[Review] ‘The Batman’ movie provides an exquisite standalone superhero experience

Robert Pattinson and Zoë Kravitz pose as Batman and Catwoman for The Batman. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Warner Bros. Pictures

Robert Pattinson and Zoë Kravitz pose as Batman and Catwoman for “The Batman.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Travis Newbery, Editor-in-Chief

Batman has had a long history of on-screen adaptations: the iconic Adam West series in the 60s, the Tim Burton series in 1989 and the 90s, Christopher Nolan’s more grounded “Dark Knight” trilogy in the 2000s and 2012 and, most recently, Ben Affleck’s take on the Caped Crusader within the DC Extended Universe. Now, after years of development and a COVID-19-plagued production and release, “The Batman” is finally here, meeting critical acclaim and immense box office success.

The movie stars include Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Paul Dano as Edward Nashton/Riddler, Jeffrey Wright as James Gordon and Colin Farrell as Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin. The story follows Batman during his second year fighting crime until he finds himself at the center of a massive conspiracy to unmask corruption within Gotham City, orchestrated by a meticulous serial killer called the Riddler.

At almost three hours long, the story is developed very well. Plenty of twists and gasp-worthy reveals make the movie compelling and even more engaging. Mixing the superhero, noir and serial killer genres provides a unique plot structure as well as a take on the typical Batman movie never before seen on the big screen. Director Matt Reeves’ influences are clear, with the biggest one I saw being the serial killer and detective epic “Se7en.”

The writing is gripping and witty. The main characters are all nicely developed in a perfect balance, leaving me more sympathetic for them, but also wanting more. Viewers can especially connect with Wayne, whose usual orphan-turned-hero story is turned on its head when he is forced to confront the dark truths of his family’s legacy.

Originally sparking controversy, Pattinson’s casting as Batman turned out to be a fantastic choice. Pattinson’s acting is extremely dynamic, as he brings a new level of emotional depth to the Bat; in my opinion, he is the best Batman ever put to screen.

Kravitz also does well as Catwoman, creating a more grounded and moving Selina Kyle than previous portrayals. Farrell’s Penguin has also received heavy praise too. Under layers of prosthetics and heavy makeup, Cobblepott brings just the right amount of comedy and menace. He’s even getting his own spinoff show.

“The Batman” is a visual masterpiece. Its unparalleled cinematography is beautiful, striking and creative to no end, framing Gotham to give it just as much personality as any of the characters. Great set pieces, lighting and fight choreography create memorable fight scenes presented more creatively than other contemporary superhero movies.

The movie’s philosophy and themes are simply riveting. At the beginning, Batman is an angry, vengeful phantom, using fear and a stark ideal of justice to police the streets of Gotham. The Riddler, while crazed himself, is a direct response to Batman’s methods, working to bring the city’s corruption into the spotlight using terror and savagery. While following the Riddler’s trail of blood and breadcrumbs, Batman realizes this and understands he must become something more than the feared vigilante the public knows him as.

There is a really great scene towards the end where someone parrots Batman’s signature “I am vengeance” line back at him, and his response is a masterfully acted concoction of hatred, disgust and realization at what that statement can be perceived as.

As a superhero movie, “The Batman” creates an exciting new standard for the genre. Similar to the 2019 film “The Joker,” “The Batman” serves as a cinematic standalone, instead of falling within a shared universe like the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the DCEU. This choice allows it to shine more on its own, rather than being propped up by continuous timelines, tie-ins to sequels or fan services. After the rinse-and-repeat nature of recent big superhero blockbusters, a return to standalone comic book adaptations is definitely something I’d like to see more of going forward.

“The Batman” is a breath of fresh air to more than just the superhero genre. Great characters and acting, unique writing and amazing visuals makes it a great watch, especially in an IMAX theater, and especially more than once. As the first of a planned trilogy, I cannot wait to see where it goes from here.