Is ‘The Batman (2022)’ the Best Batman Movie?
The Batman (2022) sits comfortably near the top of the long list of films about the superhero. Directed by Matt Reeves, the film stars Robert Pattinson as Batman and Zoë Kravitz in the role of Catwoman.
The film, thankfully, does not give us yet another rendition of Bruce Wayne’s backstory. Instead, we jump into a Gotham where Batman is known and feared, by criminals and cops alike. The beginning of the film contextualizes Bruce’s decision to take on the persona of Batman, a good move for a somber film to make. It also sets up the main theme of the film: how hiding behind a mask can liberate our true self.
Though ‘The Batman’ is a 3 hour long film, it never feels too long. The movie has many interwoven subplots that are able to engage the audience. The story is able to resolve each one of them masterfully, without being convoluted. Instead, each storyline is given an appropriate amount of screen-time, without feeling either rushed or overdrawn. The result is a cohesive film that is able to tell many stories all at once.
Pattinson’s Batman is silent and quick-witted, watching before he makes a move. His Bruce Wayne is equally unstable, erratic and immature. With his manic appearance as Bruce, contrasting with the masked reservedness of Batman, we see the stark difference between the two, and how Bruce uses Batman as an outlet. The movie does more than just follow the actions of the superhero. Instead, it seeks to explore the significance of Batman. To the city, he is a beacon of vengeance and fear, and has influenced others to take justice into their own hands. To Bruce himself, he is an escape from reality and responsibility. At the end of the film, he is forced to confront this reality and chooses to take responsibility for his influence
The film leans into Batman’s role as a detective, an often underplayed aspect of the superhero. We see his contentious relationship with the police force, contrasted by the trust he and Inspector Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) share. The inspector’s temperament complements Batman’s perfectly, and the two feel like partners when on-screen together.
Paul Dano as the Riddler embodies the role of a crazed supervillain perfectly, with his performance bordering on frightening at points. His commitment to the role is evident. The use of this particular villain adds the mystery element to the film. While this facilitates Batman in his detective role, the film could do more to show the audience how Batman arrives at the answers more. In particular, Dano provides a brilliantly jarring performance in his scene in Arkham Asylum, where we are shown the true extent to his delusions.
Zoë Kravitz portrays arguably the best on-screen depiction of Catwoman. Though she shares good chemistry with Pattinson, and is stunning, her character is far more three-dimensional than the audience would expect. Kravitz’s Catwoman has her own motivations and agency, and is not just a prop to Batman’s needs. While Catwoman is usually portrayed as cold and callous, this film’s portrayal is sympathetic and vulnerable, making the character extremely likable.
Taking a unique perspective, Batman’s own responsibility, as well as the Wayne family’s role in the city’s legacy is a focus of the film. The film is not shy to address the family’s shadowy past, and the move to not show the parents’ death is a good one, as it stops the characters being too sympathetic. Bruce’s decision to dress as a bat, and fight criminals instead of using his immense wealth to better the community is also called into question. Despite being an orphan, Bruce had many privileges that others did not share. The film is bold enough to question itself, and ask why it is his story we chose to tell when many people have suffered even more than him.
The concept of vigilantism is also called into question. Batman has inspired countless masked men to work outside the law to carry out what they consider justice. The justice they seek, however, is cruel and destructive. We see Batman transform from an agent of justice to an agent of hope when he realizes the impact that he has had.
The use of social media is an important factor in the film. It is through this that the Riddler is able to band together a group of equally disenfranchised individuals to run over the city. Behind the anonymity that social media provides, these people are able to hide in the shadows, communicate in secret and act as an eco-chamber for each other. This is a unique and modern take that ties perfectly with Batman’s themes of identity and anonymity.
Perhaps the most important element in a Batman story is Gotham City. The depiction of Gotham is so central to the story because it is the city itself that has created not only every villain in the film but Batman himself. Reeves’ Gotham is able to show this right from the first scene. We are shown a dingy cesspool of a city, crawling underneath the city’s towering skyscrapers and tall bridges, a perfect representation of the corruption that is underlying the entire city. Crime is at every level, as we are shown throughout the film. While we are shown the petty theft, the gang initiations, even simple graffiti at the beginning, over the course of the movie, we see how corruption roots out from the very top level of Gotham. The city feels lived in and lived in by the very worst.
The film’s action sequences are shot at wide angles, and with minimal shaky-cam. Instead, the audience is shown the well-choreographed scenes, and can appreciate Batman’s fighting abilities.While the film is often dark and grungy, it manages to not be too dour. In fact, the aesthetic choice aligns with the tone of the film. Gotham is a dark and dingy place, and the cinematography is able to capture this well. Several scenes in the film utilize neon lights or muzzle flares to capture uniquely beautiful shots.
Micheal Giacchino has composed the score of the movie, which switches between grand, orchestral music and slow, brooding alternative rock, setting the contrast between the two aspects of Gotham – the corrupt, lavish elite, and the scrounging slum-dwellers.
The Batman (2022) brings many new elements to the story and explores the superhero’s role in a uniquely introspective way. Each actor is able to expand on their character and deliver a brilliant performance.The movie ends with the setup to a sequel, and we cannot wait for more from the franchise! With an 85% Rotten Tomatoes score, The Batman is quickly cementing itself as one of the best films in the heroes saga, and we would highly recommend it for all superhero fans.