From Micheal Keaton's gothic and violent Batman to Christian Bale's dark and brooding The Dark Knight, Batman has been gracing our screens for more than six decades now. Matt Reeves's 2022 The Batman starring Robert Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz is a bleak but thrilling noir re-adaptation of the Caped Crusader. This grim, gritty and gripping tale ranks among the hero's most thrilling and ambitious live-action outings.
The film follows Robert Pattinson's Bruce Wayne only two years into his tenure as the masked vigilante. The film, inspired by the comic series The Long Halloween (1996-97), explores his detective side more than any previous film has. This Batman outing is gripping, gorgeous and at times genuinely scary. Look out for the long shot where Robert Pattinson fights thugs in a hallway, a scene drenched in darkness, except for the flashing lights of bullets being fired. It's deliciously grotesque.
Reeves's approach is evolution rather than revolution. Its comparison to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is unavoidable as both the films share serious, neo-noirish tones. But the big difference between the two is that The Batman, like Spiderman: Homecoming, is a post-origin story about a young, naive superhero trying to make sense of his masked identity. "I'm Vengeance," yells Pattinson's Batman when questioned about his identity.
Through Pattinson, we glimpse a very different Batman. Where Bale and Affleck's Batman were macho playboys, Pattinson's caped hero is much more methodical. In the suit he's coherent and muscular, out of it he's plagued by self-doubt and insecurities. Zoe Kravitis's instantly charismatic Selina Kyle and Colin Farell's The Penguin offer great support to the story. But it's Paul Dano who steals the show with his chilling performance as the Riddler. Dano's Riddler is driven by an incel's misplaced sense of injustice and love for fiendish puzzles.
The film fully embraces Batman's comic reputation as the 'world's greatest detective' that cinematic versions often forget about. Though the plot's comlexity might leave one feeling the three-hour runtime, the film never gets boring. What also holds the attention is the brilliant cinematography by Greig Fraser and the chilling background score by Hans Zimmer. The tone is dark, quite literally, with only a handful of scenes featuring natural light. Reeves has undoubtedly created the best screen realisation of Gotham so far; with a careful grip over gritty realism and heightened pulp. Nirvana's "Something In The Way" plays at the start of the film, setting the tone for what's about to come.
The Batman is a beautifully shot, gripping take on an age-old character. The semi-nihilistic yet vaguely hopeful vision of the film is what sets it apart from the other superhero films over the last decade. It might not be the best crime thriller but it makes for a great first chapter of what is surely going to be a thrilling homecoming.