Review: Fresh and Intense, 'The Batman' Gets It Right

by JC Alvarez

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday May 24, 2022

Robert Pattinson in 'The Batman'
Robert Pattinson in 'The Batman'  (Source:Jonathan Olley)

When filmmaker Matt Reeves was brought onboard to revitalize the "Batman" cinematic franchise, the entirety of the DC Extended Universe had hit a roadblock of near-apocalyptic levels. The dark tone adopted by Zack Snyder to realize his Caped Crusader was so far in the opposite direction that Reeves had envisioned for his portrayal of the legendary detective that he asked the studio if her could literally reboot the reboot, starting with reimagining "The Batman" as a less experienced urban fighter with a grizzled disposition, a nose-to-the-ground detective following the clues.

Reeves was so passionate about his bolder direction that he was willing to risk it all to convince DC and Warner Bros that fans and audiences were ready for an all-new take. The writer/director would realize a hero that was closer to the character's earliest comic book roots. When Bob Kane and Bill Finger introduced The Batman in "Detective Comics" #27, published May 1939, the hero used his brain as well as his brawn to solve crimes.

Once the studio greenlit the project a cast started coming together that included major players like Jeffrey Wright, Colin Farrell, Paul Dano, and Zoë Kravitz, along with Andy Serkis (the latter unconventionally cast as our hero's right-hand man, Alfred Pennyworth). And for The Batman himself? At the top of that list was a name that seemed unlikely.

Robert Pattinson is the latest Hollywood heavy-weight hitter to inherit the coveted cape and cowl. Pattinson's career has more closely paralleled that of "Dark Knight" predecessor Christian Bale; both have emerged from the Nolan factory of compelling high-brow action dramas, and both have had their share of having to map themselves across blockbuster franchises. As Batman and Bruce Wayne, Pattinson immediately proves himself.

If you're expecting something grim and dark from Reeves' "The Batman," you're not far off track, except that the filmmaker has taken a majestic elegance and skillfully expanded the brush strokes of his narrative to turn the world of "The Batman" into something far more classic. It's the use of shadows and light that evoke a talented interpretation of contemporary film noir, giving the inky shadows and wet pavement of this neon-lined Gotham City an urban "any city" look that allows our heroes and villains a playground in which to dive into the chilling narrative.

Our hero has only been stalking the shadows of his city for a little over two years, but that's long enough for the underworld to know that when see the signal in the clouds, the Batman is on the hunt. Having established a close working relationship with police detective James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), Batman is brought in when the city's mayor is brutally murdered.

The criminal — identified as The Riddler (Paul Dano) — leaves a bloody trail of additional victims, forcing Batman to depend on his detective skills and allies to figure out a complex array of ciphers. Amidst the chaos, Batman crosses paths with Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), a skilled cat burglar who is herself embedded in the darkest corners of Gotham, under the employ of the ruthless Oswald Cobblepott — a crime lord who calls himself the Penguin (an unrecognizable Colin Farrell).

When Selina's roommate goes missing, she takes it upon herself to follow the trail, which leads straight to The Riddler's crime scene and into the sites of Batman. The chemistry between Pattinson's Batman and Kravitz's Catwoman is one of the most winning elements of this feature, and the pair teaming up in this caper is excellently executed. Kravitz (like Pattinson) steps into a role that is steeped in legacy, and she immediately makes it all her own; Catwoman moves with ease in, and out, of the light, which makes for a very daring femme fatale that is more anti-hero than criminal.

Weaving a darkly seductively complex crime drama into a superhero story, with action and dramatic character development, while having to meet fan's and audience expectations of what "The Batman" should be, is a major challenge, but the filmmaker checks every box while giving us a fierce and freshly unique take on the iconic hero and his world. "The Batman" will emerge as one of the best interpretations of the character, to the credit to its cast — and especially to Robert Pattinson, for daring to slip so easily into the suit.

"The Batman" is as visually stunning as Tim Burton's 1989 original, which starred Michael Keaton (who will be reprising his role in the upcoming "The Flash" movie, starring Ezra Miller), and as intelligent as Nolan's trilogy; it has the muscle and might that Zack Snyder wanted to bring to Ben Affleck's run as the character, especially in his "Justice League." From the first frame, the audience is swept up, and between the graphic intensity of the story and a soundtrack provided by Michael Giacchino, "The Batman" is back — with a vengeance!

"The Batman" is available today on 4K, BLU, and DVD

Native New Yorker JC Alvarez is a pop-culture enthusiast and the nightlife chronicler of the club scene and its celebrity denizens from coast-to-coast. He is the on-air host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Out Loud & Live!" and is also on the panel of the local-access talk show "Talking About".