Batman is back on the big screen in what is his first solo outing since 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, this time with Robert Pattinson donning the famous cowl. The Batman follows the masked vigilante as he’s forced to investigate a series of murders, while solving riddles crafted by the mysterious figure known only as the Riddler (Paul Dano).
I’m going to come right out the gate and say we may have already witnessed the best movie of 2022. The Batman is a masterpiece on so many levels – from a technical perspective to the intricate writing and riveting performances, there’s not a single detail I’d want to change. It’s one of the freshest takes on Batman we’ve seen in film, drawing heavily from the detective elements of the comics – turning this into a detective noir with horror undertones and a thrilling criminal underworld element. The dark tone and haunting atmosphere is established right away, with two of my favourite sequences giving us our first impression of the Riddler and some insight into the fear the idea of Batman instils on Gotham’s criminals. From here, the tone is consistently dark, not once losing sight of its end goal. The way that writer/director Matt Reeves manages to create such strong tension and genuine thrills in the opening moments, immediately locking you in to this gruelling investigation, is a testament to his abilities as a director.
At almost 3 hours long, The Batman is packed to the brim with multiple narrative through-lines, clever twists and deep character arcs that are all intricately connected to create a unified story that never once dips in quality. There’s no doubting that it’s a long movie, but for the amount of thrilling content packed in here, I couldn’t see it being a single minute shorter. Every moment feels necessary in getting us to understand the way Gotham operates and each character’s backstory, while ensuring it’s all perfectly paced to fully flesh out the detective element – allowing the mystery to gradually build with each passing minute. The detective story at play is absolutely phenomenal and gripping from beginning to end – with obvious shades of Zodiac (2007) and Se7en (1995) through Riddler’s use of ciphers and riddles. Any sequence where Batman is navigating and analysing the scene of a crime is endlessly entertaining – it’s a side of the character I’ve not seen before and I loved every minute of it. I also loved the relationship between Batman and James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) in these scenes – seeing them go back and forth in solving Riddler’s riddles made for some great moments.
The detective elements are definitely some of the strongest in the film, but there’s so many more layers to this narrative. I loved the exploration of Gotham’s criminal underworld – something we’ve seen in other Batman projects for sure – but this just felt like a much more gritty and focused exploration of that side of the city. Plus, it made way for the appearance of characters like Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman and Colin Farrell’s Penguin, who are both genuine scene-stealers through the entire film. Catwoman specifically has a major narrative arc, and following her journey was just as engaging as watching Batman solve Riddler’s clues. Zoë Kravitz makes such a strong impact in every scene she’s in, hitting home some powerful emotional moments, that I was rooting for the character from the get-go. Then there’s Colin Farrell’s Penguin performance, which is all sorts of brilliant. He doesn’t have a great deal of screen time in comparison to other characters, but he makes such an impression on the story and tone that it feels like he’s in every other scene. It just goes to show that despite this being a Batman standalone film, Matt Reeves has placed plenty of focus on making sure every character is fleshed out accordingly.
Now is absolutely the time to touch on the big question – how is Robert Pattinson as the world’s greatest detective? The short answer – he’s an awesome Batman who I’d love to see be in the role for the foreseeable future. From memory, he doesn’t have an extreme amount of dialogue throughout the movie, but he makes such an intimidating presence through his stature and deadpan gaze that it’s almost as if he doesn’t need to talk to get his point across. His take on Bruce Wayne, as someone who is still figuring out his place in Gotham and coming to terms with the events of his past, is very refreshing and gives more layers to a character who we largely already understand. I won’t make direct comparisons between the other ‘bat-men’ we’ve seen in film, but I’d still say Christian Bale is my favourite, while Pattinson is high up there. Then on the other hand you have Paul Dano’s Riddler, another very different and grounded version of the character, and one that is absolutely haunting in every scene. Paul Dano masterfully sells us on the sheer insanity and genius of the character who is running rings around Batman and the Gotham PD. Akin to how the Joker was dictating the progression of the narrative in The Dark Knight, everyone is playing by the Riddler’s rules in this film, and Dano gives a chilling performance.
I want to finish up by highlighting the stunning cinematography from Greig Fraser, who is coming off his spectacular work on 2021’s Dune, for which he should win an Oscar for. There’s certain shots and scenes in this film so undeniably beautiful that I could look at/watch them for days on end. The way he frames the many environments of Gotham city in a way that brings out its flaws, but also its beauty is quite awesome – especially since every scene in this film is shrouded in darkness. Complementing the visuals is Michael Giacchino’s score – pairing incredibly well with every single action sequence, emotional beat and tense crime-scene investigation. His Batman theme is absolutely epic – it plays directly into the fear and intimidation of the character and has instantly become one of my favourite pieces tied to the character.
In the end, there’s certainly a lot about The Batman that I didn’t get to mentioning. In part due to the nature of spoilers, and in part due to there being a tonne of exciting content that I’m just not thinking of at the moment. Nonetheless, this is my second favourite Batman film out there – it has a riveting story, tense atmosphere, thrilling action sequences and is backed by brilliant performances across the board. There’s not a single thing I’d change about this movie – I enjoyed every minute of it, and believe the extended runtime is essential in getting the full effect of the detective narrative. Matt Reeves has added yet another masterpiece to his filmography, making me all the more excited for what he does next. Fans of Batman will no doubt get a kick out of this movie – even if it’s not your favourite Batman film, it will certainly make an impact in ways other Batman entries have not.