Based on the DC comic series, The Batman is the story about the titular caped crusader in his second year as a vigilante where he deals with corruption within Gotham as it relates to his own family as well as a series of murders by a serial killer known as the Riddler. Directed by Matt Reeves and screenplay by Matt Reeves and Peter Craig, the film is a different take on the Batman/Bruce Wayne story as the character deals with not just trauma in his past but also pondering questions on whether his role as the Batman has made a difference with Robert Pattinson playing the role of Wayne and the Batman. Also starring Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, and Colin Farrell as Oswald “Oz” Cobblepot/Penguin. The Batman is a riveting and evocative film from Matt Reeves.
Two years into his life as a masked vigilante, Bruce Wayne/the Batman investigates a series of murders involving corrupt police and political officials in Gotham City as it play into so much more including involvement from his own family. It’s a film that follows this young man who is hoping to clean up Gotham from the shadows but the recent murder of a mayor during an election year and other revelations over corruption as it relates to events some decades ago forces Wayne to deal with this mysterious figure who is killing all of these people. The film’s screenplay by Matt Reeves and Peter Craig is straightforward in its narrative yet it does follow a lot of tropes relating to film noir as well as crime films as it acts more of a police investigation mystery-suspense film rather than a conventional superhero film.
Bruce Wayne isn’t this superhero who can use gadgets and such to deal with the chaos within Gotham but rather a young man still haunted by the death of his parents and feels like he owes his family something to ensure that their name can bring hope. Unfortunately in this mayoral election year in Gotham, things are still bad where a crime family still operates and pay off many top officials in the police and government to ensure their place in Gotham. The murder of Mayor Don Mitchell Jr. (Rupert Penry-Jones) raises an awareness into what is happening as many are not fond of the Batman with the exception of Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) who is one of the few police officials that is incorruptible. Wayne and Gordon would watch the elite become targets of this mysterious serial killer known as the Riddler (Paul Dano) who often leaves clues for the Batman to decipher as Wayne would get help from his longtime butler/mentor Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis) whom they have a testy relationship as Pennyworth wants Wayne to be more involved in his family’s legacy of philanthropy.
Upon some discovery into Mitchell’s involvement with the crime boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) and his lieutenant Oswald Cobblepot/the Penguin, Wayne befriends a young waitress at Falcone’s club in Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz) who had a friend that was pictured with Mitchell as she had gone missing where a lot of things get leaked leading to more chaos in Gotham. It would force Wayne, Kyle, and Gordon to be among the few who would have to take charge though Kyle’s motivations would lead to vengeance as well as revelations about herself that add to her thirst for vengeance. The antagonists in Falcone and Penguin are interesting in their dealings with the latter being someone who is smarter than people give him credit for as he does reveal some key information as it relates to what happened years ago as he knows the Riddler is going to ruin everything. Even as Wayne is forced to confront some things about his own family where he realizes that people make mistakes but it’s about how fix those mistakes.
Matt Reeves’ direction is definitely sprawling in terms of the way Gotham is presented as it is shot on various locations in London and Liverpool with additional shots in Chicago, Glasgow, and Hertfordshire including studios sets at Leavesden. Reeves’ approach to the film definitely has a sense of physicality in not just some of the action scenes in which Batman combats criminals but also in a world that is grimy as it rains quite often as there are also many areas to Gotham. The usage of wide and medium shots add to the major scale from the look of the club and the underground club within that Falcone is seen at as well as the way some of the shots at the buildings are presented with all of those gorgeous skylines. Still, Reeves grounds the film with its emphasis on physicality in these locations but also maintain this slow-burn of the Batman uncovering each clue with Alfred and Gordon helping him out in solving these riddles that the Riddler is leaving. Some of which are deadly including one clue attached to a corrupt district attorney in Gil Colson (Peter Sarsgaard) who has a bomb wrapped around his neck as it all play into the Riddler’s game.
Reeves maintains this tense atmosphere in the film as it play into a world that is starting to unravel with the second act being about Wayne not just being a target for the Riddler but also playing to the revelations about why his parents got killed. Even as Kyle reveals that the people that the Riddler are targeting all have took advantage of the ideas that Wayne’s father was trying to do for the city and felt that Thomas Wayne ended up being no different than those the Riddler is targeting. The third act is about the Batman confronting Falcone in the hope he can stop the Riddler yet there are more complications forcing the Batman to meet the Riddler as there is a horror element to this meeting that is followed by something much bigger where it is all about Gotham. The climax involves a massive set piece where there is a lot happening yet it is all about the Batman just trying to save the people of Gotham and give them hope. Overall, Reeves crafts a visceral and gripping film about a masked vigilante dealing with a mysterious serial killer who hopes to expose and destroy Gotham.
Cinematographer Greig Fraser is incredible as its usage of low-level lights for much of the interiors and the exterior scenes at night as it adds to the film’s grimy visuals as well as some of the daytime scenes with its emphasis on natural lighting for a few of its interior scenes. Editors William Hoy and Tyler Nelson do amazing work with the editing as it has some stylish cuts to play into the action while allowing shots to linger for more than 10-15 seconds including a car chase scene and in some of the other action sequences including its climax. Production designer James Chinlund, with set decorator Laura Ng and supervising art director Grant Armstrong, does brilliant work with the look of the nightclub that Falcone and Penguin run as well as the Wayne tower where Wayne lives and some of the interiors in some of the places at Gotham. Costume designers Jacqueline Durran, David Crossman, and Glyn Dillon do excellent work with the costumes with Durran doing much of the design for all of the characters including Kyle’s leather clothing while Crossman and Dillon do the design of the Batsuit that Wayne wears as the Batman.
Makeup designer Naomi Donne and prosthetics makeup supervisor Tristan Verslius do fantastic work with the look of the Penguin as someone does look a bit rough but not in what is expected from the character while also adding some unique look to the wigs that Kyle wears to work. Special effects supervisor Dominic Tuohy and visual effects supervisor Dan Lemmon do phenomenal work with the special and visual effects from the way some of the action set pieces are created including the chase scene and the film’s climax as well as a few set-dressing bits in some scenes including a scene of the Batman flying off a building. Sound designers Lee Gilmore, Craig Henighan, and Chris Terhune, along with sound editor Douglas Murray, do superb work with the sound in the way some of the gadgets sound as well as the way music sound inside a nightclub and the atmosphere some of the action and suspense are presented.
The film’s music by Michael Giacchino is sensational for its orchestral score that include some incredible themes and other pieces of music that play into the drama, action, and suspense as it is a major highlight of the film while music supervisor George Drakoulias cultivates a soundtrack that feature elements of electronic music at the club scene including some classical music for some bits in the film and an effective usage of Nirvana’s Something in the Way to play into the sense of loss and confusion that Wayne goes through.
The casting by Lucy Bevan and Cindy Tolan is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Luke Roberts and Stella Stocker in their respective roles as Bruce’s parents in Thomas and Martha Wayne, Charlie and Max Carver as twin bouncers at Falcone’s club, Hana Hrzic as Kyle’s European roommate Annika who is also Mayor Mitchell’s mistress, Con O’Neill as Gotham’s police chief, Alex Ferns as the police commissioner who is one of the Riddler’s targets, Oscar Novak as a young Bruce Wayne, Peter McDonald as a corrupt police officer in Kenzie who is seen often at Falcone’s club, Gil-Perez Abraham as the Gotham police officer Martinez who at first is distrustful of the Batman until he says something to him in the third act leading a major discovery for both of them, Rupert Penry-Jones as Gotham’s mayor in Don Mitchell Jr., Kosha Engler as Mitchell’s wife, Archie Barnes as Mitchell’s son, Sandra Dickinson as Wayne’s maid Dory, and Jayme Lawson as the mayoral candidate Bella Real who is hoping to clean Gotham as she wants Wayne to be involved more in helping Gotham.
Peter Sarsgaard is superb in his small role as Gotham’s district attorney Gil Colson as a sleazy man whom Kyle sees at a club as he knows something that would get many in trouble as he becomes a major target for the Riddler. Andy Serkis is fantastic as Wayne’s butler Alfred Pennyworth as someone who aids Wayne at the Wayne Tower though he feels that Wayne needs to focus more on the family’s businesses and charities while also providing Wayne some insight about the family and mistakes they made. John Turturro is excellent as Carmine Falcone as a crime boss who runs a mob family as he is a devious man who also brings a sense of unease to Kyle as he is also someone that seems to know a lot more than what everyone knows. Colin Farrell is brilliant as Oswald Cobblepot/the Penguin as Falcone’s lieutenant who helps run the business as he is also eager to do his own thing where he is confronted by the Batman believing that he’s an informant only to reveal things that are far more complicated. Jeffrey Wright is amazing as Lt. James Gordon as a police official who is one of the few that the Batman trusts as he is aware that something isn’t right while also deciphering some of the Riddler’s clues.
Zoe Kravitz is incredible as Selina Kyle as a waitress at a club who knows Falcone but is also a cat burglar with her own set of skills where she helps out the Batman while also having her own motives for vengeance as it relates to Falcone as it is definitely a mesmerizing performance from Kravitz. Paul Dano is phenomenal as the Riddler where is largely seen in a mask and some body suit as he does a lot of his riddles through videos via social media as it is a chilling and terrifying performance that really adds some unexpected layers to the famed villain as Dano brought something new as well as make him a formidable foe for the Batman. Finally, there’s Robert Pattinson in a tremendous performance as Bruce Wayne and the titular role as this brooding and troubled man who is among the elite of the Gotham upper class yet is more concerned with trying to save Gotham as a vigilante where he deals with not just the Riddler but also himself and his family’s past where Pattinson brings some restraint but also a physicality that makes him a joy to watch as it is a career-defining performance from Pattinson.
The Batman is a spectacular film from Matt Reeves that features a great leading performance from Robert Pattinson as well as top-notch supporting performances from Zoe Kravitz and Paul Dano. Along with its ensemble cast, stylish visuals, intense action set pieces, emphasis on suspense and character study, eerie sound work, and a sensational music soundtrack. The film isn’t just a superhero film but so much more as it is an exploration of a man dealing with his own grief but also the need to save his city from corruption and terror. In the end, The Batman is a phenomenal film from Matt Reeves.
Matt Reeves Films: (The Pallbearer) – (Cloverfield) – (Let Me In) – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - War for the Planet of the Apes
Batman Films: (Batman (1966 film)) – Batman (1989 film) - Batman Returns - Batman Forever - Batman & Robin - Batman Begins - The Dark Knight - The Dark Knight Rises - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - The Lego Batman Movie
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