Review: The Batman

The Batman screenshot

Year: 2022 | Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

There are some things I liked and some things I didn’t like about The Batman, so here are some notes:

Likes:

  • There have been many films, TV shows and other media released in the past few years that have tried to portray the perverse charm and charisma required of a leader of a fringe cult to cultivate their own homegrown terrorist cell, and I have never seen it captured as well as it is here. Not only is the script airtight in its depiction of a crazed madman finding his audience over the course of time, but Paul Dano gives an absolutely terrifying performance as that madman. The moments that the Riddler are on the screen are among the best of the film.
  • Most of the other moments that really shine in this film are the action sequences, which director Matt Reeves injects with a cinematic flare, experimenting with smoke and light in a way which hasn’t really been seen in a superhero movie since The Dark Knight.
  • This is a wholly unique take on the character of Bruce Wayne/Batman than anything we’ve ever seen in non-comics media before. That’s thanks in part to Robert Pattinson’s performance, which is equal parts self-assured and self-conscious in a way that really sells a young Batman still unsure of his mission, but it’s just as much thanks to the script itself, which graces us with a clumsy, impulsive, angry version of the character that is refreshingly human. The way that the script brings this concept back around at the end is also well-executed, giving some much needed emotional resonance to a notoriously cold genre.
  • The last half of this film simply flies by, especially the third act, which 100% goes toe-to-toe with The Dark Knight as one of the best endings to a live-action superhero movie to date. The subtext just drips from every single scene in the last 90 minutes of this movie, and it’s some of the best blockbuster filmmaking I’ve seen in a long time.
  • The first sequence with Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” at the beginning of the film is just pure cinema. Absolute goosebumps.

Dislikes:

  • In contrast to the second half of this film, the first half, while it has its moments, drags a bit in the in-between parts. The detective work early in this film — a component that I was really looking forward to, I’ll add — doesn’t have the same suspense and excitement that I know it can, such as its portrayals in Batman: The Animated Series, the Arkham series of video games, and even the recent The Long Halloween animated adaptation. I still think that it’s possible to capture that energy in live-action, and I hope that Reeves is given the chance to try again in the inevitable sequels, but I can’t help but feel that the execution left a little to be desired here.
  • Related to the dragging of the first half of this film, I think that Reeves tries to cram too much into one film. This is a problem with a lot of Batman media, especially in the past few years; there’s a tendency for creators to try to fill their works (whether that be films, or cartoons, or even comics) with so many fan-favorite references to bad guys, sidekicks, and previous stories that they lose focus on telling their stories. There’s no need for this film to have as many side plots as it does, and while I recognize that this might be a tired argument by now, I really doubt that this film needed to be a full three-hours in length.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie as much as I could have hoped to, as an old-school Batman fan and someone who has a well-documented history of not enjoying superhero movies. At the very least, there’s legitimate and well-earned emotional resonance and rich subtext here that is frankly absent from most movies of its ilk, even if the plot is a little too convoluted and the film a little too long for its own good. I’ll definitely see the sequel, and I’ll be there opening night if Pattinson gets his wish of there finally being a real Robin in the next film.

Language: English
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime, Action
Runtime: 2 hr. 56 min.
Rating: PG-13

Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro

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