“The Batman” shines as a brutally gothic adaptation


Photo courtesy of IMDb.

Thomas Hartill, Former Editor in Chief

With 40 years of sequels, reboots, and six different actors playing the character, it’s somewhat hard to believe that another movie centered on the caped crusader is coming out.

Directed by Matt Reeves, the latest theatrical iteration of the character has long been anticipated by fans. With Robert Pattinson first being cast in the lead role in May 2019 and an original release date set for June 2021, The Batman has been in the back of the public’s mind for nearly three years. So, it comes with no surprise that social media is abuzz with anticipation to see this latest gritty take on the character. Despite its rather dark tone, The Batman is rated PG-13, not R. Initial reports stated the budget for the film was a relatively modest $100 million, but new information indicates it’s somewhere closer to $200 million.

The Batman tells the events of the week following Halloween in Batman’s second year of fighting crime in Gotham City. During this week, a new serial killer emerges under the moniker The Riddler. With each killing, a cryptic note is left addressed to “the Batman.” Simultaneously, an election for mayor of Gotham City is fast approaching and an increasingly active criminal underworld begins to seep into Bruce Wayne’s focus.

With dozens of versions of the character between comic books, television, and film, fans have come to formulate countless vehemently justified opinions as to how the character is “supposed” to be written. Whether fans think it should be darker, lighter, funnier, more serious, less political, more political, it seems as though no matter what, fans aren’t happy with any adaptation. But with his take on the character, Matt Reeves seems to be directly conversing with previous versions. 

It’s no secret that over the past 10 years, Batman has been an increasingly dark and brooding character, even going so far as to gun down criminals in cold blood in a high tech batmobile in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Yet with Robert Pattinson’s version, one of the most depressed yet, some of the most poignant moments arrive when we see the vulnerability and hope in the caped crusader. 

While an opening voiceover details Wayne’s mission to strike fear into the hearts of Gotham, it is quickly clear that this is an immature Batman still learning to fight crime. Because he’s so early into his career, this adaptation is able to show Batman grow into his cowl as he seeks to learn what he can do for the people of Gotham City.

On the technical side of things, The Batman is easily among the most impressive comic book films to date. Shot by director of photography Greig Fraser (most well known for his work on 2021’s Dune), the film has a distinct visual style as dark as its main character. Utilizing low exposure and limited light sources, Fraser portrays a rain-soaked, shrouded Gotham City reminiscent of Hollywood’s noir film past. This style reaches its zenith in a spectacularly photographed car chase featuring the most brutishly menacing Batmobile put to film.

Equally impressive is the original score from composer Michael Giacchino, likely one of the greatest working in the industry today. With Bruce Wayne being portrayed as a vampire-adjacent, brooding 20-something, it’s particularly effective that the music of the film has a vampiric quality to it. With an intense pounding and a simultaneous shrieking piercing, the score strikes fear into the audience much the same as the main character himself, who nearly appears to be a horror movie monster at times.

Yet nothing is more scary in the film than Paul Dano’s take on The Riddler, one which seems to take as much inspiration from the zodiac killer as it does from modern day online political extremists. The film even opens with a truly chilling murder scene featuring the character, one which could have come straight out of a true crime horror film. And of course, Dano’s performance is nothing short of perfection, as he balances the fine line between sympathetic and downright deranged.

The only real downside to the film is its somewhat overstuffed plot. With three different villains (and an exponential number of side-villains) and countless twists and revelations in the script, The Batman can feel a little overwhelming at times. But quite honestly, this doesn’t really detract from the overall experience too much.

While it may posture itself as the latest superhero epic, it’s clear that The Batman is far too complicated to be placed into just one genre. With hints of political corruption, vampire horror, and superhero crusading, The Batman is a three-hour-long behemoth of a film, one which needs to be seen to be believed.