By Samuel Acosta[Editor’s Note: This review contains spoilers for “The Batman.”]
As someone who grew up watching “The Dark Knight” trilogy and experienced the chaotic fiasco that was the Snyder-verse, I had low expectations when I first heard about a new Batman movie. To my pleasant surprise, I was also absolutely enamored with the dark and gritty Gotham that director Matt Reeves has given to us. While it doesn’t quite overshadow the Nolan trilogy, “The Batman” places itself as a strong entry into the caped crusader’s canon and gives us a look at Batman that is unlike anything we’ve seen before.
“The Batman” takes place two years after Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) has taken on the mantle of the masked vigilante. Bruce is forced to unravel a complex mystery when the Riddler (Paul Dano) begins leaving a trail of bodies and clues, all pointing to a hidden truth about the city Batman has sworn to protect. Featuring Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman, Jeffrey Wright as Gordan and Colin Farrel as Penguin, the decrepit urban hellscape that is Gotham is brought to life throughout this film’s nearly three-hour runtime.
What this film does best is embrace a side of Batman that we haven’t seen in a long time. In the comics, Batman is revered as the world’s greatest detective, yet we haven’t seen a film explore that side of him for a long time. He has always been smart but never truly a detective. In a welcome turn, “The Batman” feels much more like a mystery movie that features Batman instead of vice versa.
I loved how in moments that most movies would fill with senseless action, Reeves instead inserts sequences where Batman studies a situation and deduces the truth. Small details matter, and following the trail of breadcrumbs alongside our beloved hero feels incredibly satisfying.
Gotham has a more rustic heartbeat in both its setting and its characters.
I also have high praise for Reeve’s version of Gotham. It is in this area that “The Batman” greatly outdoes the Nolan trilogy: Unlike the modern Chicago cityscapes in those movies, this Gotham is filled with dark Gothic designs, a sickly yellow lighting and an overwhelming shadow that feels capable of creating almost any monster from its darkness, be him, hero or villain. The city feels grittily alive and lived in, making the setting feel believable.
This rustic feeling also transfers over to Batman himself, as his superhero persona feels much more realistic and grounded than in previous iterations. His gadgets, while obviously high-tech, felt rough-around-the-edges, like prototypes still in need of further tweaks. This realism made me feel more enveloped in the story, with the exception of him using a squirrel suit to fly instead of his cape. This felt a little bit hard to swallow, as it is almost impossible to look cool while wearing one, and not even Batman can pull it off.
Bruce Wayne as a character is very absent from the film, which I felt was a statement to the mindset that the character has. Batman is his true identity, which is why that’s who we see for the majority of the film. Even when he masquerades as Bruce, it is for the purpose of furthering his investigation. I loved this approach to the character, as it added to his vendetta-esque philosophy.
While I have nothing against longer movies, I will admit that this film felt long. The second act was largely expositional with very little action to change the pace, and the third act felt a little flat. While I love the idea that the Riddler’s plan succeeds, the fact that it led to the city flooding made me feel disappointed. While Batman is a powerful hero, he can’t stop a natural disaster on such a scale. The battle at the stadium redeemed the ending a bit, but it was most certainly redeeming itself rather than building on an already strong conclusion.
Paul Dano’s Riddler is unique but slightly underwhelming.
The Riddler, as a villain, was also slightly underwhelming. I understand the more psychotic and grounded approach they were going for, but it felt as if the riddle aspect of the character was mostly lost, as the riddles were few and far between as well as often being mediocre. They use the best riddle within the first ten minutes of the film and then spend the rest of that time using riddles that feel so forced that it wasn’t as satisfying when Batman solved them.
I also have to address the small Joker cameo at the end of the film. I was disappointed by this introduction of the character, as it felt like an attempt to cater to what would be popular rather than what would be best for the story. There were so many other hints at other possible villains–such as Batman using what looks like Bane’s Venom–that it just felt disingenuous. I hope that they don’t go that route yet but instead bring something fresh to the table.
While there are many smaller victories and missteps made by the film, the film remains a solid mystery story under the Batman banner. I saw it twice, and while not perfect, this is a fresh take on the caped crusader that I hope to see again.
I give “The Batman” an 8.5/10.
Sam Acosta is a Junior Theatre Comprehensive Major and the Arts and Entertainment Editor for Cedars. He likes spending his time watching movies, drinking Dr. Pepper and writing plays.