Review: The Batman
Taking a look at the film’s manifold influences, Ion Belesis praises the most recent depiction of the caped crusader for its strong cast and immaculate style.
When it comes down to it, The Batman (2022) is a 1990s Nirvana biopic made with a New Hollywood sensibility. In an interview with Esquire, Director Matt Reeves confirmed the Nirvana inspiration was more than just skin deep: the character of Bruce Wayne was always to be formed as a grunge recluse.
Reeves’ Batman also takes inspiration from the comic narrative The Long Halloween. Thankfully for skittish viewers, The Long Halloween was merely a guide, as that narrative is much darker and is now available to be enjoyed in a 2021 animated release. Really, although in most senses the two are polar opposites, the closest Batman to Robert Pattinson’s is Adam West’s, primarily due to the fact that, from a narrative standpoint, both seem to ignore their parents’ actual demise; that and their shared capacity for campness.
The film introduces its Batman as similar to The Big Sleep’s LA Private Detective Phillip Marlowe. Armed with an inner monologue, our caped crusader takes on the task of tracking down a new serial killer known as the Riddler. As the film progresses, it becomes clear that the Riddler’s game may well end up hitting far closer to home than expected, pointing to a corruption gripping not only the Gotham City Police Department but also the heart of the city.
There are two key aspects that stand out. Unlike previous Batman films, The Batman capitalises on the raw acting talent it has at its disposal and also remains compelling, even through its slower moments, due to Greig Fraser’s enthralling cinematography.
young viewers be warned, this is the darkest we’ve seen the caped crusader
Pattinson, Kravitz and Dano’s performances give each of their respective comic book icons a much-needed three-dimensionality, yet the standouts are the film’s supporting roles in Colin Farrell’s Penguin and John Turturro’s Carmine Falcone.
The Penguin’s voice is baritone, his remarkable appearance distinctly reminiscent of those figures of German Expressionism. Farrell’s performance, too, cited by Mark Kermode as ‘real character acting’ as opposed to what Jared Leto has recently been attempting, commands every scene. Turturro’s magnetism, on the other hand, stems more from the narrative action and conveys an element largely lost to many prior Batman villains: suspense. It is no understatement to say that Turturro’s Falcone evokes the devil; his sheer unruliness makes him a harrowing and unforgettable character.
The film’s cinematography bears similarity to Burton’s Batman (1989) as both create an attractive, immerse fictional world even before any action, or even dramatic, scene has taken place. Cinematographer Fraser, who picked up the American Society of Cinematographers Award for his work on last year’s Dune, visualizes the city as a captivating crime-ridden hellscape but equally presents a Wayne Manor that is grand.
The Batman traces a journey of deeply introspective self-discovery. Unfortunately for many, the Adam West similarities end with those mentioned earlier: young viewers be warned, this is the darkest we’ve seen the caped crusader.