Batman has been a pop culture staple for decades. From movies to cartoons to comics to toys, it’s hard to grasp the extent to which the Dark Knight has left an impression upon entertainment media.
Now, a new name has taken up the mantle of the World’s Greatest Detective: Robert Pattinson.
Many onlookers were wary when Pattinson, best known for the much-maligned “Twilight” franchise, was tapped for yet another reboot of the character. Despite these concerns, Pattinson has wholly proven himself as the genre-defining take on the shadowy hero.
Guided by Matt Reeves’ expertly precise direction and writing, Robert Pattinson shines in his turn as the Dark Knight, breathing fresh air into the oversaturated superhero genre. Despite the odds, Reeves has managed to not only justify a new take on the iconic Caped Crusader, but soar with his rendition of the winged vigilante.
Reeves sets the tone early.
“Two years of nights have turned me into a nocturnal animal,” narrates Bruce Wayne in a “Taxi Driver”-esque monologue throughout the early minutes of “The Batman.” Setting the gritty tone even further with a harrowingly violent opening scene, Reeves establishes early that he’ll be pushing the limits of a PG-13 rating.
Aside from its gorgeous cinematography, refreshingly deliberate pacing and nuanced writing, “The Batman” splits furthest from the dime-a-dozen blockbusters crowding Hollywood productions with one key element: its absolutely singular focus on story.
Gone are the dozens of superfluous cameos and references and post credit secrets, replaced by a wholly narrative-driven film that doesn’t waste any of its precious runtime teasing a larger cinematic universe.
Another clear highlight of the film is the performances themselves. Pattinson gives the best performance of any Dark Knight actor to date, spending far more time in the cowl than any previous iteration – Bruce Wayne is a relatively rare sight throughout the film, only coming into view when narratively necessary.
This extra time in costume allows for far greater audience familiarity with this Batman, giving him significantly more time to showcase some of the lesser-developed characteristics of the Caped Crusader. For instance, in the past, the detective aspect of the character had been mostly neglected in even the best Batman films. Fittingly for the film’s primary antagonist, however, this Batman spends as much time investigating as he does fighting, and his revelations are easy to grasp once revealed without being painfully obvious beforehand.
Speaking of the film’s antagonist, Paul Dano absolutely steals the show in his fully-committed performance as the Riddler. A far cry from Jim Carrey’s rendition in “Batman Forever,” this Riddler is both genuinely frightening and impressively clever in his time on screen. Furthermore, his later-revealed backstory is surprisingly compelling and goes a long way in lending credibility to such a seemingly gimmicky character.
Additionally, Colin Farrel is delightfully unhinged as The Penguin, managing to overcome the limitations of heavy prosthetics to give an incredibly expressive and memorable performance.
And no review would be complete without mention of Zoe Kravitz’s Catwoman, who manages to make the character definitively her own despite having big shoes to fill, specifically 1992’s Michelle Pfieffer and 2012’s Anne Hathaway.
In fact, “The Batman” may be the most definitive cinematic take on nearly all of its characters, with each actor becoming instantly synonymous with their role.. Even Jeffrey Wright, given comparably far less to do than “The Dark Knight” actor Gary Oldman had been in the role of Jim Gordon, gives an impressively distinct rendition of the iconic (soon-to-be) police chief throughout his screen time.
Many filmmakers struggle with balancing seriousness and humor in their movies, going too far in the direction of the distracting and intrusive punchlines of “Age of Ultron” or the dreary joylessness of “Batman v Superman.” However, “The Batman” manages to find a happy medium between the two extremes. While it errs far closer to the serious side of the scale, well-placed moments of natural humor prevent it from falling to the depths of intoxicating melancholy.
Some critics have understandably critiqued the nearly 3-hour runtime, but to Reeves’ credit, the film doesn’t seem to lose steam at any moment, utilizing all of its 176 minutes to their maximum potential.
Like any movie, “The Batman” isn’t perfect – there is, for instance, the occasionally odd line delivery, resulting in a fleeting but noteworthy break in the immersion. These are few and far between, though, as every cast member manages to bring their A-game to the table.
Aided by stellar performances, thoughtful direction, refreshingly nuanced writing, and an absolute avoidance of Hollywood’s worst tendencies, “The Batman” is 2022’s most compelling film yet.