**Warning: Potential Spoilers Ahead!**
Following its recent Mar. 4 release, Director Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” was met with immediate critical and commercial success. The film currently holds a fresh 85% on Rotten Tomatoes and an impressive audience score of 89%. It is also only the second pandemic blockbuster to pass the $100 million mark opening weekend, racking in a steller $128.5 million.
The escapades of the Caped Crusader have been reimagined on film countless times over the years. Prior to “The Batman,” the titular character had already led ten live-action films. It begs the question of what a 2022 rendition could possibly add to the vigilante’s long-established story?
Refreshingly, Matt Reeves’ “Batman” relishes in its novelty. The film reimagines a Gotham City that is made gritter and more grounded in reality. And yet, the film is still built on the foundation of its source material. For example, the Penguin’s igloo-like Iceberg Lounge is reconceptualized as a disreputable nightclub and the often campy Batman foe, the Riddler, is transformed from a riddle-loving rogue to a truly terrifying adversary.
But perhaps the greatest assessment of the film’s distinctiveness as a Batman film lies in its portrayal of Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) himself. “The Batman” portrays the billionaire vigilante in an entirely new light. Abandoning the classic hero’s origin story, the film picks up in the midst of Wayne’s time as the Batman and sees him as a true recluse.
Instead of the playboy Bruce Waynes of old, Pattinson’s portrayal meanders in his gothic mansion, wears dark eyeliner, and listens to Nirvana. Although these changes might seem amusing at first, Pattinson’s edgier idiosyncrasies ultimately make perfect sense for this imagining of Bruce. After all, it is even stated in the film that Bruce sees Batman as his true self and his persona as the public figure of Bruce Wayne as his mask. This is a fascinating angle for the film to explore and it allows for an even greater character arc when Bruce must reconcile with how his vigilante ambitions to rid Gotham of corruption eerily mirror the more deranged actions of the Riddler (Paul Dano).
“The Batman” ventures into new territory stylistically as well. The three-hour film is a true cinematic experience, with its shadowy cinematography, memorable cast performances, and a truly stunning score by Michael Giacchino. “The Batman” also returns the hero to his role as “The World’s Best Detective,” as the film is ultimately more crime-thriller than your classic superhero blockbuster. At the center of the mystery is Paul Dano’s Riddler, whose deranged cryptic riddles force Bruce and Commissioner Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) to unravel the vast corruption of Gotham’s public figures. “The Batman” truly pushes its PG-13 rating at several points, especially in regard to its grittiness and the Riddler’s more sinister actions.
However, “The Batman’s” ability to ground the often campy Riddler in a film as dark as this one is commendable. Paul Dano crafts a villain who is truly terrifying and whose crimes against Gotham nearly rival that of “The Dark Knight’s” Joker. However, “The Batman’s” Riddler feels almost a little too removed from his character’s source material. With this darker imagining of the character, his beloved campiness and even his classic catchphrase, “riddle me this?” are entirely lost. In this sense, he almost becomes an entirely new character, with only the riddles and his green costume to distinguish him.
Nevertheless, the characters from the Batman Rogues Gallery remain one of the film’s highlights. While Dano’s Riddler is the film’s primary antagonist, Zoë Kravitz and Colin Farrell both give commendable performances as Catwoman and the Penguin. Despite the film being close to three hours long, it still feels as if there is ample room to further explore with Kravitz’s Catwoman and Farrell’s Penguin. Especially in regard to the palpable chemistry and budding relationship between this version of Batman and Catwoman.
“The Batman” is a film that is bound to stick with you, even days after viewing it. It is a rare cinematic treat in the midst of a modern hunger for the more formulaic superhero blockbusters.
However, it doesn’t seem that three hours is enough time to conclude “The Batman’s” story. In addition to the film’s open-ended ending and its brief tease of Barry Keoghan’s upcoming Joker, several spin-off projects have already been announced. A series centering around Farrell’s Penguin and a second series focusing on Arkham Asylum are both intended to stream on HBO Max.