The Batman Movie Review

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This dark, gritty thriller packs more than a small punch for the caped crusader. From Christian Bale’s performance in Batman Begins (2005) to Ben Affleck’s Batman in the DC Extended Universe of Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016), the Batman legacy continues with Warner Bros. Pictures’ The Batman (2022). Despite initial concerns surrounding the casting of Robert Pattinson as Batman, Pattinson pulled off a spectacular take on the masked vigilante, far exceeding DC fans’ expectations.

The movie’s grim and surreal tone fashions the audience’s view of Gotham into a different light: a frighteningly realistic and amplified version of any city’s worst. While the movie — with its frequent use of victims and puzzles — does share similarities with other thrillers such as Jigsaw (2017) and 1984 (1984), the strong sense of realism shown throughout the film is what really sets this film apart from any other Batman work. The film makes it abundantly clear that this isn’t a story that takes place in any ‘normal’ city: the unhinged behavior of the Riddler, the impulsive interactions and deep history between gangs, and the presentation of Gotham’s corruption ultimately reflect the dystopia and flames that Gotham finds itself in, adding to the burden Batman carries in attempting to save it.

The Characters

Unlike the typical, confident, and genius-playboy billionaire people are used to, Pattinson embodies an angsty and lonely Bruce Wayne, whose psychological trauma from the death of his parents is heavily apparent through his distant persona. With this version of Bruce Wayne, it is no surprise that this kind of billionaire would go out dressed in bullet-proof armor with black eyeshadow makeup under the mask, something with which previous iterations of Batman didn’t bother. To keep the image of a charismatic billionaire alive, previous Batmans played by Michael Keaton and Christian Bale had their eyeshadow makeup removed during unmasking scenes. Pattinson’s Batman though does not shy away from the display of Bruce Wayne and The Batman as one individual rather than two people. 

Zoë Kravitz’s Selina Kyle (alias Catwoman) is also a character that could not go unnoticed. Her character’s conflicting emotions were translated well through the camera with her phenomenal acting, which helped her character develop an excellent chemistry with her partner Batman on screen. In fact, the two of them are arguably a better dynamic duo than the typical Batman and Robin. 

The film also excelled in adding a homemade, independent, and natural feel to the characters through their accessories and accouterments. One case of this would be Selina Kyle’s mask, which was simply a ski mask with holes cut out of the cloth. Another note would be the Batmobile, which definitely does not resemble the classic Batmobile fans are used to — the custom seats and out-of-place rocket engine attached to the end of the automobile added this independent homage to Batman’s character. This stylistic decision makes sense given the plot taking place in the earlier years of the superhero. 

Jeffrey Wright’s Commissioner Gordon was a character whose chemistry with Batman arguably rivals Catwoman’s. The conflict between his personal ties with Batman and his professional responsibilities as a member of Gotham City P.D. is accentuated throughout the film, making the movie feel like a period of adjustment for Batman as the cops aren’t used to his presence yet. This adds to the tension between Batman and the police, and Gordon serves as the bridge, adding to the character dynamics throughout the film. 

Colin Farrell’s Penguin is a nice added touch to this dark film. He wasn’t a comic-relief per say, but his humorous side character definitely helps break through the movie’s tense atmosphere. At first it would be reasonable to suspect that adding too many characters to a film would water down the end product; however, adding in the Penguin was more than necessary. He had a large plot significance as he has many connections and a deep history with many of Gotham’s gangsters, whom Batman had to investigate to track down the Riddler and uncover the main antagonist’s motives. 

Understanding Paul Dano’s Riddler is an enigma in and of itself. One of the first things you notice is his appearance: standard boots, black pants, a green coat, green mask, and white glasses. Again, this ‘home-made’ feel of Batman is the same with the Riddler, giving off the idea that what we have here is not a ‘comic-book inspired supervillain,’ but an ordinary yet clever man setting malicious schemes into place. This adds to the surreal sense that the movie offers. The Riddler didn’t have to come out with a question-mark staff and ask his riddles with flashing lights like a T.V. show to be threatening, but the Zodiac killer impression was enough to elevate the character to the next level.

Even with a mask covering his whole face and cling wrap covering his hair, Dano’s subtle eye twitches and quickly-changing, menacing mood brings chills down everyone’s spine in the theater. His performance as the Riddler shone through the movie the most, which is furthered by the rarity, in recent years, of a Batman film having a central antagonist other than the Joker Dano certainly did not disappoint and his performance could even soon go down to be as iconic as Heath Ledger’s Joker.

None of these characters felt irrelevant to the plot — indeed, the movie felt cohesive and well-thought out without the sense that the director is attempting to bombard the audience with esoteric DC details.

The Plot

The plot feels raw, anomalous, and almost frighteningly realistic. A common criticism that the film faced is the plot being overwhelmed by a seemingly endless rotation of costumed vigilantes and fictional villains. 

However, the movie did something that most Batman films usually don’t; there were a few good action sequences, but nothing that would necessarily blow the audience out of their seats. The most memorable part of watching the movie was witnessing its static, suspenseful moments. 

While these scenes, when described in words, may seem mundane, the cinematography, gloomy mise-en-scene, and rising suspense all help the viewers feel they may burst from anticipation at any point during the movie. The actions that the Riddler takes, such as his psychotic schemes and the gang fights with Batman, are all things that add to this sense of realism and overall bring in such tangible suspense. This is something that only good movies can do.

Good horror movies are not always movies rampant with jump scares or cheap motifs used to scare the audience. Sometimes the best horror movies are the ones that can petrify the audience without using glaring tools like jump scares. In the same light, The Batman (2022) is an excellent thriller that offers fans and casual viewers alike something to appreciate on both sides of the cinematic spectrum: a good balance between dark, realistic tension and drama with uniform action sequences.

Artwork by Veronica Kuzma