Action Crime

Review: ‘The Batman’ is a Masterful Reinvention of a Tried-and-True Comic Book Franchise

February 28, 2022Ben MK

Seldom does a superhero movie comes along that challenges audiences' perceptions of the genre. For the Batman franchise, however, it's a trend that's repeated itself over and over again. Whether it's Tim Burton's gothic take on Bob Kane and Bill Finger's classic creation, Joel Schumacher's colourful and comic-book-inspired turns, or Christopher Nolan's more grounded trilogy, Gotham City's caped crusader has never been shy about reinventing himself. And with The Batman, director Matt Reeves continues that tradition, pitting the Dark Knight against some familiar foes — this time, with a crime thriller twist.

Starring Robert Pattinson as a Bruce Wayne with only two years of crime-fighting experience under his utility belt, the film finds the citizens of Gotham facing the promise of renewal while also grappling with the terrifying reality of having a serial killer in their midst. With mayoral elections in full swing, political newcomer Bella Reál (Jayme Lawson) is asking Gothamites to take a stand against the status quo and to vote for a real change from their official representatives. At the same time, though, a mysterious masked man calling himself the Riddler (Paul Dano) is turning his own frustration with the lies being spewed by the city's leaders into action. Setting his murderous sights on such high-profile targets as the mayor and the police commissioner, the Riddler begins his campaign of terror on Gotham, never missing an opportunity to taunt the Batman with puzzling clues every step of the way.

Enter Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), a femme fatale with a penchant for felines and motorcycles, who might just hold the key to unlocking the Riddler's mysteries. A crafty cat burglar with lethal combat skills who also happens to works as a hostess at the Iceberg Lounge, the highly exclusive nightclub owned by ruthless and reclusive crime kingpin Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) and run by his right-hand man, the Penguin (Colin Farrell), Selina is drawn into the web of bloody intrigue when her friend, who appears to have ties to one of the Riddler's victims, goes missing. But can the Batman trust her and call her an ally? And how do Bruce and his own beloved, late parents — a well-respected and well-known couple with a long-standing history of philanthropy as one of Gotham's founding families — find themselves tragically linked to the cesspool of corruption and greed plaguing the city?

Unlike previous Batman installments, the result doesn't concern itself with such grandiose, supervillain-esque plots as poisoning the entire city with toxic gas or brainwashing its unsuspecting population. Instead, Reeves and co-writer Peter Craig reimagine the story not so much as an outlandish comic book spectacle, but as a tightly-wound and suspenseful thriller centering on the hunt for a serial killer. Make no mistake, The Batman unequivocally delivers on the jaw-dropping, blockbuster action set pieces that fans of superhero movies have no doubt come to expect from the genre. However, it's the film's more dramatic and thematically darker aspects — which strongly evoke the feeling of a comic book movie by way of David Fincher — that truly define it.

Of course, this would all be in vain if Pattinson didn't live up to the hype. Fortunately, not only does the 35-year-old actor shatter expectations and prove himself one of the best Caped Crusaders ever, his portrayal is a reminder that the key to a good Batman is a good Bruce Wayne. Suffice to say, Christian Bale may have come the closest to fleshing out Bruce's emotional trauma, but it's Pattinson who perfectly captures the psychological anguish of the role. And with a brand new Batverse on the horizon, the future is looking brighter than ever for the Dark Knight.

The Batman releases March 4th, 2022 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong language, and some suggestive material. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 55 min.

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