The Batman Movie Review: The Dark Knight Returns

Image credit SlashFilm

Batman, a character with over 80 years of history, has had several films adaptions over the last 30 years. Various actors such as Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, and Ben Affleck have taken the mantel of the caped crusader. Now, director Matt Reeves and actor Robert Pattinson have stepped into those roles for the 8th Batman film, happily titled The Batman, which promises to be an actioned pack noir thriller with a murder mystery at the end and a three-hour run time. Does The Batman live up to the standards that Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight set for the character, or does it fall flat on its face like the parents of Bruce Wayne after being shot in a dark alley?

The Batman takes place during Bruce Wayne’s second year as Batmanat a point in his journey where he is only just finding his footing. He goes up against his biggest challenge yet when a serial killer known as The Riddler (Paul Dano) begins targeting Gotham City’s elite, all while exposing the secrets of the said elite. Not only does this relate to Gotham’s criminal underworld, but a mysterious woman also named Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), as well as Bruce’s parents. 

The detective focus aspect of this had me giddy that we finally have a Batman who truly lives up to the world’s most outstanding detective title. I love Nolan’s Batman trilogy as much as the next guy, but those films barely touched the detective aspect of the character, but now this film is a breath of fresh air for the franchise. Furthermore, it makes this film more faithful to the character than any other Batman movie. To top it off, the mystery of this film as to why Riddler is going around killing these people is absorbing, and its payoffs are significant. I also love how Gotham City in this film truly feels like a character. The city offers a lot of world-building and lore than any other version of it on film, and it truly leaves a lot of room to grow and develop as this take on the franchise continues.

Another aspect of this film relating to Gotham itself is its aesthetics. This adaptation truly has an identity of its own, and it has this gothic look to it that was lacking in Nolan and Snyder’s takes on Gotham. The city of Gotham also looks to be a complete crime-ridden mess this time around. It helps separate Gotham from a typical real-life American town like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, or Detroit.

Speaking of aesthetics, we also have cinematography by Craig Fraser. This film is gorgeous, I love so many shots in this film, including that upside-down shot of Batman approaching the car shown in the trailer. It quickly has the best cinematography of any superhero movie film; it’s that stunning and worth going to the theater seeing it on the big screen alone.

Then we got Michael Giacchino’s score. Now, Giacchino had some big shoes to fill as we have had some great Batman composers in the past, like Danny Elfman for the Burton films and Hans Zimmer for the Nolan films. Well, Giacchino easily lived up to the standards that we expect for a Batman score. Giacchino admittedly can be hit or miss for me at times. His score for films like The Incredibles is fantastic, and it took until Spider-Man: No Way Home for me to truly appreciate his Spider-Man score that wasn’t the central theme for the character. Nevertheless, Giacchino’s main Batman is outstanding. Honestly, the more I listen to it, I think even I might like it more than Elfman’s and Zimmer’s scores. WB has uploaded it to YouTube, so have a listen here.

As for the cast, first off there is, of course, Robert Pattinson as Batman. Pattinson stole the show in Tenet and was excellent in The Lighthouse, so I had a lot of expectations going in for his performance. I am happy to say that Pattinson killed it as Batman, even though I have some issues with his voice as Batman in a couple of scenes where it sounds like Bale’s voice. However, Pattinson truly feels like Batman in ways that no actor has ever been before. For example, the film opens and closes with him giving an internal monologue; these monologues are incredible and paired with the context in the movie—some of the best scenes in the film. In ways that can be somewhat divisive, Bruce Wayne lacks the playboy or businessman side of the character. Throughout the movie, he is pretty much Batman, with or without wearing the Batsuit. If you believe that Bruce Wayne is the mask and Batman is Bruce’s true self, then you will love this take on the character. The note this film ends with makes me excited to see where this version of the character is going.

As for the rest of the cast, we have Jeffery Wright as Commissioner Gordon. Garry Oldman’s performance as Gordon is still my favorite take on the character, but Wright was still outstanding in the role. You get the sense that Wright’s Gordon is the last good cop within Gotham’s police department, and if it weren’t for Batman, he would either quit or become corrupt. Wright and Pattinson’s dynamic might even be the best of what we have seen on Gordon and Batman on screen together. Then we have Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, which, fun fact, is technically her reprising her role since she voiced the character in The Lego Batman movie. Kravitz killed it in part, and while both Michelle Pfeiffer and Anne Hathaway did an excellent job as Selina Kyle, Kravitz is now straight up my favorite take on the character in live action. One of the most important aspects to me with Salina was that sexual and romantic tension she has with Batman is very much present in this film, and it was great whenever the two of them were on screen together. Then we have Andy Serkis as Alfred, who is surprisingly not in this film that much. I think Serkis is a fantastic actor, and in this film, he does feel somewhat underused. Except for one scene, he and Pattinson sort of lack the adoptive family dynamic you expect from Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth.

What is Batman film review not complete without talking about the villains of said Batman movie? First we have Paul Dano as The Riddler. This take on the Riddler is very different, one based on the Zodiac Killer: from how he leaves cryptic clues after a brutal murder to even his costume very much resembles the Zodiac Killer’s outfit that he wore during some of his killings. Dano’s performance as this take on the Riddler was fantastic, and it might even be my favorite performance for a Batman villain that wasn’t the Joker on film. Then we have Colin Farrell as the Penguin. In my opinion, the makeup department for this movie deserves an Oscar for just the incredible Farrell looks in this film. He looks precisely like Richard Kind than he does Colin Farrell. While we had Danny Devito as the Penguin in Batman Returns in the past, it was something very different compared to the gangster that Oswald Cobblepot usually is. Here we have a more original form for the character, someone who has a lot of connections to the criminal underworld of Gothman, and Farrell does a great job with it. I am definitely looking forward to the planned HBO Max series with his take on the character. Finally, we have John Turturro as Carmine Falcone. He is typically the mob boss who runs the most prominent crime family in all of Gotham and whose downfall usually also marks the rise of the supervillains, which is pretty much the same here. I like Turturro’s performance as Falcone; there was an incredibly commanding presence that the character brought on to screen whenever he was on it. A lot of the fascinating lore and backstory on this Gotham surround him, which I found interesting on what we learn about those things.

As for the action in this film, it’s great, easily my favorite action scenes for any Batman movie. The fight choreography is far better than the Nolan films, and unlike Zack Snyder’s Batman, Reeves goes out of his way to make sure his take on Batman does not kill; this makes the action scenes in this film so much more satisfying to see as a Batman fan.

The Batman‘s almost three-hour run time sure makes it feel like a long movie. This film had a lot of juggling with introducing a new Batman. His introduction scene is easily the best to any live-action Batman and a mystery with Batman going up against three different villains and an introduction to Catwoman to top it all off. All this made the two-hour and fifty-five-minute run time very much justified in its length. The only scene in the film that you could delete and lose nothing vital to the plot is one towards the end that is pretty much used to set up the sequel then contribute to the story of this movie. In short, The Batman is an incredible movie that gives a new take on the Batman film franchise and feels more to comics than any other live-action Batman movie in the past.

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