In the last few years, I have suffered major burnout on the character of Batman. Once, he was my favorite superhero. But between the Snyder movies that butchered the character, the over-abundance of animated movies or shows that range from middling to decent, and the overuse of characters like the Joker and Harley Quinn, I just grew tired. It seemed that all the aspects of the character that I loved were being shoved aside in favor for the stuff I couldn’t care less about.
Then this movie came along and reminded me why I loved this character so much.
Two years after the arrival of the Batman, crime in Gotham has only increased. Now, a riddle-obsessed serial killer has appeared and seemingly challenged the masked vigilante to a twisted game. Now, the world’s greatest detective must put all of his faculties to the test in order to find the self-proclaimed Riddler before he kills again. Along the way, he may discover a dark truth about his parents that he may not want to learn.
Of all the on-screen iterations of Batman we’ve seen in the last few decades, this one might just be my favorite. It focuses on the one aspect I’ve always found most compelling about the character: his mind. Sure, he’s strong, skilled, and has resources abound. But it’s his intellect that makes him such a force to be reckoned with. He is the world’s greatest detective, and this movie focuses almost exclusively on that.
It even goes so far as to give him an actual character arc! This movie presents a very reclusive and damaged version of Bruce Wayne/Batman, focused exclusively on his violent quest for vengeance. We get to see him grow and become a symbol, not only of fear, but one of hope. It’s a beautifully executed arc that gives this version of the character a level of depth he hasn’t seen on-screen since 2008.
Better yet, this movie makes strong efforts to actually make Batman scary. By which I mean the dude terrifying! My biggest problem with previous Batman films was that he never seemed all that frightening. This movie goes to great lengths to make the Dark Knight truly terrifying. Between its use of shadows, music, and his thumping footsteps, this movie gives us the first truly chilling, frightening cinematic version of the character.
Speaking of scary: let’s talk about our main antagonist, the Riddler. The Batman gives us my favorite version of this villain yet (granted, I’m not that big of a Riddler fan, so maybe don’t take that as gospel). His games are twisted and disturbing, but there are enough clues to actually win, provided that you’re paying attention. The screenwriter perfectly captured his egotism, both through how the games aren’t actually fair and how self-absorbed he truly is. Again: I’m not a die-hard fan of the character, so I’m not sure how he stacks up compared to some of his comic book counterparts.
I’m just glad that it’s not the god damn Joker again. Even if he does make a brief appearance, because we can’t just not do the Joker, apparently.
The other characters are all exceptionally well done, too. This movie gives us one of my favorite versions of Jim Gordon; his buddy-cop relationship with Batman is delightful (even if he really shouldn’t get away with half the shit he does). We get an on-screen Catwoman that actually makes the character interesting (I’m not a Catwoman fan, I’m sorry) and integrates her into the story in a way that actually works well. The Penguin is delightfully disgusting and despicable and I love him. All around, the characters are just really solid.
The cast is just as solid. Robert Pattinson is amazing as Batman (though his performance as Bruce Wayne leaves something to be desired). Zoë Kravitz delivers the greatest Catwoman performance to date, capturing a more kind, driven, and ferocious version of the character. Andy Serkis is an amazing pick for Alfred, even if his version is given very little screentime. Paul Dano is downright chilling as the Riddler, though the makeup department did him dirty; they made a fairly good-looking dude look like an absolute dweeb. And finally, Jeffrey Wright gives us one of the most lovable and badass versions of Jim Gordon in cinematic history.
To wrap up the positivity train, let’s talk about the visuals. Because god damn man, this is a good looking movie! The cinematography is drop-dead gorgeous! From its camera placement to the lighting and use of darkness, almost every shot in this movie is a delight on the eyes! The last time a film looked this good was the 2021 Dune movie!
Oh… they had the same cinematographer, Greig Fraser… cool!
It’s got phenomenal music, as well. It perfectly builds the tension of any given scene, whether it’s adding an extra bit of horror to the Riddler’s psychotic games or the terrifying presence of Batman. There are a few insert songs, but they’re rare enough and work well enough in their given scenes that it isn’t annoying.
Granted, I haven’t listened to the radio in a while. Chances are, they’ll have played said song to death by now.
The Batman is the best Batman movie we’ve gotten since 2008. Between its excellent visuals, characters, and performances, it’s definitely a huge step in the right direction for DC movies. It’s a much needed return to form. Hopefully, we’ll see more movies like it in the future.
Can’t wait for the inevitable sequel announcement. If only because I want to see the Snyder fanboys flip their lids.