Batman’s story has been adapted several times for big and small screens alike. Recent live-action film versions of the Caped Crusader saw Christian Bale in “The Dark Knight” trilogy, and Ben Affleck took the cowl in the Synder-verse era. Now, Robert Pattinson’s Batman, or “Battinson,” joins the ranks.
After having the pleasure of seeing “The Batman” twice in the theater this past week, I found myself astounded by just how completely this film understands the vigilante’s character. As an avid DC fan, I could immediately tell that director Matt Reeves was intimately familiar with the source material.
In Reeves’ adaptation, Batman ventures into Gotham City’s underworld when a sadistic killer, the Riddler, leaves behind a trail of cryptic clues. As the evidence begins to lead closer to home and the scale of the perpetrator’s plans become clear, Batman must forge new relationships, unmask the culprit and bring justice to the abuse of power and corruption that has long plagued the metropolis.
While “The Batman” is a reboot, Reeves respects that the audience doesn’t want to hear Bruce Wayne’s origin story again. Instead, we are introduced to a Batman in his second year — he’s got some crime fighting experience but he’s still learning about his role in the city and how he can make a real difference.
The most prominent narrative and aesthetic influences came from the “Batman: The Telltale Series” video game, and the comic books “Batman: Year Two” and “Batman: The Long Halloween.”
Reeves’ “The Batman” maintains several elements of the classic film noir (lighting, shadows, leitmotifs, philosophy) while being an engaging detective story. Somehow, with Batman’s persona as the world’s greatest detective in most DC Comics storylines, his intellectual prowess has never really been fully appreciated in live action film before. Both Affleck and Bale’s characters relied more on being tacticians in their chosen fighting styles but they weren’t exactly Sherlock Holmes.
Pattinson was a great Batman, though I would say that like many others, his Bruce Wayne could be lacking in the charm department. His Batman was perfectly broody but his Bruce Wayne was equally as broody, which is rather uncharacteristic because his civilian identity is usually portrayed as a rich playboy, such as in Bale’s interpretation.
However, I’m willing to give this acting choice a pass because Batman is Bruce’s real identity in this film. Because this is a sort of bildungsroman for his character, he may not have quite figured out how to don the mask of Bruce Wayne and be Batman at the same time.
The Riddler hadn’t received a serious non-animated film portrayal before Paul Dano, who delivers a genuinely creepy and interesting riddle-obsessed supervillain without making him cheesy. He gave off extreme “Saw” vibes mixed with the antagonist of David Fincher’s “Se7en.”
Riddler was clearly meant to be the foil to Batman as they both saw themselves as change for the city. It’s interesting to note all the parallels between the two: the line between vigilante and villain can be thin. Reeves does a great job detailing that.
Pattinson’s Batman and Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman were also refreshing together. Their dynamic was fun to watch, though the film didn’t try to push too much of them in front of the story. This is a story about the Batman and his relationship with Gotham first and foremost.
However, it was nice to see a Catwoman who could be powerful and strong while also being unafraid to ask for help. She was human and real, rather than just existing to be a sexual temptation for Batman.
My only other large complaint was that the two hour and 56 minute run-time feels long and there are plenty of scenes that I felt didn’t need to be included. On my first watch, I thought that the first act was a little slow but the last two thirds were riveting. On the second watch, I really enjoyed the first act, but that may have been because I knew what came afterwards.
I’m eagerly awaiting to seen Battinson return in a sequel, but that has not yet been greenlit or confirmed by Warner Bros.
“The Batman” hit theaters exclusively on March 4 and will be available for streaming on HBO Max in April.