The Batman (2022) – Film Review
Director: Matt Reeves
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano
By Roger Crow
Even for a hardcore Batman fan, the thought of spending three hours watching another movie featuring the Dark Knight was daunting. I needn’t have worried. The Batman, for this fan at least, is the best of the saga since 2008.
It’s not that Ben Affleck’s time in the bat-suit was a complete waste, but Batman should never be a supporting character. And in many movies, such as …Forever, …and Robin, …vs Superman and Justice League, he was sharing too much of the spotlight.
This offering from Matt Reeves is essentially a revamp of Seven, via a Cure video, with moments of glorious grandeur.
Robert Pattinson does a fine job as tortured orphan Bruce Wayne, who should spend his time doing philanthropic acts, but prefers beating up bad guys or moping in his cave while butler Alfred (Andy Serkis) moans about his lack of kindness towards the needy. As well he might. Yes, you look moody in your guyliner Bruce, but share the wealth.
“Plays with the shadows”
It opens with a claustrophobic scene of voyeurism set to the strains of Ave Maria. The heavy breathing antagonist eventually claims his first victim in a creepy moment which sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Yes, it’s The Riddler, but any memories of Frank Gorshin or Jim Carrey are long gone. This is a Batman villain for the incel age, whose motives are germane to the story, but whose actions are culled from Heath Ledger’s Joker. Creepy video messages, extreme close ups, Saw-style threats.
The presence of Batman as a genuine detective is hugely rewarding, and it helps that we, the amateur ‘tecs the audience, get to play along like one of those brilliant Arkham video games of recent years.
Matt Reeves, one of the pioneers of in-car crashes (where the camera is positioned in the back seat and we witness the carnage that ensues) gets to employ the same gags here, and there are plenty of those stunts. He also plays with the shadows like a master; Batman illuminated by gunfire as he takes down another band of criminals is stunning.
Zoë Kravitz is perfect as the latest incarnation of Selina Kyle, the slinky heroine whose mask looks like it was bought from Poundland.
There’s also a cheapness to Batman’s mask, like it was crafted by a final year art student and then stuck together with gaffer tape. It’s not a bad thing at all.
As the story unfolds, and the scale of deceit is revealed via a breadcrumb trail of clues and Moonpig-style cards, we in the audience feel very smug as we’ve been included in the drama rather than kept at arm’s length. We don’t level-up like in the games, but on a personal level, we feel rewarded in so many more ways.
Jeffrey Wright’s Commissioner Gordon is a perfect bit of casting, while an unrecognisable Colin Farrell as Penguin is splendid. And there’s a reminder of what a great actor John Turturro can be when he’s not hampered by awful Transformers scripts.
Threading its way through the drama is Michael Giacchino’s pulse-pounding, ominous score. Moody, operatic and portentous, in all the right places.
Obviously Reeves doesn’t play all of his aces straight away. The Batmobile’s arrival, like Mad Max’s V8 Interceptor, is a terrific moment, threatening one bad guy in a scene of highway carnage which will have many swerving in their cinema seats.
And as the showdown between eponymous hero and nutcase psychopath plays out with chilling magnetism, the third act reaches a stunning crescendo as the bad guy plays his final trick. It’s an epic showstopper with a small army who feel as chilling as Paul Dano’s iconic psychopath.
“Reward is huge”
When our hero strikes a flare, the scene is set for one of the most moving Batman moments in decades. Perhaps ever. Bruce Wayne took 2.5 hours to emerge from his self obsessed funk, but when he finally does the right thing, the reward is huge.
Not everyone will like it. One viewer didn’t like R-Patz, okay R-Batz as the hero, which is fine. For me he was spot on, and though the pay-off with a couple of antagonists in prison cells goes on far too long, Warner Bros’ franchise is at least in safe hands if Reeves returns for a sequel. (A Zoë Kravitz Catwoman spin-off is also a welcome possibility).
It’s a tribute to the film makers that they manage to make Liverpool look seamlessly like Gotham City on the verge of imploding. (The first time I’ve seen a Batman movie and had fond memories of visiting an on-screen theatre).
As someone who grinds their teeth every time masks and costumes appear out of thin air thanks to nano tech (ugh), thank heavens Batman wears a real costume rather than a digital one.
If you love great movies, see it on the biggest screen possible with the best sound system and prepare to be amazed. This Batman, like the addition to the usual title, is the definite article.