"What Reeves delivers is a riveting cat-and-mouse thriller, punctuated by scenes of intense, visceral action."unsplash.com/@actionvance

In January of 2003, Christopher Nolan agreed to take on a seemingly impossible challenge: to get the world to take superhero films “seriously”. In 2022, where 4 of the 10 highest-grossing films in the world are made by Marvel, this suggestion seems almost laughable. But we must remember that, prior to Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005), the superhero movie was a far cry from what it is today (one needs only look to Arnie’s Mr. Freeze for proof of this, with an honourable mention going to Danny DeVito’s stint as Penguin). With the Dark Knight trilogy, then, Nolan did not just create three of the best superhero films of time, he legitimised an entire genre. 

This was no mean feat. Following on from Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher’s work, Nolan had some very silly looking shoes to fill. But, against all odds, he was successful in his mission. The Dark Knight (2008), the second instalment in the trilogy, received eight Oscar nominations and won two: one for Best Sound Editing, and the other for Best Supporting Actor, awarded posthumously to Heath Ledger for his now-legendary portrayal of the Joker. Nolan’s trilogy proved to the world that the superhero genre deserves to be taken as seriously as any other in cinema, and the rest is history. 

“What you will find is a gripping neo-noir detective thriller”

Fast-forward to 2022, and the caped crusader is returning to the big screen once again, but this time it's Robert Pattinson donning the cowl, and Matt Reeves who is sat in the director’s chair. The cinematic climate is very different nowadays — thanks to Nolan’s efforts, there is no longer a need for superhero movies to prove themselves as legitimate pieces of cinema, and this is an immense part of what makes The Batman so incredible. You won’t find a trace of CGI in this movie, nor any of the hospital-exploding, tanker-flipping practical effects of Nolan’s trilogy. Instead, what you will find is a gripping neo-noir detective thriller, winding around twist after twist at a speed which would make David Fincher feel dizzy.

This is the first Batman film to really lean into the “world’s greatest detective” side of the character, and the results are fantastic. What Reeves delivers is a riveting cat-and-mouse thriller, punctuated by scenes of intense, visceral action. This is the darkest take on Batman we’ve ever seen — like Pattinson’s volatile vigilante, this movie does not pull any punches. Paul Dano’s Riddler is not a pantomime villain in a bright-green one-piece, but a demented serial killer in a homemade mask, and Batman’s desperate pursuit of him draws him into a criminal underworld rife with corruption, drugs, and violence.  

Robert Pattinson’s take on the caped crusader fits right into this atmosphere. His Bruce Wayne is not Christian Bale’s charismatic billionaire playboy, but a brooding recluse who isolates himself from society, still very much haunted by the murder of his parents. This is the most vulnerable we’ve ever seen Batman — he is only two years into his tenure as the Dark Knight, and is still finding his feet. Pattinson plays this masterfully: though subtle, his performance is extremely compelling, managing to convey a great deal by saying very little.

“Reeves’ take on the character is startlingly realistic”

In fact, the performances in this movie are fantastic all round. The casting choices are all spot on, and everyone rises to the occasion. Zoë Kravitz is especially memorable in her turn as Selina Kyle, as is Colin Farrell’s baffling disappearing act as the heavily prosthetic Penguin. However, just like The Dark Knight, it is the main villain here who truly steals the show. Paul Dano is genuinely terrifying as the unstable, psychotic Riddler, so that, whenever he appears, The Batman threatens to turn into an outright horror-flick. Reeves’ take on the character is startlingly realistic: this is not an eccentric villain from the pages of a comic book but a dangerous extremist very much from our world, and the results are chilling.   


Mountain View

The politics of Batman

The Batman’s gripping story and stellar performances are all complemented by, perhaps, the best cinematography in any superhero film to date. Cinematographer Grieg Fraser not only gives us some truly unforgettable fight sequences (and one particularly thrilling car chase), but also a number of wonderfully creative shots which look like they’ve been ripped right out of the pages of a Frank Miller comic. The icing on the cake of all this is undoubtedly the score. Michael Giacchino does a masterful job here: his minimalistic soundtrack knows just when to come in, and, more importantly, when to drop out. Hans Zimmer is a tough act to follow, but Giacchino gladly rises to the challenge.

With The Batman, Matt Reeves has proven that a superhero film doesn’t need CGI or elaborate stunts to keep us entertained for three hours, and, in doing so, has set a new standard for the next era of Batman films. With the film already greenlit for a full trilogy, I, for one, cannot wait to see where he goes next.