The Batman – a Director’s Dream


Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.


It has been a decade since the last live-action standalone Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” was released. The caped crusader’s recent output has instead largely stemmed from misguided crossovers like “Batman v Superman”, to animated works like “Batman: The Killing Joke” Now, Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, War of the Planet of the Apes) has taken over the latest adaptation of the Dark Knight starring Robert Pattinson (Twilight, The Lighthouse) to show a brand-new perspective on the character.

Taking place in the iconic Gotham City, this story features Bruce Wayne, who in this interpretation has only been Batman for about two years and seems primarily focused on nothing but protecting the city. Bruce however finds himself at his wit’s end, as a mysterious serial killer known as The Riddler, played by Paul Dano, has murdered Gotham’s mayor and is planning on bringing more victims down with him. Along with solving this mystery, Bruce finds himself paired up with Selena Kyle (Zoe Kravitz) who joins him to discover what happened to a friend of hers.
Initially planned to star the previous Batman, Ben Affleck, as well as have him direct, Esquire magazine reported that Matt Reeves was a major fan of the character and was hoping to tell a far more personal tale involving the character than what Affleck’s draft had provided (Mullally). The final product lives up to those standards, as “The Batman” manages to be one of the most personal and relevant takes on the character to date.
The acting is some of the best that a recent blockbuster has had to offer. Pattinson does a brilliant job of differentiating himself from previous versions of the character, making his interpretation of Wayne a younger, inexperienced character who often questions whether or not the city is even worth protecting. Pattinson’s version is also more emotionally detached, as shown in an early scene where Alfred (Andy Serkis) informs Bruce about a meeting he must attend, while he’s more focused on The Riddler’s escapades.
Reeves mentioned in an Entertainment Weekly interview that he wanted to make sure Bruce was in nearly every scene of the movie; in doing so he ends up creating one of the most grounded stories that the character has faced (Agard). Unlike past versions of Bruce Wayne, this one only briefly mentions his backstory which helps from making this feel derivative to prior installments. HCC student Joao Magalhaes agreed as it meant that the film could just go “straight into the action.”
The supporting cast is also similarly amazing. Jeffrey Wright plays the first-ever black Commissioner Gordon, whose scenes with Batman are some of the best in the movie. Zoe Kravitz, who briefly portrayed Catwoman in “The Lego Batman Movie” in 2017, brings her own version to life here, having a sympathetic backstory while still being a fair bit more extreme in her actions than Bruce is. However, it’s Dano, who easily steals the show as The Riddler. Esquire also reported that The Riddler was inspired by the Zodiac killer, and Reeves does a really good job of capturing a similar level of threat and menace that the infamous killer did when he was alive (Mullally). The scene in which Batman tries to stop him from blowing up a hostage over the phone is one of the most spine-chilling scenes laid to film in recent years.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Many elements in the feature are clearly direct parallels to modern political events. Some are easy to pick up on, like the stuff involving the election between Gotham’s mayors, but you also have Reeves’ decision to update The Riddler into a social media influencer. Oftentimes when filmmakers portray social media in film, it ends up feeling very tacky, but it works tremendously here at showing just how criminal activity has evolved in the last couple of years.
An article by Variety also noted that Reeves wanted to make the action easy-to-follow and avoid lots of cutting between shots (Vary). Once again, Reeves truly delivers on that promise, delivering some brilliant fight scenes such as when in the middle of a blackout, the only sources of light come from the bullets being fired at Batman.
The noir-inspired tone, inspired by films like “Chinatown” and “All the President’s Men”, according to Movie Maker, is reflected through the dark cinematography presented by Greg Fraser (Molloy). Bruce spends most of the movie looking over clues about The Riddler, not knowing exactly where they’ll lead him, and the lighting helps reflect this sense of unsureness. Though its lighting style can also make certain bits hard to see, as Batman fan Adriana Barbour said that although she liked it, she “wished it wasn’t so dark.”
In spite of the numerous adaptations we’ve had of the character before, “The Batman” manages to deliver an incredibly personal, invigorating, and at times eerie noir story that brilliantly updates the character to the current issues being faced in the present day. Matt Reeves makes his passion for the character evidently clear, and it’ll be interesting to see if he has any upcoming plans for the character in the future.