Matt’s review published on Letterboxd:
“It’s a big city. I can’t be everywhere… but they don’t know where I am. We have a signal now, for when I’m needed. When that light hits the sky, it’s not just a call. It’s a warning. To them. They think I’m hiding in the shadows… but I am the shadows.”
The Batman is a phenomenal adaptation of the Caped Crusader and his world that perfectly understands the core of these timeless characters while leaving enough wiggle room to be unique and original. Director and co-writer Matt Reeves is clearly a massive Batman fan and decides to focus on the detective side of Batman, which has rarely been focused on in the films up to this point (which is weird, since he is, after all, the World's Greatest Detective), all while soaking the film in a gritty crime-noir tone to make a stylish, tense psychological thriller with a bit of a horror slant.
Robert Pattinson is perfectly cast as a very broken and mentally unsound Batman. Truth be told, while the Batman is my favorite superhero, I also know that he's far from being a mentally well person, and part of what I didn't like about other versions, especially Christian Bale's, was that they felt too stable. Ben Affleck brought back a little of what I was looking for with his focused rage, but he definitely crossed a line in that regard by using guns, a line I strongly feel Batman should never cross. Pattinson brings in the loneliness and despair I feel Bruce Wayne has, along with the anger. He's dead silent for the majority of the movie as if he doesn't really know how to talk to people and, even sadder, doesn't want to. He's obsessed with his mission to the point of madness, something we rarely see outside the comics, and it's beautiful and heartbreaking to see it unfold here.
The Batman also gives Bruce the most significant and profound character arc I've ever seen him go on in the films, and likely over the shortest period of time that still feels natural in any story. Watching Bruce evolve from an angry, bitter vigilante and a closed-off loner driven by revenge to a more compassionate, emotionally vulnerable superhero is a wonderful journey, and makes the film really stand out against the other films in the franchise.
The rest of the cast is spectacular as well. Zoë Kravitz is captivating as a bitter, enigmatic Selina Kyle with her own unique arc similar to Bruce's, creating easily my favorite iteration of the character. Paul Dano is terrifying as the unhinged, vile Riddler, perfectly capturing the character's narcissism and wish to be seen, while adding a realistic spin to the character as well as timely commentary. Andy Serkis is, as always, perfect as Alfred Pennyworth, offering us the most hardened and serious version of the character I've ever seen in film, and a top contender for my favorite version of the character. Jeffrey Wright's Jim Gordon has a great buddy-cop relationship with the Batman, and he, along with Colin Farrell's wonderfully hammy Penguin, add some welcome comic relief at just the right times, much like Bad Ape in Matt Reeves' previous film, War for the Planet of the Apes.
Speaking of Reeves, his direction is beyond compare here, with Greig Fraser's Oscar-worthy cinematography striking the perfect contrast of stark darkness and popping color with fantastic angles, and the chemistry between the cast is fantastic, with no two characters having similar interactions. Gotham City itself even has its own identity, with the buildings shrouded in darkness but lit up by neon signs, and the heightened style and existence of things like drops letting you know that this is far more sci-fi oriented than the Nolan films, despite being very realistic, and that characters like Mister Freeze and Hugo Strange could absolutely appear in the future. Reeves brings the film to the darkest of places, but yanks it out just before it goes too far with well-placed comedy or fun moments. The man is a genius, and the film is lucky to have him.
As amazing as films like Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and The Dark Knight are, The Batman seems to craft a better story than either of them. It more than lives up to the hype, and crafts a unique, harrowing, and empowering story that gives us the best live-action iteration of nearly all of these characters (I'll admit, I think still do prefer Gotham's Penguin and Alfred just a little bit). It's noir-like style and thematic script are unmatched, and while Batman: The Animated Series will always be my gold standard for Batman, there is no doubt that this is a close second, and when it comes to live-action cinema, this is called “THE Batman” for a reason.