I always appreciate new takes on old stories, and the take doesn’t get much newer than Matt Reeve’s The Batman. I’ve felt that all of the previous incarnations of the character in movies were all just variations of themselves (including the Adam West), shifting between camp and the ultraviolent Dark Knight. Reeve’s Batman returns to the old form of Detective Comics about a rich, ordinary guy with a bat suit fighting crime by night.
The Batman (Robert Pattinson) is a street vigilante despised by the police and ally only to Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright). A serial killer, known as The Riddler (Paul Dano), is picking off the city’s leaders, starting with Gotham’s mayor, a few council members, and the district attorney (Peter Sarsgaard). The Riddler is upset with the city’s corruption and its connection with organized crime leaders involving The Penguin (Colin Farrell) and mob don Carmine Falcone (John Turturro).
Told in a pulp fiction noir style (with gravely VO), Batman investigates each crime scene, much to the protest of the police. Then, through Holmesian deduction and astute profiling, Batman attempts to predict The Riddler’s next move, reveal his true identity, and hopefully save the city from certain doom. Family butler Alfred (Andy Serkis) and anti-hero Catwoman Selena Kyle (Zoë Kravitz) are by his side.
“…The Riddler, is picking off the city’s leaders, starting with Gotham’s mayor…Batman investigates…”
What’s Right About The Batman?
What stands out the most is the storytelling. The Batman is a reset in every sense of the word. I’m a Marvel guy, so everything I know about Batman is from the 60s television, movies, and The Super Friends. As a result, I’m less tied to getting this origin story right than the die-hard Batman fan, and I appreciate Reeves’ take on the Caped Crusader. I never cared about the origins of the Wayne family or the Arkham legacy.
Making this noir was precisely what I wanted. I didn’t want a retread of the past or another origin story. Instead, I got something different. Batman feel less like a superhero and more like the vigilante he’s supposed to be. Batman faced real crime that you’d find in an actual city, but with heightened levels of terror and violence. Superman has no place in this world, as it should be. Aiding in this is the incredible production design. Gotham is a character unto itself, reminding me of what LA was like 30 years ago. The Batcave felt like an actual location that could exist, and the Riddler’s Lair is brilliant. The Bat-gadgets were kept to a minimum and were all pretty cool.
Also, this is a much more grounded take. I love that Batman is the star, and Bruce Wayne is his alter ego, only pulled out to get information. The real Bruce is lost in his alternate persona and feels uncomfortable as the son of a billionaire. There are big action set pieces, but they all feel organic to the story versus a cinematic superhero-heavy CG stunt spectacular. The fights are choreographed to look authentic and have consequences; Batman gets hurt. The best fight scene took place in a darkened hallway lit by gunfire. It felt like a comic book.
“…noir was precisely what I wanted.”