My all-time favourite movie is a Batman movie – “The Dark Knight”. And one of the many reasons why I love it so much is because it puts the detective story first, then the Batman action comes later. Similarly, Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” focuses on our titular hero being the world’s greatest detective trying to solve a series of murder committed by Riddler (Paul Dano) who leaves out clues and ciphers ala the Zodiac Killer in real life. Only this time, I genuinely think Reeves did a better job than Christopher Nolan in his 2008 version of a Batman movie.
“The Batman” skips all the unnecessary origin story that has been told a million times over and starts on the second year of Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) taking on the mantle of the Batman. He is still young, still imperfect as opposed to what we usually see in a Batman movie where he goes God-mode in every one of them. He is still mourning the death of his parents where he believes becoming Batman is a way to honour their legacy. But things take a turn when he learns the truth through Riddler’s crimes and that alone leaves him questioning his believes in the law, relationships, and most importantly, himself.
That is when Robert Pattinson truly shines as the brooding, tormented, or as the kids call it these days, emo. He is born to play roles as emo as this where his eyes speak more than his mouth do. There was a scene in a memorial service where he does not speak for the entirety of it but you can feel the emotion and confusion and action all just by him looking at someone or something. The emo might be too much for some people (there were times when I thought it was too) but this is undeniably Pattinson at his best.
Robert Pattinson isn’t the only one giving an A-class performance though. Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman is driven and focused unlike Michelle Pfeiffer’s or Anne Hathaway’s sexy iteration of the anti-hero. Jeffrey Wright as Jim Gordon is the humane voice of Batman making him the perfect contrast for the masked vigilante’s reckless ways. Colin Farrell is unrecognisable as Penguin. John Turturro is surprisingly chilling as Carmine Falcone. And Paul Dano – this guy, he is something else entirely. Every single scene he was in, he chewed it up like it was nothing. Riddler here is frightening, unhinged, quiet, unpredictable; all of the best traits that make a villain. Think Kevin Spacey in “Se7en” only more chaotic in the best possible way. Best Supporting Actor nomination for Paul Dano in 2023? They gave one for an actor portraying Joker, why not for Riddler too?
Also, I might just have notice as I am writing this, “The Batman” feels very Batman-y. It is because of this movie’s Gotham City which feels depressing and sad. The weather is always gloomy and raining like London on its worst day. Everything feels like shit. It’s dirty visually and figuratively with all the corruption and drugs going around the city. Composer Michael Giacchino’s score helped a lot too into making Gotham City its own character with his dark, lingering, horn-heavy sounds to set the atmosphere just right.
It seems like I am giving “The Batman” too much praise so I question myself, does “The Batman” surpass the heights of “The Dark Knight”? It’s close. REALLY really close which I think, this the best Batman movie we got in 14 years.