Cinematic Releases: The Batman (2022) - Reviewed



When it was announced that Robert Pattinson would be donning the cowl and cape and playing the newest iteration of Batman, the internet was on fire with speculation and anger. For whatever reason, Pattinson just cannot shake the stigma of the Twilight films even though he has been steadily working with fantastic directors on various arthouse projects. Admittedly, he is an intriguing casting choice, arguably an inspired one, but the rest of the elements of the movie need to come together as well. Matt Reeves' The Batman (2022) is an ambitious work that is equal parts messy and creative, daring to take the character out of the safe zone of previous adaptations.

Batman in this film is still quite inexperienced, it's his second year into his foray into vigilantism and the police force still views him as a weirdo and an outsider. The only one who trusts him is James Gordan (Jeffrey Wright) a lieutenant in the Gotham police force. It seems that a serial killer is on the loose and he exclusively targets the rich Gotham elite. After killing them brutally, the murderer leaves envelopes addressed to Batman that contain riddles and hints to his next target. Can Batman catch this so-called Riddler and stop him before he claims his next victim?

In previous films it always seemed like Batman's detective skills were an afterthought, even though his prowess has earned him the nickname "The World's Greatest Detective" in the comics. The Batman is a gritty police procedural first and an action film second--it's like they plopped Bats into David Fincher's Zodiac (2007). The early 2000s inspiration doesn't end there, Riddler's unhinged social media live stream rants and diabolical traps feel like an homage to the Saw franchise. The entire film has an "Aughts" aesthetic down to the color grading and cinematography. It's been long enough to where that style is becoming nostalgic and it's a trip to see it deployed in a modern blockbuster film.

Pattinson's portrayal of Bruce Wayne is morose and tortured, this version is not the self-confident playboy everyone is used to seeing. His Wayne is shirking his duties, not showing up to events and board meetings, too busy brooding in the Batcave, pouring over the investigation. Batman is a reflection of Gotham City, barely functional and full of darkness. When he is in costume, Pattinson comes off as chaotic and menacing, and from time to time he even makes mistakes (which I suspect might be divisive with audiences), but the small cracks in his exterior make him feel more human. 

Unfortunately, even over a three hour runtime, the narrative doesn't give him much of a character arc. He begins and ends the film a depressed train wreck, but perhaps that is the eternal fate of Batman. Zoƫ Kravitz's Catwoman is fine, she embraces her sensuality and cunning perfectly, but the romance between her and Batman is missing the intensity and spark that is needed for it to work. Honestly, the romantic subplot is treated casually, it never comes off as natural and the chemistry between the actors isn't quite there.

The Batman is firing on all cylinders when it comes to the technical aspects, the visuals and the score are top-notch. Every scene has outstanding framing choices and the use of highly saturated monochromatic lighting, specifically red and orange, is striking. The work of comic artist Lee Bermejo comes to mind, a grimy realism that is compelling. Michael Giacchino's new Batman theme is fantastic, epic and frisson-inducing, and it is used to great effect to enhance the mood.

The biggest aspect that brings this film down is the pacing and the length. It's just too damn long and the second act loses momentum completely. Reeves is understandably enamored with the setting but the investigation sequences drag on forever and it comes off as repetitive. There are a few cool action scenes to break things up, but there is a lack of urgency that will have people checking their watches. Luckily, it picks back in in the climax, but it might have lost the viewer's attention by then.

While not everything in this film works, it is refreshing to see a stand-alone take on Batman that isn't part of a franchise and tells a complete story. Hopefully this will set a precedent for more experimental films that use these characters in the future.

--Michelle Kisner