The Batman Synopsis: Batman (Robert Pattinson) ventures into Gotham City’s underworld when a sadistic killer leaves behind a trail of cryptic clues. As the evidence begins to lead closer to home and the scale of the perpetrator’s plans becomes clear, he must forge new relationships, unmask the culprit and bring justice to the abuse of power and corruption that has long plagued the metropolis.
Marvel continues to dominate mainstream interest amongst the superhero sphere, but no character on their roster is quite as beloved on the big-screen as Batman. The Caped Crusader registered one of the genre’s first successful outings in 1966 and has continued to evolve the superheroes ever since.
No character in the genre serves as such a distinct genre amalgam. Between 14 big-screen appearances, Batman features in Oscar-nominated crime epics (The Dark Knight), gothically atmospheric mood pieces (Batman Returns and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm), and even colorfully silly romps (Batman and Robin and LEGO Batman).
Under the vision of Cloverfield helmer Matt Reeves, the gothic hero descends into his despair, angst-ridden roots with The Batman. A youthful take on the character is one of the franchise’s few unexplored avenues, with Reeves and co-screenwriter Peter Craig analyzing the psyche of the pained superhero before reaching his final state of maturation.
The approach – and the film itself – rank among the most inspired reflections on Batman’s foreboding darkness to date. The Batman represents a holistic connection to the character and his universe – intimately digging into Bruce Wayne’s despair-ridden presence in ways that previous adaptations mostly shied away from.
I am prepared for this to come off as hyperbolic; Robert Pattinson’s new interpretation marks the character’s best live-action interpretation to date (I am not dethroning Kevin Conroy just yet). Insulated in a state of emotional paralysis, Pattinson reflects a disheveled recklessness that aptly captures young Bruce/Batman’s self-loathing odyssey. His nights patrolling the street are less heroic and more emotionally disturbed during initial scenes – using his vigilante role to spread his fear and anger across his victims. Once he returns to the cave, Bruce offers only detached passiveness toward his usual paternal figure Alfred as he sinks into the misery of his nightly crusades.
Pattinson reflects each detail with precision. I respect the creative team’s dedication to an evolving character, one who doesn’t have to appear inherently likable at the introduction. Pattinson and Reeves effectively take to task Bruce/Batman for his self-centered pursuit for justice. By analyzing layers of unmined details – such as Bruce’s child-like emotional innocence or his inherent privilege as a billionaire who remains locked in his insulated worldview – the team brilliantly enriches the well-known character with thoughtful descents into his psyche.
The film surrounding Pattinson is just as inspired. Even when considering his respected track record with Cloverfield and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Reeves reaches new heights as an auteur. His distinct take on Gotham blends elements of dreary realism within a theatrically gothic stage that feels tailor-made for the character. The world feels ripped straight from the character’s classic iconography, showcasing an inspired reinvention mixed with its own artistic frequency.
Cinematographer Greig Fraser helps conjure an intense atmosphere through revealing framing choices and color-soaked ascetics – while Composer Michael Giacchino allows each scene to soar emotionally through his blend of instrumentals and emotional undertones. It’s rare to see a blockbuster so brazen in its grand pursuits. I felt enraptured by the film as the team constantly evolved their artistic inspirations. Whether it’s the haunting echoes of Nirvana or the eerie dread of 90’s David Fincher thrillers, each inspiration acts as a thoughtful enhancement of the material and its tendencies.
Some have taken issue with Reeves and co-writer Peter Craige’s approach to plotting. The duo craft a chaotic criminal web that feels almost breathless in its frenzy of nefarious twists and turns. For me, the busy narrative works as a sound reflection of Gotham’s endless onslaught of villainy. Similar to the relentless plotting of Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham franchise, The Batman captures overwhelming exhaustion as the Caped Crusader tries to stay one step ahead of his rogues’ gallery of foes.
It’s also a blast to see Batman’s iconic foes revitalized in a new light. Drawn in the image of a self-important, social-media age terrorist, Paul Dano imbues manic outburst into his deranged interpretation of The Riddler. I think it’s the first time the character appears on the big-screen as anything more than a one-note punchline, with Dano drawing moments of unhinged brilliance as a warped offshoot of Batman’s vigilante crusade.
Zoe Kravitz follows up her stellar turn in Kimi with yet another commanding performance. The actress elicits bravado and breezy confidence in Catwoman – drawing an alluring energy that never masks the character’s inner turmoil. Jeffery Wright creates the first iteration of James Gordon with genuine agency as Batman’s trusted confidant, while Colin Farrell skillfully reimagines The Penguin as a smarmy, wise-cracking mobster.
I am having a hard time not spoiling some of The Batman’s best surprises, including the remarkably poignant journey it takes audiences on. Reeves not only creates a first chapter that draws genuine excitement for the future – but also imagines one of the most forward-thinking arcs for the Caped Crusader.
Seeing Batman evolve from an emotionally withdrawn anti-hero into a symbol of hope serves as a much-needed reminder of superheroes and their emanating goodwill. After basking viewers in a land of darkness, Reeves and The Batman still conveys empathy and emotionality behind superheroes’ sacrifices for mankind.
Quite simply, The Batman sets the bar for the crowded superhero subgenre in a bold, refreshingly auteur-driven manner. DC deserves props for entrusting Reeves and company to play in the sandbox and it pays off brilliantly.
The Batman is now playing in theaters.
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