This might not be the Batman we deserve right now, but it is the Batman we need. Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson deliver what is, without doubt, the darkest (both visually and thematically) version of the caped crusader we’ve seen on screen. The story takes place over a single week in Gotham, starting on Halloween, which is bookended by a voiceover from Bruce. It’s the second year of his vigilantism and he’s still struggling to find his place. This version of the caped crusader is fueled by pain and anger. When asked the famous question by a frightened thug, “Who are you?!” the bat replies differently than we might expect. “I am Vengence!” This Bat walks slowly, with intimidation radiating from his very determined footsteps and unwavering footsteps. When he strikes, it’s an unleashing of his deep-seated anger at the criminal world that left him an orphan.
One of the best things that sets “The Batman” apart from other iterations is Matt Reeves takes the “Detective” in Detective Comics to heart. This super-hero was once known as the world’s greatest detective, and for once we get to see some of that. He doesn’t need to rely on a supercomputer or military-grade technology to figure out what he needs to know. Instead, it’s his attention to detail, patience, and willingness to put his life at risk that helps him reach his goal. We all know Batman can hold his own in a fistfight, but it’s kind of thrilling to see him go mentally head-to-head with the Riddler (Paul Dano).
All of the ingredients that Reeves pulls from are familiar. He leans on Noir tropes heavily. There are elements of the narrative that have been lifted from all three volumes of the “Batman Earth One” graphic novel series. The tone of the film is an homage to Fincher, the mystery being a lighter version of “Seven.” Thankfully, we’re spared seeing Thomas and Martha Wayne gunned down yet again, but the circumstances of their murder do play into the bigger story. Like a master chef, Reeves combines all of these familiarities into something that is fresh. He also includes something that most of the Bat-Films lack. An actual character arc for Bruce Wayne. Over the course of the film, how he sees himself, family, and his role within Gotham evolves.
Similarly, director of photography Greig Fraser creates a version of Gotham that is at once both familiar and distinct. Besides a few action scenes, we are often uncomfortably close to the characters. The depth of field is incredibly shallow. We’re pulled into a claustrophobic world with these characters with no way out. Some of these scenes feel intimate, but others we wish we could escape from. Coupled with the powerful, haunting score by Michael Giacchino, we’re not just watching a movie, we’re immersed in their world. It’s the combination of all these elements that makes the nearly 3-hour runtime cruise by. Besides a short lull right before the 3rd act, this film earns its duration.