The Batman (2022) Review
“They think I’m hiding in the shadows, but I am the shadows.”
It was raining this morning in the city of San Diego, coincidentally it was raining in Gotham City too. Matt Reeves did two brilliant things early on in the film. With a Bruce Wayne voice-over, he was able to appease anyone who had any qualms over the casting of Robert Pattinson. He also illustrated how the bat signal instilled fear amongst the criminals across the city of Gotham. Looking over their shoulder, into the darkness, waiting for this mythical creature to pounce on them for their crimes. It establishes early on the kind of reputation Batman has made for himself.
When the film was first announced with Matt Reeves at the helm, I knew the franchise was in good hands, after all he had outdone himself with the Planet of the Apes franchise. I was worried about the casting of Robert Pattinson however. While I have not seen the entire body of work he has done over the years, I have seen enough to know that while he tries to do the artistic independent film scene, I’ve never been convinced by any of his performances. Except for one Safdies brothers flick, I remained unconvinced that he could don the cowl and do a good job. But I trusted Matt Reeves to bring out the best in him.
And bring out the best in him he did! Robert Pattinson absolutely nailed Batman’s voice, he also took out a page from Tom Hardy’s playbook and utilized his eyes to emote under the cowl. His Bruce Wayne however I had a problem with, he was very stoic and uninteresting. But I suppose if you don a cape and cowl to manage your traumas, then you won’t be a very fun person to be around with.
One of my favorite aspects of the film was watching the developing relationship Batman has with Lieutenant Jim Gordon, played effortlessly by Jeffrey Wright. They share great moments together, often creating moments of levity within a murder mystery that can be quite heavy at times.
Andy Serkis reunites with fellow collaborator Matt Reeves, jumping into the role of butler and caregiver, Alfred. This time wielding a cane, I suppose to differentiate from the versions that came before. But the cane wasn’t pertinent to the character, in fact, it came across as an empty prop in Serkis’s hand. If it was due to an old injury, it was unconvincing, and if it was meant for style, Serkis didn’t look comfortable using one. In any case, while Serkis may be the king of motion capture, he still struggles to embody a live-action role that leaves a lasting impression.
Paul Dano as the Riddler did brilliant things for the majority of the film, but the character started to unravel when Dano started digging into his bag of tricks. Dano does this thing where his voice becomes high pitched, it cracks and it can be best described as a shriek. It baffles me that directors continue to allow him to do this, he’s done it in Looper, Little Miss Sunshine, and Let There Be Blood. I hate it when he does that, especially when he did hard work in developing another voice for the character, one that is menacing and creepy.
The character chewing all of the scenery however was Oz, I suppose short for Oswald Cobblepot, as he hasn’t earned the name The Penguin. In recent years Colin Farell has been doing scene-stealing work, and it’s no different here. I look forward to his HBO show and seeing him become the kingpin we know.
The only actor to be underutilized is John Turturro as Carmine Falcone. He is relegated to a background character, not leaving much of an impression when he does show up. It’s a shame because Turturro can be quite brilliant.
The score by Michael Giacchino has undertones seen in horror films, which fits the character like a glove. Moreover, when it comes to the scenes between Batman and Selina, it reminded me a lot of the motifs that used to play when James Bond was with a love interest, I thought it was neat to see the shift in tones.
In “Highway to the Anger Zone,” Giaccino scores one of my favorite scenes and it features the Batmobile. Yes, it’s the heavily marketed car chase involving Oz. When the engine ignites on that vehicle, it’s unlike anything else you’ve heard, they outdid themselves with the sound design here. What ensues thereafter, is by far one of the best car chases in film history, definitely in the world of Batman films. My only nitpick is the special fx team struggled in one particular moment, one featuring a fantastical element that contradicts the gritty realistic tone Reeves worked hard to establish. It left me to wonder if there was something else that could have been done to achieve the same effect.
I witnessed the film in Dolby, I have taken a liking to this format but after watching the film I regret not choosing to see it in a bigger screen like IMAX. The film does little to utilize the powerful speakers in a Dolby auditorium. However, the film does feature beautiful cinematography which would have benefitted from an IMAX viewing.
Matt Reeves did something special by shooting the film with the Arri Alexa LF anamorphic camera lenses, giving this murder mystery the style it deserves while providing something that looks visually different from what we’ve come to expect from a Batman film. He also pays tribute to what’s come before, a gritty realistic take on the character pays tribute to Christopher Nolan. There is also a scene where the lighting is purple in a blink and you’ll miss it moment, which pays tribute to Joel Schumacher. I’d have to watch the movie again, but if I am not mistaken Giaccino used a Danny Elfman motif briefly in the score which pays tribute to Tim Burton’s Batman. Lastly, Pattinson’s cowl does a subtle tribute to the eyebrows on Adam West’s cowl. Reeves clearly has a love for the character, and he’s doing him justice.