEU movies could be like this.