"The Batman" Review | A Neon Ballroom Masterpiece

"The Batman" is a film that takes the strengths of its source material and creates a modern, poignant masterpiece out of it.

The batman review
"The Batman" is the best superhero movie since The Dark Knight dropped back in 2008! | © Warner Bros.

Fourteen years after Heath Ledger stunned us as the Joker back in 2008, Matt Reeves has taken the helm to deliver one of the most visually stunning and impressive superhero movies of our times. Headed by Robert Pattinson as a brooding, creepy Dark Knight, "The Batman" utilizes its lore and characters to create a movie that's a more atmospheric and shockingly poignant film than would have been imaginable with Ben Affleck or even Christian Bale at the helm.

It's a neon ballroom of colours, dripping with oranges and yellows in a city that itself seems to be skilfully concocted with a singular purpose to frighten. A halfway point between the sprawling mass of New York City and the Victorian incarnations of London, the world building here is almost Steampunk-esque. From the towering masses to the embittered streets of this Gotham City, nowhere seems safe, and every moment is flowing with a jarring sense of unease, like nothing can escape from the darkness that lurks within.

Don't worry, I am going to spoil absolutely nothing here, as this is a film that must be watched by anyone at all interested in superhero films.

"The Batman" Review: Harrowing Cinematography

In a dark Gotham City, brimming with terrors, Matt Reeves' direction here is sublime. Sure, this is no Belfast (a film that should surely win "Best Picture"), but the way that colour is used here reflects an artificial world, misrepresented by its leaders and plagued with gang violence. The rain falls slow and consistent, with the darkness of the night disguising the streets as if the brutality of "The Batman" should be hidden from the viewer.

Even in the daylight hours, and in Wayne Manor where Pattinson and Andy Serkis (who plays Alfred in the film) trade lines like they were born for these roles, the light is a clinical almost fluorescent white, where the contrast between blacks and white creates a juxtaposition that mirrors the outside world. After all, this is a world much like our own (as Batman films often depict) where representations may be black and white, but reality and truth are in shades of grey.

It's within this atmosphere that Reeves manages to tell his very own superhero tale. You see, Pattinson's Batman is not a whole lot better than his adversaries. A creepy and discomforting fellow who, even in the light, is seemingly always in the shade. His moralistic stances battle with a past that The Batman's protagonist is clearly still traumatised by, and through the frantic neon, flashing lights of the night clubs in particular, that sense of overwhelming anxiety and fear is instilled even within a character who would usually be the selfless hero we've become accustomed to.

The casting here is meticulous, with Colin Farrell's Penguin and Jeffrey Wright's gorgeous Inspector Gordon stealing the show even from Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz (who might be give one of the best Catwoman performances ever). There is not a mistake to be seen here, with every camera shot and every moment of screen-time painstakingly crafted to not only let the performances shine, but the world itself glow in a seemingly effortless pallet of light and dark.

"The Batman" Review: A Thriller to Beat

Robert Pattinson has a lot to work with here, and from the very opening moments of the film he melts into the role of Batman with ease. "The Batman" is a thriller along the lines of Seven, with almost Zodiac-killer inspirations in the way that its villain commits his crimes. The film begins in full-throttle, with very little exposition, and that's only a good thing. While the movie is – admittedly – far too long ("The Batman" clocks in at just-under three hours), the crime thriller aspect of this adventure is unparalleled in its genre.

From the investigations to the multiple murders that make up the bulk of "The Batman", the film manages to weave a complicated investigation together with a healthy dose of romance, humour, and emotional trickery. The stars are its villains, who are plentiful and show a darker side to Gotham than we have really ever seen in a Batman film – yes, even more so than in the Nolan movies! What makes the movie work so well is how all of these villains are interconnected, and all play a major role in not only the movie's main plot, but the multiple sub-plots that appear along the way.

It's in the film's exploration of Pattinson's Batman, though, where there could still be a bit of work done. It does seem a little odd, for example, that we barely see Pattinson without the mask. When he is out of the mask, though, he shines. However, a lot of this great work is undermined by the film's final act, which is maybe its biggest weakness. It is clear that "The Batman" is seeking to create a larger franchise, so a lot of context needs to be established in that final act, but it drags on far too long and makes you look back to the beginning of the movie thinking "Gosh, that was a long time ago!" Honestly, "The Batman" has more endings than Return of the King.

This is a pretty small gripe, though, in a movie that wastes no time booting itself into high-gear. It was a breath of fresh air to not have to sit through thirty minutes establishing that yes, Robert Pattinson is Batman now. "The Batman" manages to paint its characters and world in broad strokes without diverting to tedious exposition or any drawn-out characterization. Ultimately, this is a film that manages, like "Joker" did before it, to change the way that superhero movies can work. By that, I mean change things for the better, and that makes me excited about the future of the DCU.

"The Batman" Review: The Verdict

There is so much to say about "The Batman" that it is impossible to distil it into one comprehensible review. I haven't even touched on the film's exploration of extremism, the incredible things it does at a narrative level (to avoid spoilers, of course), or the film's incredible fight-scene choreography (honestly, for that to take a back seat in a superhero movie review is a testament to this film). I haven't touched on a lot, and that's partially because I want you to go out there and discover those things for yourself.

In the end, "The Batman" is one of the best superhero films to ever grace the silver screen. Its moody atmosphere, masterful cinematography and gripping performances put it at least on-par with Joker, and certainly the best traditional-style superhero movie since Nolan's trilogy. This is a film to not only enjoy, but to fall in love with, and I can assure you that you will.

  • Rating: 9/10
  • Release Date: March 03, 2022
  • Director: Matt Reeves
  • Genre: DC Superhero
  • Running Time: 2 Hours 56 Minutes