REVIEW: ‘The Batman’ Shifts the Dark Knight Into Noir

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The Batman

The Batman, co-written and directed by Matt Reeves, serves as the latest revamp of the Caped Crusader’s film franchise. Two years into his career as Batman, Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) is confronted with a string of grisly murderers committed by a man calling himself “The Riddler” (Paul Dano). With the help of Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), Batman uncovers a tangled web of secrets and lies that involves several of Gotham’s elite, including his late father. Further complicating matters is the presence of Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), a cat burglar who becomes entangled with Batman in more ways than one.

What I love about superheroes is that they blend perfectly well with other film genres, which is probably why the comic book medium has served as a fertile ground for TV and film adaptations. You can take John Constantine and drop him into a horror movie; you can take Captain America and drop him into a spy thriller. Reeves takes the film noir approach, which fits the detective aspect of Batman to a tee. In lieu of a trench coat and fedora, our protagonist wears a flowing cape, mask, and jet-black body armor. There’s a femme fatale—who just happens to own a pack of cats and breaks into safes. The protagonist keeps a journal in which he narrates his thoughts about the city. And Gotham City is often drenched in rain and shadows, which cinematographer Greig Fraser uses to craft several stunning images. From the Batmobile crashing through a wall of flame to Batman walking through shadows as bullets bounce off his armor, Fraser takes the idea of Batman putting the fear of God into his enemies and ramps it up to 11.

Reeves and co-writer Peter Craig, alongside Pattinson, also delve into Batman’s psyche in a way I haven’t seen since Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Bruce Wayne has chosen to dedicate himself to his mission as Batman and hasn’t made a public appearance in years, which is a point of contention between him and his butler/father figure Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis). Pattinson taps deep into the well of rage within Batman’s character. It’s reflected in how he fights, with inhuman speed and bone-breaking punches. He even tasers a man for far longer than necessary. It’s reflected in his voice, which is a low whisper that often escalates into a roar when he’s interrogating someone.

Pattinson also looks extremely gaunt and haunted at times; he doesn’t even bother to wipe off the eye makeup under his cowl. Reeves said that Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was a huge influence on his Batman, and it shows, from Pattinson’s long hair to his reclusive nature. Nirvana’s “Something In The Way” even plays at two key points and influenced Michael Giacchino’s score, especially the central leitmotif, which sounds like the perfect fusion of Danny Elfman’s Batman theme and Shirley Walker’s theme for Batman: The Animated Series. Between The Batman and Spider-Man: No Way HomeGiacchino continues to craft a superheroic sound that stays with the viewer long after the credits have rolled.

The supporting cast also has a great rapport with Pattinson, especially Kravitz and Wright. Pattinson and Kravitz have a chemistry that’s off the charts; Batman and Selina will be fighting one moment and locking lips the next. Wright brings the same sense of calm gravity to Gordon that he did to Uatu the Watcher in What If…? In fact, some of my favorite moments in the film come from Batman and Gordon working together. The two even do a “good cop, bad cop” routine when they catch the Penguin (Colin Farrell), or as the Penguin puts it, “good cop, bat-shit cop.” Having worked with Reeves on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes, Serkis is a solid presence as Alfred; I only wish he had more scenes.

My one issue lies with the villains of the piece. Dano’s Riddler is the main antagonist and the most interesting. There’s a method to his madness that actually positions him as a dark mirror to Batman. Dano also plays a character who’s a far cry from his usual performances in There Will Be Blood and Looper. His Riddler is genuinely terrifying, whether he’s in his dark green Zodiac Killer-inspired garb or sitting in a cell in Arkham Asylum. Farrell doesn’t fare as well; while the prosthetics used to transform him into the Penguin are impressive, his performance comes off as “wannabe Scarface.”John Turturro’s Carmine Falcone is honestly a more layered and interesting character, and in my opinion, he’s the one who should be receiving an HBO Max spinoff series.

The Batman serves as a superhero-infused take on the noir genre, with Robert Pattinson diving deep into the Dark Knight’s state of mind. If this film turns out to be a success—and it probably will be—I look forward to Reeves’ take on other elements of the Batman mythos.

The Batman premieres in theaters nationwide on March 4, 2022.


The Batman
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    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

The Batman serves as a superhero-infused take on the noir genre, with Robert Pattinson diving deep into the Dark Knight’s state of mind. If this film turns out to be a success—and it probably will be—I look forward to Reeves’ take on other elements of the Batman mythos.