The Batman

The (Definitive) Batman - 9/10

by Jad Sammour

It sure feels good to watch an excellent super hero film - I don't think this film can be considered as one and this is why it is good: it's a film that brings back a beloved character and gives him a thematic, cinematic, and structural update. The Batman met my expectations and proved to be the iteration of Batman I've been waiting for (I like it better than Nolan's take on the Batman... shoot me).

This dark, gritty, grounded, and stylish detective neo-noir film uses the Batman and DC lore to portray a timeless narrative that comes hand-in-hand with corruption, crime, and wealth and adheres to genre tropes and story beats synonymous with detective noir films. I can compare it to Joker (2019) in the sense that Joker used the structure of Taxi Drive and The King of Comedy and slapped a DC comics texture on top to sell a psychological thriller to the masses. The Batman does the same by borrowing many beats and elements from noir and detective films while adding the gothic style of Gotham city and DC characters, to sell a film about corruption, crime, and wealth. 

From the (amazing) opening sequence, the film sets a tone that accompanies it for the rest of the runtime. This take on Batman was really fresh and makes some changes that no iteration of the character has ever done. These changes really worked and improved many questionable (logical and logistic) aspects of the character. 

Robert Pattinson’s Batman took me a few minutes to get used to, and I liked him about halfway throughout the film. His version of Bruce Wayne is barely explored and is left as a mystery with dialogue filling the gaps; no flashback to the over-saturated sequence of the Wayne murders or any of Batman's backstory – he is Batman the way a detective in a detective film is a detective. And here the focus on Batman was striking: Bruce Wayne was barely featured in the film and most of the runtime was spent with Pattinson in the cowl (which design I am not a big fan of but I prefer over many). Robert Pattinson portrays Bruce Wayne as a psychologically troubled young man trying to do the right thing, no matter the personal sacrifice. Wayne’s tortured psyche bleeds through the cowl on many occasions. I liked this version of Batman and I think it’s my favorite - especially by leaning more into his detective side, his psychological disturbances, and his brutality.

Selina Kyle portrayed by Zoe Kravitz was a very good character with more development than the titular character. Paul Dano’s Riddler isn’t a strong villain in the traditional sense but his actions spoke higher than his persona. Colin Farrell’s The Penguin will be iconic in the future. Jeffery Wright and Andy Serkis’ portrayal of Jim Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth respectively, didn’t stand out in any major way. John Turturro was surprisingly good as Carmine Falcone.

The film’s script took its time with the story. Even the structure, which resembled that of detective noir films, was very fresh while it isn't: the thing is that we got so used to a certain formula, that bringing back an "old" one feels refreshing. The three-hour runtime is felt but justified, and never boring. In fact, I didn’t want the film to end because The Batman kept getting better. It’s not, like many films, an engaging first act followed by a slugging and stretched second that leads to a third act that either works or not (and tries to be a spectacle rather than a resolution). The Batman begins with a somewhat not very engaging first act, then it gets better as it finds its footing. The film doesn’t get boring or desperate to stretch the story. The twists and developments keep you hooked up until the end. The film did have a political message that posits a retrospective on many failures in society, many things taken for granted, and the status of wealth and power. I do not want to spoil the message but I believe that the political statement of the film is bleak and based on a current deadlock we are facing – sadly the film doesn’t follow through with it or even service it, but I think many will appreciate it. The script manages to cram in so many characters and events without feeling bloated. The work on organically establishing and using many iconic Batman characters and backstories was on-point and I really liked the focus on crime and corruption in Gotham as the driving force of the story.

Matt Reeves did a terrific job directing this film. The director of photography, Greig Fraser (Dune, Rogue one), worked well with Reeves and they did a terrific job at shooting this film, and what elevated the visuals of the Batman is the stunning production design that brought back the Goth to Gotham that was severely missed in previous films (yes, I’m talking about Nolan’s bland Gotham). The way The Batman was shot feels auteur-istic to an extent. It doesn’t feel like a mass-produced studio film straight out of a production line (like Marvel’s happy films). The minimal use of CGI helped ground the film in realism. Sure, there is a certain suspension of disbelief, but it helped selling many elements. I am not sure if the film didn’t heavily use CGI or if the CGI was very good, all I know is that unlike many blockbuster films, nothing (like an overuse of green screens and CG elements) took me out of the experience. The action sequences were really well-directed and did not rely on the usual "fast cuts + close ups + shaky cam" combo. I was happily immersed into the world of The Batman.

Sound played an integral role in The Batman: Michael Giacchino’s score was befitting to the image and his musical compositions really helped the story. Even the sound mix and design were major storytellers.

Now what I disliked about the film was some character decisions and conveniences in the plot that were, frankly, stupid. Sometimes the cinematography was too dark. Dano's Riddler was 'comedic' more than terrifying. 

In the end, The Batman is a winner in my books. This new take on Batman is the definitive iteration of the character and the iconic Gotham City. The update of the source material while remaining faithful to it and observing it under a modern lens brought a much needed update.

Connect with Jad Sammour

View other reviews by Jad Sammour