Matt Reeves’ The Batman is anything but another Batman movie. Reeves does more than enough to distance his film from other Batman stories in its 2:56 minute runtime. With Robert Pattison wearing the cowl, Zoë Kravitz downing a whip, and Paul Dano’s terrifying portrayal of the Riddler, the movie is more than just entertaining.
Unlike other Batman movies, which many critics have pointed out; Reeves’ adaptation is more of a detective story than a superhero one. The movie begins with Batman investigating the Riddler’s murder of Gotham’s mayor who is up for reelection. This is where the movie truly begins, as the past is already coming back to haunt because the murder resembles Bruce’s own parents’ murder as the mayor’s son is the one who finds the body.
Riddler’s game here is to liberate Gotham from decades of corruption that runs deep in the city. Donning the mantra “No More Lies” the Riddler sets out to expose the truth and uses Bats to help him. However, Batman is also using Riddler to do the exact same thing. The Riddler and Batman are constantly juxtaposed against each other even though their goals and methods resemble each other. Both use violence to settle their disputes; They both want to liberate Gotham from corruption; Both of their pasts are rooted in the violence that plagues the streets.
Throughout the film, the nihilistic undertones that plagued the beginning naturally come undone. This is mostly thanks to Zoë Kravitz’s Selina Kyle and Andy Serkis’ Alfred. These characters humanize Batman and Bruce Wayne respectively. But the character that humanizes him the most is the one that is murdering politicians in the town.
As Batman delves further into the investigation, it becomes clear that his family has a major part of the corruption in Gotham. Unlike other Batman films, Riddler drives Batman to find evidence that implicates his parents in starting the corruption in Gotham. While dealing with the death of his parents has always been a staple in the Batman movies, Reeves takes another route. In this movie, Bruce has to reconcile with the fact that his family may have been corrupt as well. That his father, the man that inspired him to don the Batsuit and the cowl could have a hand in why Gotham is so corrupt.
While the investigation is the heart of the plot, it is Bruce Wayne’s realization that his parents were not the model citizens that is the heart of the film. While many portrayals of Batman showcase him as being a badass heartthrob that fights crime when he has time, Pattison’s is consumed with wearing the cowl. For two years Batman has been fighting crime. In these two years, it’s clear that the weight of Gotham’s pain is making him vulnerable. Susceptible to the true horrors of what Gotham has underneath the surface. The Riddler makes Pattison’s Batman touchable in this film, vulnerable, and understandable. Reeves utilizes Riddler as Commetamorphicity and it works masterfully.
While there is a lot to praise in this film. There are some weak spots that take away from the story. With being almost three hours long, the film does not pace itself well. The last arc is full of scenes that all seem to be the ending of the film. While these scenes are needed to evolve Batman into a new type of hero, they linger on without cause. Bruce and Alfred’s relationship is usually a strong point of a Batman film but Reeves spends only a small amount of time nurturing their relationship. Bruce and Selina’s intimate relationship develops over the course of the film which drives home the humanity still left in Bruce. However, at the end of the movie, Selina decides to leave Gotham for good. This begs this question who or what will be used to keep Batman grounded in this metamorphosis of his?
However, these minor qualms do not take away from the experience. The extraordinary Performances by Paul Dano (Riddler), John Turturro (Carmine Falcone), Colin Farrell (Penguin) rivals Pattison’s Batman, Kravitz’s Selina Kyle, and Serkis’ Alfred. Reeve’s The Batman is a meticulous and introspective look into the caped crusader that keeps him grounded long enough for us to connect with the character in ways we never could have imagined. As skeptical as I am of Batman and his movies, Reeves transforms the character from a troubled billionaire to an introspective hero. Let’s hope that he can find a way to keep him there.
For more from Deareyes, check out his review of “Scream” (2022) here!