The Batman is the darkest the Dark Knight has ever been. No superhero has had more adaptations than Batman. There’s practically a new incarnation every decade. It seems excessive, but The Batman has a very complicated production history. The Batman was originally meant to be a solo film written, directed, and starring Ben Affleck in the DCEU. Despite only appearing in lackluster team-up movies, Affleck proved himself as a worthy Dark Knight. The Batman was meant to take place primarily in Arkham Asylum with Batman battling Joe Manganiello’s Deathstroke. Though it sounded like a cool and unique Batman movie, Affleck eventually decided to step down as director. Warner Bros. sought an “auteur” who could bring something different to the Caped Crusader. Matt Reeves was only supposed to replace Affleck as director, but the entire movie changed the moment he was hired. Including a more psychological tone and a younger inexperienced Dark Knight.
So the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman was recast for the 7th time in live action. Which of course meant another controversial actor in the lead role. Between Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck, it’s practically tradition at this point. Robert Pattinson sounded like a joke the moment he was announced, but like so many people I couldn’t separate him from his Twilight image. Even though Pattinson has proven himself in more independent arthouse films, he’s not above returning to another major blockbuster. Playing a bat was a natural progression after playing a vampire. Just about everyone wanted to know how The Batman would turn out, but the movie was delayed so many times thanks to the Pandemic. Production was suspended 2 months into filming and Pattinson tested positive 3 days after resuming. Although The Batman was moved from 2021 to 2022, DC managed to piece together a teaser 1 year and 6 months before its release. The dark and gritty teaser proved The Batman was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before…
Batman confronts Catwoman
The Batman is currently the second longest theatrical superhero movie. It’s a bat-epic with a daunting 2 hour & 56 minute runtime. There were so few cuts, because Matt Reeves is a very meticulous director. Compared to the equally lengthy Zack Snyder’s Justice League or Avengers: Endgame, The Batman wasn’t about a team of superheroes. Batman is on his own for the first time since The Dark Knight Rises. Reeves thought about setting The Batman in the DCEU, but the realistic feel doesn’t entirely fit a world full of superheroes. It’s almost like every Batman reboot gets darker and darker. Adam West’s Batman and Joel Schumacher’s Batman are the only exceptions. Tim Burton’s Batman was gothic, but still fun. Christopher Nolan’s Batman was darker and more grounded. DCEU’s Batman was more brutal and brooding until he softened up. On most nights Gotham City is practically pitch black with constant rain and rampant crime. You’d think the persistent darkness would be too much, but The Batman is surprisingly well-lit.
I don’t normally mention cinematographers, but Greg Fraser manages to find the beauty in a corrupt city like Gotham. Using red for the title and poster was another unique choice that set the movie apart from other Batman films. My parents aren’t a big fan of excessively dark movies, but I convinced them to see The Batman with my brother and I. In the case of Joker or Birds of Prey, it was the R rating that kept us from seeing them as a family. Despite frequently challenging the MPAA, there’s never been an R rated standalone Batman movie no matter how intense they get. I knew The Batman would be PG-13 the moment they made toys and LEGO sets. Although children love Batman, I’m not sure how I feel about kids seeing the movie. The Batman is very gritty with an F bomb, drugs, severed body parts, domestic terrorism, voyeurism, and other heavy themes. Reeves was inspired by R rated crime thrillers like Taxi Driver and Zodiac. Along with elements from popular Batman comics like The Long Halloween and “Year One.”
It may not be an ensemble, but The Batman does manage to weave Catwoman, The Riddler, The Penguin, and Carmine Falcone into the story. Batman’s reputation as the World’s Greatest Detective is given a lot more attention than usual. As a superhero movie, The Batman has the most in common with The Dark Knight trilogy, yet it can just as easily be a noir mystery. Batman has the best rogue’s gallery in DC comics, but the main villain that made the most sense was the Riddler. The Riddler is one of the most well known Batman villains known for using riddles and puzzles as a weapon. Frank Gorshin, John Astin, and Jim Carrey treated the Riddler like a joke, but Cory Michael Smith showed how threatening Edward Nygma could be in Gotham. This version uses the comic accurate birth name Edward Nashton and was inspired by the Zodiac Killer. Although comedian Jonah Hill was considered for either the Riddler or the Penguin, Paul Dano is an underrated actor that people tend to underestimate. The Riddler is clearly insane, but you’re genuinely afraid of what he’ll do next. Dano wears glasses like the Zodiac Killer, but his face is mostly concealed until the end.
Unlike the comics, the Riddler wears a dark green coat with a single question mark and a combat mask over his glasses. The Batman opens like a horror movie with the Riddler watching Mayor Don Mitchell Jr. from a distance before horrifically beating him with a tool and taping his face shut. The neo noir approach was the perfect excuse to use narration for the first time in a Batman movie. The young Bruce Wayne has been Batman for 2 years. Everyone knows his origin, so there’s no reason to once again show Thomas and Martha Wayne being shot. Not that it isn’t a driving force for the movie. The Batman is unique for being the first live action movie to have more Batman than Bruce Wayne. It’s more strange to see Robert Pattinson out of the batsuit than it is to see him in it. Pattinson got into superhero shape, but he’s not as jacked as Ben Affleck. The batsuit is more tactical with dark grey armor, gauntlets, a traditional cape, sleek cowl with longer ears, a black utility belt, and a bat-symbol that doubles as a batarang.
Every live action Batman needed to wear eyeliner, but Pattinson is the first one to keep it on when the mask comes off. I won’t argue that Pattinson is an emo Bruce Wayne, but turning him into a reclusive billionaire makes sense for this portrayal. Since he was inspired by troubled singer Kurt Cobain, the song “Something in the Way” by Nirvana is used in the trailer and movie. Bruce conceals his identity even when he isn’t Batman just to scope out crime. The bat-signal is a warning that strikes fear into the criminals of Gotham who think he might be hiding in the shadows. Including a gang of street punks wearing clown makeup. The conflicted gang member with half makeup is played by Jay Lycurgo who ironically ended up playing Tim Drake/Robin in Titans. Although slowly emerging from the shadows, Batman isn’t trying to hide. The “The” part of the title refers to Batman’s larger than life reputation. There have been so many great Batman themes, but Michael Giacchino blew everyone away with his epic score.
The first unlucky criminal gets a brutal well choreographed beatdown reminiscent of the Arkham Asylum video games. It was that shocking moment in the teaser that I knew I could accept Pattinson as Batman. Christian Bale and his Tenet director Christopher Nolan both gave their seal of approval. You expect him to say “I’m Batman,” but instead he says “I’m vengeance.” A reference to the famous Kevin Conroy monologue from Batman: The Animated Series. Pattinson’s bat-voice is deep and mysterious, but he’s more expressive with his eyes and teeth. Batman has his traditional grapple gun along with a very interesting new gadget that allows him to record his nights with high tech contact lenses. I’m not sure that will ever be a reality, but it’s useful for Batman’s detective work. Like The Long Halloween, Batman is called in to investigate the first victim on Halloween night. Current GCPD Commissioner Pete Savage taunts Batman by telling him “Happy f***ing Halloween.” Although the police question allowing a vigilante into a crime scene, Lieutenant James Gordon trusts him. Jeffrey Wright was a surprisingly good fit for Gordon. As long as he has glasses and a mustache, I didn’t care that he was race changed.
Similar to Batman Forever, the Riddler sends Batman riddles and ciphers that he tries to solve with Alfred’s help. Wayne Manor is more like a spooky castle that Bruce barely has time to live in. He spends most of his time working in the Batcave. This version of the Batcave is another underground railroad with bats and a work area for the batcomputer. After his limited role in the MCU, Andy Serkis continued to show his face in another superhero movie. His take on Alfred Pennyworth is a war veteran turned butler who attempts to maintain the Wayne family legacy. Bruce is distant with Alfred and doesn’t care about his wealth. Being Batman is treated like an addiction that helps Bruce cope with his parent’s death. The first clue leads Batman and Gordon to find a thumb drive with the Mayor’s severed thumb attached. This may be the darkest Batman movie yet, but it does have an equally dark sense of humor. The drive contains blackmail photos of the Mayor with a woman at the Iceberg Lounge. The comic accurate nightclub is operated by the Penguin. Batman knocks on the front door and ends up beating up several security guards (including one with a bat) until he gets to Oswald “Oz” Cobblepot.
The Penguin is another top tier Batman villain known for his penguin-like features and classy appearance. Burgess Meredith, Danny DeVito, and Robin Lord Taylor all managed to capture a different side of the Penguin. After playing Bullseye 19 years ago, Colin Farrell is completely unrecognizable under impressive penguin-like makeup. He wears a purple suit with a bowtie, but no over-the-top monocle, top hat, or umbrella weapon. The Penguin has never had a clearly defined voice, but Farrell sounds like an exaggerated Italian American gangster. He’s a minor antagonist that people underestimate. When he fails to give any useful information, Batman gets answers from seductive waitress Selina Kyle. Although Batman has had many love interests, nothing can beat Catwoman. The Feline Fatale has been recast almost as much times as the Caped Crusader. Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, Anne Hathaway, and Camren Bicondova have all worn the catsuit in live action. After her small role in X-Men: First Class, Zoë Kravitz voiced Catwoman in The LEGO Batman Movie.
Since Catwoman has been black several times before, I didn’t mind her race change either. She was the first Selina Kyle to finally have a comic accurate pixie cut. Kravitz is a purrfect Catwoman who manages to be mysterious, flirtatious, and morally grey. Selina has a lot of cats and lives with her “strictly platonic” roommate Annika. Bruce spies on her while she’s changing into her catsuit. Catwoman has the same sexy black catsuit, but her nose covering cloth mask is underwhelming to say the least. She doesn’t have claws, but she does have a whip that’s never used. Her cat burglar skills come in handy when attempting to crack a safe. The Bat and the Cat meet when they have a close quarters fight. Kravitz is aggressive yet feminine at the same time. Selina reluctantly partners with Batman in order to save Annika when she’s kidnapped. Though Bruce never shares a scene with Selina, Pattinson and Kravitz have a lot of sexual tension that makes their romance work. Batman has Selina infiltrate the Iceberg Lounge using the contact lenses to collect information.
They discover a bunch of corrupt cops and political officials high on a fictional drug called drops. The only one who gets top-billing is Peter Sarsgaard as current district attorney Gil Colson. Selina loses focus when Annika is mentioned and she runs into Carmine Falcone. Along with Salvatore Maroni, Carmine Falcone is the biggest mob boss in DC comics. He’s a realistic villain that’s been portrayed only two times before in Batman Begins and Gotham. Falcone is basically John Turturro with a mustache, but his eyes are constantly obscured by vintage sunglasses. Turturro’s cold delivery makes Falcone even more menacing. Falcone has most of the city on his payroll including the district attorney who ends up being the Riddler’s next victim after the Commissioner is killed in a livestream. Bruce makes a rare public appearance at the Mayor’s funeral where he’s confronted by potential candidate Bella Reál who asks him to do more with his money. Although it’s obvious what they’re trying to do with Reál, the political commentary is subtle. Bruce saves a kid who may or may not be Robin and suits up when Gil Colson arrives with a bomb strapped to his neck. Batman and the Riddler talk for the first time when the latter plays a game of riddles over another livestream.
SPOILER ALERT! You think Colson will make it out alive, but the bomb goes off right in front of Batman who somehow survives. The unconscious Batman is taken to GCPD where he has a heated confrontation with everyone who isn’t Gordon. They create a diversion in order for him to escape on a rooftop. My personal favorite moment is Batman donning a flight suit and flying across Gotham City. He somehow survives a crash landing and relays the rest of what he knows to Gordon. The Riddler’s cipher refers to “El Rata Alada” (The Rat with Wings), which refers to a mystery informant responsible for a drug bust that put Maroni away. The first suspect is the Penguin, but Catwoman returns only to blow their cover once she finds Annika dead. It leads to an exhilarating car chase between Batman and the Penguin. Although Batman is mostly seen riding a batcycle, nothing beats hearing the Batmobile’s engine roaring in the rain. This version of the Batmobile is more like a simple muscle car with the classic rocket booster. The Batman doesn’t look like it has a lot of special effects, but the rain is all CGI.
The chase may be a little hard to follow, but Batman manages to intercept the Penguin on a highway with an awesome upside down shot of the Dark Knight. Batman and Gordon take the Penguin to an abandoned location where he helps them decipher a code that allows them to talk to the Riddler over a secure computer server. The next clue leads them to the abandoned orphanage. A handcuffed Penguin waddling like an actual penguin is another good bit of comedy. At the Wayne funded orphanage, Batman discovers the Riddler’s next victim is Bruce Wayne himself. A panicked Bruce attempts to warn Alfred, but he’s too late to stop a letter bomb from going off. I was so afraid they would kill off Alfred since the movie has been so different up to this point. Luckily Alfred is recovering in the hospital, but Bruce is left to solve the Riddler’s riddles on his own. Selina seeks Batman’s help to find Annika’s killer on a rooftop where she reveals Falcone to be her father. The reveal is ripped straight out of The Long Halloween. Selina considers the wealthy Wayne family to be just as guilty as the rest of Gotham’s elite. Ironically, Batman and Catwoman share their first kiss soon after.
What follows is the longest sequence with Bruce Wayne outside of the batsuit. He discovers a report where the Riddler exposes Thomas Wayne’s attempt to threaten a journalist who wrote a story about Martha having a mental illness. This time it’s a disheveled Bruce who knocks on the front door of the Iceberg Lounge in order to find answers. Another similarity to The Long Halloween is Falcone having his life saved by Thomas Wayne when Bruce was a child. He confirms that he was the one who had the journalist killed, but Alfred affirms Bruce that his father was an honest man. Bruce and Alfred reconcile in the hospital where the former accepts him as a father figure. Batman returns when Catwoman threatens the cop who had Annika in his trunk. She attempts to kill him and Falcone after jumping off the roof. Batman follows her after he and Gordon realize “El Rata Alada” is referring to Falcone. Falcone brutally strangling Annika is leaked and Selina nearly kills her father to avenge her mother. Batman taking heavy gunfire before stopping Selina is another badass moment. The Riddler’s clue about bringing the rat into the light literally means bringing Falcone into his line of sight where he’s shot from a building.
Edward Nashton is finally revealed in a coffee shop where he’s arrested by GCPD. They learn more about him at his hideout where they discover one final clue. Nothing can top the interrogation scene in The Dark Knight, but Batman interrogating the Riddler is a close second. Since he isn’t a physical threat, Dano has to be intimidating with just his words. Nashton saying the name Bruce Wayne is chilling even though he doesn’t know Batman’s identity. His motivation is destain for the Wayne’s who left him suffering in an orphanage. Batman ironically inspired his crusade by using a little focused violence on the criminals of Gotham. It’s at this point that I started to question the runtime when Batman returns to Nashton’s hideout looking for more clues about his ultimate goal. It takes a random cop to identify the Riddler’s weapon from earlier as a carpet tool that he uses to find his plan underneath. Turns out the Riddler used an army of online followers to plant explosives around Gotham in hopes of flooding the city. The Batman has been pretty subtle up to this point, but a giant flood is exactly the kind of bombastic comic book climax I was expecting. The inspiration came from the 2013-2014 comic series “Zero Year.”
Mayor Reál is shot from a vantage point by Riddler minions at a flooding stage where Batman strategically takes out every goon. When he’s overwhelmed, Batman takes out his aggression using a shot of adrenaline. Gordon and Selina manage to hold him back, but it’s one of the minions saying “I’m vengeance” that really affects him. Batman choosing to become a symbol of hope instead of vengeance was inspired by the 2000 comic Ego. It’s a heroic moment where Batman saves Gotham citizens from the drowning water. The flooded Gotham is under martial law with the Penguin looking to seize control. I’m sure we’ll find out more in his HBO Max spin-off series. Batman embracing the city would’ve been a triumphant note to end the movie on, but we still have 2 additional scenes that could’ve been after-credits. The Riddler is locked up in Arkham Asylum where he’s greeted by a laughing inmate who wants to be his friend. I just knew DC couldn’t resist teasing another version of the Joker. Despite already having a role in Eternals, I had a feeling that’s who Barry Keoghan was playing.
His Joker laugh is silly, but his obscured face may be a little too horrifying. There was originally a Silence of the Lambs style deleted scene where Batman visits the Joker in Arkham seeking his criminal insight. The Joker is hideously scarred with a creepy permanent smile. Since they already have history, I’m not sure what they’ll do with the Joker in the future. The final scene shows the Bat and the Cat saying goodbye as Selina decides to runaway to Blüdhaven. They share one last kiss and go their separate ways on motorcycles. The Batman may be long, but it’s worth every minute. I don’t care how many Gotham based movies or shows they make without Batman, nothing beats seeing the Dark Knight in action. The Dark Knight is still my favorite Batman movie, but The Batman comes awfully close to replicating its praise. I hope the planned trilogy can maintain the quality of The Dark Knight trilogy. I would be fine if Robert Pattinson’s Batman joined James Gunn’s DCU, but I’d be just as happy if The Batman remained a solid standalone detective story.
Batman confronts the Penguin