Batman has been my favorite superhero ever since I was introduced to the concept of superheroes. There’s something about the dark knight and the cast of over-the-top villains that resonates with me. Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s Dark Victory series as well as graphic novels The Long Halloween, Joker’s Last Laugh, and Hush are all part of my comic book pantheon.
As you might imagine, a new Batman film following closely on the heels of Justice League, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and the TV show Gotham gave me pause. While I welcome new additions to the world of Gotham and enjoy the various takes on Penguin, Two-Face, The Joker, Catwoman, Commissioner Gordon, and of course the Bat himself, I wasn’t sure what my reaction would be to this new story as told by Matt Reeves and Peter Craig.
If you enjoy a more noir detective take on Batman (The Gotham Knights comic book series, Batman: The Animated Series, etc.), then I’d suggest you go and see this film. If you’re more of a Marvel action superhero film fan, maybe wait until it comes out on Blu-ray. But I’d still encourage you to see it — it’s gritty in a different way, with its finger on the pulse of society right now, and a side to Batman I’ve personally never seen on film despite having watched almost every iteration available.
Robert Pattinson’s Batman is more human than we’ve ever seen before. He isn’t perfect. He doesn’t have a lot of money for cool detective gadgets. He stumbles, makes mistakes, and there’s a deep sadness behind his eyes that make him the most vulnerable Batman to date. This Batman resonates strongly with me. I’ve been in that space of grieving the past. I understand his frustration at a broken system he cannot repair by himself and his determination to try anyway. It makes me feel like someone understands where I’m at right now.
While some of the story accouterments are similar to other Batman storylines, I found that this particular version spoke on the danger of poverty, desperation, and radicalization, with a focus on the Proud Boy-esque group rallying behind The Riddler. The Riddler is more human in this version as well, more fragile, with a severe need for recognition and attention that pull him into the limelight for a confrontation with The Batman.
Other aspects I enjoyed were the answers to lots of (in my mind, pertinent) critiques regarding the Wayne finances and how they are used, the introduction of Arkham for the mentally ill, and the mob families attempting to gobble Gotham whole. It’s a more realized and detailed world than I’m used to seeing in superhero films, and it is a welcome surprise. Everything is connected, but not in a trite or tropey way. The layers of Gotham interact with each other and affect everyone, no matter their station, resources, or connections.
I also appreciated the approach to diversity, the condemnation of a corrupt police force and politicians, and the hope still coursing through the storyline. We do live in a world where corruption seems to reign supreme. That doesn’t mean there aren’t people trying to change that.
The Batman is an incredible film. There’s a gargantuan amount of depth and pathos, making it a more emotional than physical story. It captures the loneliness of the Dark Knight without making him so mysterious and all-powerful. We get to see inside, where his childhood trauma has taken hold and turned him into a fly-by-night vigilante. It finally allowed me to comprehend the breadth of Batman’s backstory.
The soundtrack by Michael Giacchino is a work of art by itself, at times melancholy, at times moody and dangerous, with a hint of sly laughter here and there. It feels more like a soundscape, with the ability to transport you to the heart of Gotham’s innermost secrets.
If you’re looking for something that feels original, has a strong grasp on where humanity is at in this moment, and has a few explosive laughs here and there mixed in with the darkness, go see The Batman.