“I wish I could say that I’m making a difference but I don’t know.” This thought, spoken through an opening narration by Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson), is often grappled with throughout this riveting examination of the psyche of “The Batman.”
When the serial killer known only as Riddler (Paul Dano) begins taking the lives of Gotham City’s most powerful, a Batman that is only in the second year of his crime-fighting endeavor must work with police Lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and cat-burglar Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz) to try to stop him. Together, the three hunt Riddler down and in the process get to the bottom of a vast conspiracy that holds large implications for the entire city, including the Wayne family legacy.
Unlike films in the franchise that came before it, Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” is a grounded detective story throughout. However, that isn’t to say that the film is without action. There is plenty of hard-hitting and violent action that is unlike anything audiences have ever experienced in a Batman film. A car chase sequence involving the Penguin (Colin Farrell) is particularly amazing. The white-knuckled action is made even stronger with Michael Giacchino’s brilliant score that beautifully encapsulates the film’s themes of fear and hope.
The greatest strength of “The Batman” is how well it understands the dichotomy of the character. Pattinson’s Bruce is a character that is on the verge of losing everything that makes him human. The only relationship that Bruce Wayne has throughout the film is with his butler and father-figure Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis). While Bruce tells Alfred that he doesn’t view him as family, something inside him knows that if he loses this one person, he will lose whatever he has left of his soul and humanity.
Once he dons the cowl, Bruce embraces the darkness inside him and becomes his true self. He understands that what he does as Batman may very well be for naught. However, he knows that if he doesn’t push himself to be the savior Gotham needs, he’ll fail his family’s legacy. Pattinson does a magnificent job portraying the pain and obsession that drive Batman to do what he does.
Throughout the film, Riddler forces Batman to confront himself and his mission. The mind games and emotional pain that is inflicted on Batman are gripping. Dano’s Riddler is a frightening presence, often leaving viewers in horror over the way he composes himself in the role. The only issue that some might have with how the character is handled is how easy the majority of his riddles are to solve. There are several that are so obvious that the audience will likely guess their answers before the characters in the film do.
Kravitz’s take on Catwoman is truly a unique force of nature. Her relationship with Batman lies at the film’s heart. The two are able to teach each other things about themselves that help them both become better individuals. Kravitz and Pattinson share remarkable chemistry and embody the best parts about the iconic relationship between these two characters.
Clocking in at just about three hours, “The Batman” doesn’t at all feel its length. However, there are a couple of plotlines that the film devotes a significant amount of time to that end up going nowhere. These could have noticeably been cut down to make the film flow even better.
“The Batman” is a triumph. It often transcends the comic book genre in ways that feel fresh and exciting. Although it isn’t flawless, this is a film that breathes new life into the Batman franchise and redefines what superhero films can be.