Film Review: The legacy of vengeance in ‘The Batman’

A distinctive adaptation among several predecessors

Jada Thomas, Copyediting Coordinator


“Fear is a tool, and when that signal hits the sky, it’s not just a call. It’s a warning.”

Within the franchise of multiple misfires that is the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), their newest film release was a rare bullseye. “The Batman,” directed by Matt Reeves, was released at the beginning of the month, and many were skeptical of how it would turn out. Some of these doubts can be attributed to the fact that this is yet another adaptation of the iconic superhero, but mostly because of the newest actor that’d been chosen to portray the cowl-wearing crime fighter: Robert Pattinson. Pattinson has had a shadow over his career ever since playing sparkly vampire and heart-throb Edward Cullen in the “Twilight” saga, but this movie is sure to put any doubts about his abilities to rest.

This movie highlights a few aspects of the character that audiences haven’t seen displayed in live-action before. Firstly, this movie leans in heavily to the detective side of the character. The writing pairs with Pattinson’s acting to display an analytical and intelligent version of the character worthy of his title, “World’s Greatest Detective.” This version of Batman utilizes not only sleek gadgets, but also his impeccable intellect to solve a number of clues throughout the movie. Secondly, this is a more amatuer portrayal of Batman than previous adaptations, in that this movie sees Bruce Wayne only two years into his vigilante adventures. This is a Batman that is still entirely fueled by the motivation to avenge his parents’ death and one who has yet to draw a distinct line between himself and his billionaire persona. Wayne begins the movie brooding and vengeful, with the mindset that the way he can best serve Gotham is by being Batman. However, viewers will enjoy seeing how the various obstacles he faces throughout the movie challenge that train of thought, as well as how Pattinson’s performance elevates Wayne’s confliction. 

Surrounding Pattinson are a number of other great performers, such as Zoë Kravitz, who portrays the fierce Selina Kyle, otherwise known as Catwoman. Kravitz takes this iconic character and puts a new spin on her, one that audiences are sure to notice. Another thing that’s especially apparent is the chemistry between Kravitz and Pattinson, which is undeniable and a glorious thing to witness on screen. Secondly, Jeffrey Wright portrays another character that audiences know and love. Jim Gordon, not yet police commissioner, is merely a lieutenant in this movie, but is still a staunch cop with the unwavering morality that the character is known for. Wright does a fantastic job at displaying these traits throughout the movie, and even more so, makes the character feel like the face of actual justice, rather than someone who simply follows Batman around. Lastly, and the most impressive, is Paul Dano’s Riddler. Dano has been known to give great performances in the past, but audience members who are being newly exposed to the actor are sure to become fans. Where most adaptations imagine the Riddler as a goofy guy in a green trench coat with purple question marks, full of nothing but puzzles and schemes, this movie makes him a serial killer. While the character still has the core motivation of proving his psychological superiority over the Gotham police, this Riddler is more twisted and terrifying than we’ve ever seen on screen, and the way Dano portrays this version is remarkable. Also, there’s an aspect of the Riddler’s character that feels hauntingly timely and will make viewers even more impressed with Dano’s performance. 

Outside of the performances, there are several other aspects of this movie that make it deserving of acclaim. The first one that comes to mind is Michael Giacchino’s phenomenal score. The original theme that audiences will recognize from the trailer is warped and layered in extraordinary ways. There are also other cues that don’t feature that specific theme, and together this music, along with the way the lighting is utilized throughout the movie, adds an extra layer of excitement. The use of variencies in color and brightness, as well as the use of shadows, not only aids the characters during the movie, but also elevates several scenes in ways that left me fascinated. 

Additionally, the set design presents a mesh of metropolitan and gothic aspects in the buildings that make up Gotham, and these features worked surprisingly well together, rather than clashing like one would think. Speaking of Gotham, all three of these elements combine to create an overall unpleasant version of Gotham that fits perfectly into this Batman’s story. A core element of Batman’s character is that despite the sins and corruption littered throughout the city, he doesn’t believe Gotham is beyond saving. The version of Gotham in this movie almost acts as another character — one that’s so horrid it momentarily makes the viewer wonder why Batman is bothering to save it.

Overall, despite the incredibly ambitious three-hour run-time, this movie was still a highly enjoyable experience. More importantly than being a movie for the average fan of superhero films, it’s a movie for various types of Batman fans; those who are fans of some of his more iconic comics, those who enjoy the “Arkham” video games and those who just like to see the caped crusader on screen. That being said, this movie allowed Pattinson to finally prove that he possesses the range to take on a wide variety of roles, including the Dark Knight. Since Pattinson is one among many other versions of Batman, the comparisons will be inevitable, but this stands out as a unique adaptation of the hero that will be remembered for years to come.