he Batman is a DC Comics movie for people who watch way too many movies.
Director and co-writer Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes) has put together an intoxicating mix of indulgence, mash, bombast and vulnerability that absolutely answers the question of why the world needs another Batman movie. Best of all, Robert Pattinson (The Lighthouse) revives a role that has otherwise been undercut.
Better than Keaton? Oof, it's a coin toss. Best Batman Actor Since Keaton? Absolutely.
"I am the shadow"
The Batman gives off some serious crow vibes in the opening minutes, but the film quickly develops its own identity. Pattinson is certainly doing more interesting things here than Brandon Lee was in his '90s farewell movie.
Enlarge / The Batman gives off some serious crow vibes in the opening minutes, but the film quickly develops its own identity. Pattinson is certainly doing more interesting things here than Brandon Lee was in his '90s farewell film.
World Bank photos
They endure about 15 minutes of dark, aggressive tone tuning before Reeves and Pattinson engage in their vengeful Batusi dance. And Reeves absolutely loses control of his Batmobile by the end of the film, especially as he fakes viewers with an ending to lead them through an overly long and undramatic coda.
As of now, this review is stepping into spoiler-light territory, but taking extra care to leave crucial details of the film in the dark.
But let's put the production's bloated length and occasional flaws aside. Pattinson brings surprise and heart to a version of Bruce Wayne that seems unbearable on paper. The Batman's Batman is a relatively new caped crusader, just two years after his transformation from idle trust fund kid to Gotham's determined vigilante. In this version of the classic story, completely separate from DC's other comic-to-movie timelines, Batman doesn't fare as well. The cops laugh at him mercilessly, and the crime stats have only gotten worse since he became a vigilante.
Jeffrey Wright brings to life the role of Gotham Police Commissioner Gordon, who protects Batman from an angry police force.
Enlarge / Jeffrey Wright brings to life the role of Gotham Police Commissioner Gordon, who protects Batman from an angry police force.
World Bank photos
But Batman's non-lethal crime-fighting skills, aided by high-quality toys from Wayne Enterprises, have earned him two admirers. One is Commissioner Gordon (Jeffrey Wright, The French Dispatch), who installed the legendary Bat-Signal when he needs help on difficult cases. (How could an unknown guy in homemade bat armor take on an officer so comfortably? We never get an answer, although it's fun to hear Gotham cops ask that question for once.)
Batman's other fan is a killer who leaves rhyming riddles and number-filled codes at crime scenes. He was never called the Riddler in the film, but I'll use the nickname for simplicity. The Batman begins his latest crime.
"The Bat and the Cat - Sounds Good"
Zoë Kravitz shines as the new version of Catwoman. From there, The Batman delves into three parallel detective stories: arresting the Riddler, finding the key figure in a massive Gotham corruption ring, and protecting an innocent woman caught in the crossfire. The third story arc is how we get to Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz, Hulu's High Fidelity) since the innocent woman in question is her friend. Kyle (aka Catwoman) often appears at the right time to confuse Batman when he's trying to be as stoic as possible. Kravitz spends his time on camera as a cat thief, and Reeves frames his stealth, combat, and acrobatics in a way that emphasizes his strength and doesn't need help, rather than falling into outdated kitty traps of other portrayals.
Unfortunately, The Batman squanders some of Kravitz' quality performance by forcing her and Bats into a romantic subplot. Sparks flying between them, of course, require a fire safety warning. But that's not enough. This subplot almost gets a huge payoff, which I'd spoil trying to describe, but once that crease worked out, Reeves saved it for later by putting it in his pocket.