Superheroes lead the way in entertainment, and make no mistake, Warner Bros.’ The Batman will lead both the box office and potentially a new era of Batman films–and for good reason. Directed by Matt Reeves (Planet of the Apes), we’re introduced to a familiar city and character in an entirely new way with an entirely new Batman, now played by Robert Pattinson. No casting for any other character generates as much controversy as Batman does, and while Pattinson may have failed to escape some initial hostility, he will not fail you as Batman, but I digress…for now.
The Batman is no origin story, instead picking up two years after Bruce Wayne makes his fateful decision to be Gotham’s vigilante and bring justice to the troubled streets. An anonymous and disturbed killer named the Riddler (Paul Dano) is targeting Gotham’s elite with increasing violence and calculation. As the dark detective investigates the cryptic clues left by the killer, we’re thrust into Gotham City’s seedy underground populated by an epic supporting cast that includes Colin Farrell, unrecognizable as Oswald Cobblepot (a.k.a. The Penguin), and John Turturro as Carmine Falcone. Together with Lieutenant Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), Batman must unravel the Riddler’s clues to save his city from the corruption that may bring it to its knees.
Batman is as iconic a character as it gets, so how does Matt Reeves’ reimaging of this icon stack up against its predecessors? Does Robert Pattinson rise to the occasion to win you over? Read on for three reasons to see The Batman in theaters this weekend when it hits theaters on March 4th.
1. Realism, Deduction, & Grit Take Center Stage
From the start, you can feel this Batman is different. There’s an intensely personal feel to the film that permeates every aspect. This intimacy carries over into how the infamous Gotham is portrayed. The cinematography painstakingly makes sure to convey this feeling of being in the muck with the characters and creates a grittiness both for the film and for Gotham as a city. In doing so, Gotham becomes almost a character in and of itself and this allows Reeves to give the world of The Batman a grit and realism uncommon to and much darker than most superhero films.
The mystery at the center of the plot and how Batman goes about attempting to solve it is what sets this film apart from its predecessors. While not devoid of great fight sequences, narrow escapes, and, of course, a Batmobile car chase, this is unquestionably a detective story. Instead of skipping ahead to the results, Matt Reeves slows things down as Bruce Wayne is finally portrayed as The World’s Greatest Detective on screen. The film brings us in, not as mere viewers watching things happen, but as partners actively experiencing the events of The Batman. We join Batman’s journey and process of solving the crimes just as he does, a puzzle for both Bruce Wayne and the audience to figure out.
2. It’s Called ‘The Batman,’ Not ‘Bruce Wayne,’ For A Reason
By now, we all know who Bruce Wayne is and how he became Batman. That origin story has been told and doesn’t need to be told again. Beyond wisely skipping the origin story, Reeves takes the creative decision a step further, giving Bruce Wayne minimal screen time throughout the film. For those worried about Robert Pattinson being behind the mask, whether he is a good Bruce Wayne or not barely matters given this. Arguably, Reeves does for Batman what Christopher Nolan did for Bruce Wayne with his Dark Knight trilogy, giving Batman layers not yet seen in a movie before. We’re all here for Batman in the end, and Pattinson brings his dark and menacing aura to the Caped Crusader, delivering a great crime-fighter who is troubled, conflicted, and hopeful all at the same time.
Further, this creative decision helps set the gritty and realistic world of Gotham City. Reeves has intentionally chosen to shift focus away from the billionaire Bruce Wayne and all his fancy toys and gadgets. As mentioned, this is a detective story first, not a traditional action film, and the lack of allusion to endless money and resources further grounds the film in that reality. Perhaps nothing else exemplifies this as much as the new Batmobile. A far cry from recent versions, it’s not a top-secret armored tank or ultra-gadgeted Bond car, but really more Mad Max than Bruce Wayne. It feels like someone one could really make without a crazy amount of resources, and for just that reason alone, it’s badass.
3. Is Batman A Hero? A Villain? Both?
One of the longest-running themes of the Batman mythos is the hero/villain complex. Who or what he is has always been a fluid dynamic that is part of the character and Reeves embraces this ambiguity of character. Through both his actions and words throughout the entirety of the film, we are led to question if Batman is more hero or villain, if he helps more than he hurts. As he gets deeper into trying to clean up Gotham’s corruption, the villainy of Gotham starts to seep in. Unlike most other representations of the Dark Knight, this Batman significantly, albeit unintentionally, contributes to aiding the villain and his plan. Indeed, it could be said that the Riddler’s plan could not have been achieved without Batman’s part in it and, as such, we’re forced to reckon with the question of duality where “hero” and “villain” become inextricably muddied. While there’s no final answer to this question, Pattinson’s Batman struggles with this internal tug-of-war as he is forced to make both good and bad decisions in the name of justice. It makes for a superhero movie that poses legitimate questions about the nature of heroism and forces both the audience and Batman to confront unpleasantly morally murky concepts. Ultimately, The Batman is an incredibly immersive film, a great (and relevant) story that is anchored by a particularly well-cast group of characters. If it’s not the definitive Batman movie, it might be close, and definitely begs to be seen in theaters.
The Batman is in theaters on Friday, March 4.