Matt Reeves’s The Batman takes another stride in the right direction for DC Comics and hopefully means that we are one step closer to Warner Bros. leaving the colourful and campy genre of superhero films to Marvel Studios. I have my fingers and toes crossed that The Batman’s success will encourage Warner Bros. to retrace their steps and finally realize the dramatic mistake of following The Dark Knight Trilogy with Man of Steel (2013). The future for the DC universe seems promising as The Batman moves confidently in the direction of a darker, character-driven DC Universe, populated by films like Joker (2019) and The Dark Knight (2008).
In the film, Batman (Robert Pattinson) is not the billionaire superhero of Zach Snyder’s franchise. Instead, he is a grieving, disillusioned detective tasked with unraveling a series of politically charged killings left “for the Batman” by the Riddler (Paul Dano). The film also involves several of Batman’s other famed villains, including the Penguin (Colin Farrel), Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), and Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), as well as his famed ally, Detective Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright).
The Gotham City that Reeves imagines is a gutter of crime and corruption, spreading from the streets to the penthouses of Gotham’s politicians. There are serial killers, mob bosses, and damaged family legacies; the streets, nightclubs, and apartments they inhabit are created with such careful detail that they become places of expression themselves, almost functioning with the same complexity as their characters. This Gotham that Reeves creates is immersive and encompasses all the sinister angst found in the Arkham video game series, which will likely be the closest we ever get to a theatrical representation of the games.
We also owe our gratitude to Greig Fraser, the cinematographer of films like Dune (2021) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012), for the film’s worldbuilding. The dark, sprawling establishing shots smashed against the manic close-ups evoke an eerie intimacy entwined with the mystery that a detective story must preserve. Michael Giacchino, the composer of Coco (2017), also turned the urbanized underbelly of Reeves’ Gotham into a captivating score, inadvertently creating one of the greatest music videos of all time for Nirvana‘s “Something in the Way.”
The cinematography, the set, and the score all come together to form one of the most immersive depictions of Gotham. The atmosphere is refined through every quality of filmmaking, and while Christopher Nolan’s Gotham was certainly a perfect set for his films, there was an element of realism that distanced it from the comics. Reeves draws heavily from the comics to build his world, bringing places like the Iceberg Lounge, Bludhaven, and Arkham Asylum to life.
When it comes to performances, Pattinson not only distinguishes himself from his own looming roles—most notably as Edward Cullen in the Twilight franchise—but he also manages to distinguish himself from the previous Batmans. George Clooney, Adam West, and Christian Bale all brought new and exciting dimensions to the character, and yet, with the help of Reeves, Pattinson managed to uncover a side of the character that has not been revealed and feels long overdue. His identity of Batman is not the recluse, existentially conflicted billionaire Bruce Wayne in Nolan’s films, or the iconic, self-proclaiming superhero of Tim Burton’s; he is a detached and self-destructive vessel of vengeance—a brooding detective who is still so deep in his grief that he does not remember what it means to be Bruce Wayne.
Pattinson however, through careful direction and a balanced script, does not overshadow the other performances in the film—which is more impressive considering the crowded cast. Each character feels significant within the plotline and does not fall flat on screen time. Much of this is due to the tightly written script but is also because of the compelling performances by Farrel, Kravitz, and Wright. They all bring an individual dimension that adds complexity to the film without muddying or weighing it down.
Despite the shortcomings in Dano’s performance, which may have more to do with directing than acting, the film points in a promising direction for DC. With two upcoming television series already spun off the film—one set to revolve around the Penguin (to be released on HBO Max) and another around the Gotham City Police Department—there is a bright (and brooding) future for this Batman universe. With a very exciting ending, there is certainly another film to come.
Copy Editor (Volume 49) | firstname.lastname@example.org —Aidan is completing a major in Professional Writing and Communications at the University of Toronto Mississauga. He previously worked as the Associate Editor for the Arts and Entertainment section of The Medium, and currently works as the Copy Editor for The Medium. When he’s not catching up on course work or thumbing through style guides, Aidan spends his free time exercising (begrudgingly), singing (unmelodically), and trying (helplessly) to read David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. The latter of which has taken 3 years to reach the 16th page. You can connect with Aidan at email@example.com.