If you’ve been long craving an adaptation that is true and accurate to its comic book origins, The Batman might be exactly what the doctor ordered. Whether you’re an avid comic book reader, nostalgic for the DC animated universe, or an MCU stan, you will enjoy this film. The Batman is undoubtedly and unequivocally the best comic book movie of the decade and it is universally appealing. Between you and me, it blows the Nolan trilogy out of the water. (But that’s just my opinion.) The 3-hour runtime passes effortlessly as the mystery unfolds and the viewer is pulled deeper into Gotham’s underground. That’s another thing that sets The Batman apart from its predecessors: it’s actually a detective story.
Right away, the film begins with a confident hail of familiar Bruce Wayne narration and stunning noir shots of the city. I could almost smell the pages of a near-mint issue of Detective Comics. The iconic narrative boxes of the comics seemed to float from the screen in front of me as Robert Pattinson’s youthful yet gruff voice established rapport with the audience. The Batman’s Gotham is among the most accurate on screen. The film’s chosen color grading emphasizes the gothic buildings and singles out the GCPD’s blues from the city’s sepia. There are many references to its real-life counterpart of New York City. The art direction and cinematography are beautiful, inside and outside of the action scenes. The Batman may be the first live action CBM that’s made me think, this actually deserves an Oscar. If you’ve already fallen in love with the theme song by Michael Giacchino, you won’t be disappointed as the score plays plentifully throughout the film.
The cast is the crown jewel of The Batman. Zoe Kravitz’s Catwoman is easily the most faithful adaptation to date. The Selina Kyle from the pages of Frank Miller’s Year One is brought to life in her. Compared to Anne Hathaway’s high tech cat burglar, Zoe Kravitz plays a proletarian of humble origins just trying to make ends meet. She is a streetwise girl’s girl who’s fought for everything she has and so identifies more with felines than humans. Acting as a parallel to Bruce, she too seeks vengeance.
Colin Farrell’s Penguin is both a serious adaptation of the character while also serving as some of the best comedic relief in today’s CBMs. He even seemingly wears platform shoes; subtle details like that are peppered throughout the whole film. If you’re like me, you might be getting sick of the forced one-liners of Marvel movies. The humor in The Batman comes easily. It’s natural, absolutely hilarious, and not at all out of place.
Matt Reeves has made it clear that his Batman is young and less experienced à la that of Year One and Scott Snyder’s Zero Year. Don’t expect the older, more experienced Bruce Waynes of Affleck, Bale, or Keaton. In fact, don’t expect Bruce Wayne at all. There is only Vengeance. In a few rare moments, we see Bruce through Alfred’s eyes: a boy still struggling with separating himself from the Bat and from his past. You won’t see the billionaire playboy because he doesn’t exist yet. That’s a persona that took years of mental discipline to create. Instead, there are moments when the orphaned little boy will sneak up on you.
Ironically, Gordon may be the only person that understands the Bat other than Alfred. He sees Vengeance in his purest form. Jeffrey Wright’s Gordon is a fresh and charismatic take on the beloved Commissioner (before he’s Commissioner). The relationship between him and the Bat is a surprisingly intimate one. There is a knowingness between the two that didn’t quite come through in previous iterations. Robert Pattinson’s incredible ability to emote complex thoughts with only his eyes plays a part in this. In fact, The Batman is the ultimate showcase of Robert Pattinson’s acting chops. There are moments when the viewer can almost literally see the gears turning behind the cowl. Pattinson keeps the lower half of his face stoic and emotionless per Batman’s usual fashion. But this poker face often gives away as his eyes display menace, curiosity, empathy, and even fear and sadness.
The Batman keeps me coming back. I could watch this film a thousand times over. Why? I don’t quite know. Maybe it’s nostalgia. The comic book influences are very clear. There is currently a box set available for preorder that includes the three books Reeves indicated were inspirations for the movie: Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s The Long Halloween, Darwyn Cooke’s Ego and Other Tails, and Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Year One. However, I personally saw influences from a few other books come through as well, including Snyder’s Zero Year, Loeb’s Hush, and (towards the end) No Man’s Land. If you’re a fan of any of these Batman stories, DC, or comics in general and haven’t seen The Batman yet, rush to the theaters this weekend. It’s worth every second and beyond every penny.
The Batman: A True Comic Book Adaptation
Universally enjoyable, true to its origins, and a full-on noir detective story.