Sophie Farrell’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers!
When it was announced that a new Batman film was in the works, I found myself thinking "did we really need a new Batman film?". I saw that a lot of people seemed to share the same thoughts and, with several films starring the caped crusader being released fairly recently, wondered if Batman fatigue was beginning to set in. My opinions changed, however, when the first few teaser trailers for The Batman were released and found myself getting a bit excited with what they promised. Then the first reviews for The Batman starting coming in and the vast majority of them were full of praise. As a result, I did have high expectations for The Batman. Therefore, I am delighted to say that The Batman not only met but surpassed my expectations. I loved every minute of this film!
The film sees a horrific crime take place in Gotham City, as the mayor of the city is murdered by a serial killer who calls himself The Riddler. Bruce Wayne, who has been secretly operating as the vigilante Batman for two years, assists the GCPD and James Gordon, the only man - aside from Wayne's loyal butler and friend - who knows his true identity. As the Riddler leaves clues, he kills the police commissioner, and a trail of evidence points towards notorious mobster Carmine Falcone and his nightclub, operated by a man known as The Penguin. Working there is Selina Kyle, who earns the trust of Batman as he learns about cops and the district attorney being on the Mob's payroll. As Batman's investigation leads to the Riddler's true identity and motives, Bruce and Selina become something of a formidable, if fractured, duo, as she too transforms into an underground vigilante herself. However, the corruption that they uncover runs so deep, that Batman soon feels that he can trust no one.
The plot for The Batman is great, with plenty of interesting twists and turns. This film feels like a complete breath of fresh air. The prospect of yet another dark and edgy Batman film didn't give me much hope, but The Batman finds a new, fresh approach and it really won me over. It isn't a film that plays as an endless stream of action sequences and there is no big half hour action set piece, something that a lot of superhero films are built around. Instead, The Batman is mostly a detective film, almost like a noir at times, with shadowy streets, nihilist themes and some voiceover for good measure. The film is paced slowly and carefully. It goes for a slow burn approach that is rewarding, with each new revelation feeling earned. The atmosphere for this film is almost like a horror film at times, built around tension and disturbing reveals. The Batman, for the most part, is a small stakes serial killer film, without global consequences that seem to come out of nowhere or a whole universe to contend with. However, it also isn't going for realism as it is set in a fantasy world, one of an exaggerated Gotham that exists as a disgusting cesspit of all that is corrupt and broken. The world building in this film is fantastic, with Gotham almost feeling like a real place at times (one that I would definitely avoid). The character development in this film is also really great. Each character is presented as a flawed individual, even those who are sworn to protect. Batman himself is a particularly interesting character in this film. I really appreciate that this film isn't yet another origin story for Batman and doesn't rehash many of the scenes that we've become used to whenever the famed great detective gets a new film. Instead, The Batman presents the titular hero as unrestrained, above the law and close to breaking his own rules. This is a refreshing take on Batman which makes this film standout from others. There are many great moments throughout The Batman, including the scene at the memorial between Batman and Colson and the scene where Batman interrogates the Riddler.
The cast for The Batman is great and is easily amongst the main highlights of the film. Robert Pattinson is fantastic as both Batman and Bruce Wayne. Like many, I had my doubts about whether or not Pattinson would make a great Batman, but I was immediately proven wrong. He is terrific throughout the film, excelling in both roles, but especially as Batman. He gets across so much pain and complexity with just a few key subtle expressions and rich brooding delivery. Almost every frame of his screen time makes you feel the power, fear and darkness that he exudes. I'm interested to see where he takes the character in future films. Zoë Kravitz is also really good as Selina Kyle / Catwoman, bringing a sense of sensuality and bite to the role. Paul Dano is great as the Riddler, giving a completely chilling performance. Colin Farrell is unrecognisable as the Penguin, giving a great performance and practically disappearing into the role. They are given strong support by a cast that includes Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard and Andy Serkis among others. All give good performances, with each getting their moment to shine.
The Batman is directed by Matt Reeves, who does a really great job with this film. He paces the film wonderfully, allowing the near three hour runtime to fly by, allowing the film moments to slow down and breathe while knowing exactly when to bring in a bit of action. Reeves builds up a wonderfully dark and foreboding atmosphere, packed with expertly crafted sequences of suspense and moments of gruesome horror. Almost every shot is impeccably framed, with plenty of detail to give us a sense of both the characters and the world that they inhabit. I also love the way that Reeves frames his characters, revealing more about their relationships and how they change over the course of the film. The cinematography for this film is great, full of dark, brooding colours with the occasional touch of light colour. The costume and set design also looks fantastic and really helps to build the world within the film. The music score by Michael Giacchino is exceptional. It compliments the film wonderfully, especially the main theme.
Overall, The Batman is a fantastic film. While it may not be a flawless film, I still found it to be a thoroughly engrossing and entertaining experience. There wasn't a single second where I wasn't immersed in this film. The plot is great, with interesting characters, strong themes and some cracking action sequences. I also appreciate that it has the right amount of humour, enough not to make The Batman a tonally bleak film. The Batman isn't depressing, it is ultimately uplifting. The performances from the cast are great and elevate an already strong screenplay further. Pattinson, in particular, is a delight and a worthy successor to does who have donned the famous cape and cowl before him. The direction from Reeves is fantastic and serves the film wonderfully, bringing together every element to create something special. The Batman is a film that I had high expectations for and it did not disappoint. It is one of the most immersive and uncompromised superhero films that I've seen and I can easily see myself coming back to it again and again. An absolute triumph that I highly recommend!