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Danielle Zuccala | April 4

The Batman (2022), directed by Matt Reeves, is the latest film centered around the DC comic book character Batman. Although this is by no means the first live-action movie to be made of the iconic character, The Batman successfully crafts a unique experience that stands out in the long line-up of other Batman and superhero films. 

This version of the masked vigilante and the portrayal of Gotham City are clearly inspired by a lot of the later, darker iterations of the Batman comics. It’s also reminiscent of the video games aimed towards adult audiences, particularly the Batman: Arkham series. This influence is evident in the film’s aesthetic, from the gothic architecture of the Wayne Manor to the consistently dark colour palette, with the only colour being the occasional red or blue tint. 

The film’s cinematography even mimics some of the Batman video games. Reeves uses point-of-view shots to place us in Batman’s shoes, and wide shots during action scenes to show off excellent fight choreography, which may remind fans of Batman’s fighting animations in the Injustice games. These homages and inspirations from past Batman properties will definitely be appreciated by eagle-eyed fans. 

For those who may be worried they’re paying to see yet another Batman origin story, don’t fret. It is established early on that Robert Pattinson’s Batman is already two years into donning the mask. Reeves thrusts us into the present, immediately showing that Batman and the fear he’s created is well established within the hearts of Gotham’s criminals and even its citizens. Only when necessary are we given just enough dialogue to help us piece together his origins and their relevance to the story. 

Though Batman looms large in the city, Reeves cleverly shows us that Bruce Wayne, as himself and as Batman, is still learning. This keeps the stakes high and doesn’t allow our hero to always win, an issue with some previous versions of the character. There is a humanness that permeates throughout the whole film. Bruce and his vigilante alter ego may be more skilled and influential than the average theater-goer, but at the end of the day, he is just a flawed person living within an even more flawed system. The film isn’t afraid to remind us that despite all of Batman’s skills and resources, even he can’t ‘fix’ Gotham–but he can offer hope. 

Instead of an origin story, we get a gritty, well-paced mystery that many fans of the comics and even those who are new to the franchise can appreciate. Within the main story are a few subplots, including a campaign for the new mayor of Gotham City, police corruption and gang activity. The plot is much too complex to delve into and I wouldn’t dare spoil it, but just know that you are in for a journey where Batman’s detective skills and the underbelly of Gotham are at the forefront of the film. 

Some may be skeptical of the movie’s runtime clocking in at just under three hours. But each and every second is used to build tension, foreshadow, and give us the space to breathe and sit in silence when needed. Apart from one scene near the end of the film, I would argue that no scene is wasted in adding another layer or organic twist to the story.

I won’t give much away about how each character is involved either, but just know that every performance is phenomenal. Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of Batman is an absolute delight to watch, both when he is with and without the mask. There are so many details that make his performance such a convincing and true portrayal of the character. 

Reeves’ Batman is also made original through the character’s unprecedented use of gadgets. Script-wise the movie strikes a golden balance between Batman’s use of high-tech gadgets, brute strength and cunning detective skills. His gadgets are vital during his fight scenes, but they are also utilised in his detective work in ways that feel natural and shows us just how tech-savvy he can really be.

Throughout the film, Reeve’s takes advantage of modern-day technology and social media, integrating these elements into the story to give us a sense of realism. Although some of these aspects, especially the use of social media, may not age with grace, it is only a miniscule part of the movie, enhancing rather than overshadowing. Only time will tell if the realism will endure. 

Outside of Batman, the side characters are all written in such interesting ways and performed so passionately by each actor that it’s a treat whenever they appear on screen. Jeffrey Wright’s Jim Gordon is the perfect good cop to Batman’s bad cop. He and Pattinson have a natural dynamic, and so the unlikely friendship of the two characters feels believable. 

Zoe Kravitz’s Catwoman is truly a stand alone character in this film, with the perfect amount of screen time to explore her own role and motives​​—a very refreshing version of the character. Kravitz plays off of Pattinson perfectly and you can feel their chemistry through the screen, even though their characters’ love story is arguably underdeveloped. 

Credit: Warner Brothers

Colin Ferrells’s Penguin is wildly entertaining. Although Ferrell played the character in a comical fashion most of the time, he still conveys the sinister, greedy nature of the Penguin when it is needed. Andy Serkis also deserves a mention as he gives us an earnest portrayal of Alfred Pennyworth whenever he is on screen. And the Riddler, played by Paul Dano, is absolutely fantastic. I won’t spoil his role and performance as it’s really something you should experience yourself. I will say however, that his portrayal is the polar opposite to Jim Carrey’s Batman Forever (1995) campy version, so if that’s what you’re looking for in your Riddler, then this won’t be the version for you. 

I’ll also give a quick mention to some of the production elements that exceeded my expectations. The soundtrack by Michael Giacchino (who scored The Incredibles and Spiderman: No Way Home) is a treat. His tracks were always perfectly placed and provided a palpable atmosphere to each scene. Giacchino’s tracks would convey suffocating tension as characters travers through shady night clubs and witness criminal dealings. While in other scenes, the soundtrack would convey feelings of hope as Batman saves Gotham’s innocents.

Production Designer James Chinlund, who previously worked with Reeves on Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes and War For The Planet of The Apes, continued to work his magic on The Batman. He gave us a detailed look at the destitute living conditions of the majority in Gotham, from the dirty subways to the overcrowded clubs. The Iceberg Lounge in particular was set up as a maze-like structure to represent how deep and complex the web of crime in Gotham really is

The set design was only enhanced by the phenomenal use of lighting, headed by Cinematographer Grieg Fraser (who’s worked on such projects as Dune and Lion). Fraser worked very closely with Reeves and Chinlund to create lighting that came from sources on set, as he “didn’t want any slashes of light coming from sources that you couldn’t explain.” This commitment to using natural sources of light, like relying at times on only street lights or sheen from ricocheting bullets, was a constant highlight. All the lighting in this film is carefully planned and executed, with Fraser opting to make the colours “dusty and a little dirty”, enhancing the urban noir aesthetic of Gotham. The Batman is truly Reeves’ love letter to Batman, Gotham City and its inhabitants. From its story to its visual execution, it’s definitely a film you’ll want to catch before it leaves cinemas.

The Batman is now showing in cinemas, and will arrive on HBO Max on April 19.

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Danielle Zuccala

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