The review embargo for Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” has lifted, bringing with it a handful of raves and several mixed takes on the director’s very long and very dark interpretation of the Caped Crusader. The Warner Bros. comic book tentpole is set during Batman’s second year as a masked crime fighter and follows the vigilante as he tries to capture the Riddler, who sends Gotham City into chaos by exposing the corruption of its leaders.
Robert Pattinson stars as Bruce Wayne/Batman in “The Batman” opposite Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Paul Dano as Edward Nashton/Riddler, Jeffrey Wright as James Gordon, John Turturro as Carmine Falcone, Peter Sarsgaard as Gil Colson, Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth and Colin Farrell as Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin.
One thing critics agree on when it comes to “The Batman” is that there has never been a comic book movie like it before. Pattinson teased as much earlier this month when he said the film’s opening scene left him shocked.
“I watched a rough cut of the movie by myself. And the first shot is so jarring from any other Batman movie that it’s just kind of a totally different pace,” Pattinson said in an interview. “It was what Matt was saying from the first meeting I had with him: ‘I want to do a ’70s noir detective story, like “The Conversation.”‘ And I kind of assumed that meant the mood board or something, the look of it. But from the first shot, it’s, ‘Oh, this actually is a detective story.”
Read some highlights of what critics are saying below.
In ways far more unsettling than most audiences might expect, “The Batman” channels the fears and frustrations of our current political climate, presenting a meaty, full-course crime saga that blends elements of the classic gangster film with cutting-edge commentary about challenges facing the modern world. It’s a hugely ambitious undertaking and one that’s strong enough to work even without Batman’s presence, not that it would have any reason to exist without him. But by incorporating the character and so many of the franchise’s trademarks — Catwoman (a slinky Zoë Kravitz), the Penguin (Colin Farrell, all but unrecognizable), loyal butler Alfred (Andy Serkis, fully analog) and an epic car chase involving the latest iteration of the Batmobile — Reeves electrifies the dense, ultra-dark proceedings with an added level of excitement that justifies the film’s relatively demanding running time.
“The Batman” is dark, no doubt about it. Even darker than the already-dark Christopher Nolan-directed “Dark Knight” trilogy, whose success once set off several rounds of way-too-dark comic book adaptations and action spectacles. You might have thought Batman couldn’t get any darker, but you’d be wrong: Heath Ledger’s Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’ sewed a telephone into a guy’s abdomen in 2008 so that Paul Dano’s Riddler could then feed another guy’s abdomen to a cage full of rats in 2022. This is a Batman movie reimagined as a grisly serial killer film, only this time it’s not just the serial killer who looms in the shadows, watching his prey and waiting to pounce; the hero does, too. They could have called it ‘Zodiac$.’
Matt Reeves’s ‘The Batman,’ at least as far as superhero movies go, feels so old-fashioned that it has come all the way around to unique again. While watching ‘The Batman,’ it feels like it has more in common with gritty crime mysteries like ‘L.A. Confidential’ or ‘Se7en’ than, say, ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home.’ (A movie I like quite a bit, for the record.) ‘The Batman’ is a movie fully embracing its present and not looking forward to what everything might mean five movies down the line. At just under three hours in length, yes, it’s long, but it’s self-contained. And also rare for a Batman movie … Batman is actually the main character.
Pattinson is an inspired choice to bring this haunted, emo-beast-mode version of the character to the screen, and while you can see him hitting certain beats that are now expected for the Caped Crusader — gotta growl them lines, gotta grimace a whole lot — there’s an undercurrent of pathos and vulnerability that he brings this moody-blues interpretation of Bruce/Batman. Even when he was the handsome face of a franchise juggernaut like ‘Twilight,’ the British actor specialized in portraying misfit souls…. His Batman is definitely a mood. He’s also a more moody, enraged, and volatile iteration of the DC Comics’ heavy hitter than previous incarnations, which — given that your competition includes Christian Bale and Ben Affleck — is no small feat.
Kravitz is feline and fiercely lovely, a girl with her own private pain and motivations; Dano feints and giggles, a simpering loon. (In a world where Heath Ledger’s Joker still exists on celluloid, alas, pretty much every kind of pulp villainy is bound to feel like pale imitation.) But it falls on Pattinson’s leather-cased Batman to be the hero we need, or deserve. With his doleful kohl-smudged eyes and trapezoidal jawline, he’s more like a tragic prince from Shakespeare; a lost soul bent like a bat out of hell on saving everyone but himself.
It was less than three years ago that Todd Phillips’ mid-budget but mega-successful “Joker” threateningly pointed toward a future in which superhero movies of all sizes would become so endemic to modern cinema that they no longer had to be superhero movies at all. With Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” — a sprawling, 176-minute latex procedural that often appears to have more in common with serial killer sagas like “Se7en” and “Zodiac” than it does anything in the Snyderverse or the MCU — that future has arrived with shuddering force, for better or worse. Mostly better.
For the most part, Reeves’s approach is refreshing. The Gotham he’s created — out of bits of London and Chicago, with visual references to New York and other cities thrown in — is an aesthetic marvel. His amalgamated city churns with dangerous allure, a bracing mural of fluorescent orange and dusky purple. Reeves has populated this benighted place with a host of fine actors, among them Colin Farrell as the gangster known as the Penguin, Zoë Kravitz as a sultry and wounded Selina Kyle, Jeffrey Wright as principled cop Jim Gordon, Paul Dano as a dark-web Riddler, and a suavely sinister John Turturro as crime boss Carmine Falcone. The Batman has considered texture — it’s as pleasingly immersive as Nolan’s trilogy.
As for Dano, his Riddler is easily the best live-action Batman villain since Heath Ledger’s Joker. This is a far, far, far cry from the previous most famous Riddler performance by Jim Carrey, with Reeves putting a modern, murderous spin on the wordsmith that’s heavily influenced by the real-world Zodiac Killer. Dano sinks into this unhinged yet genius killer with terrifying realism. Seriously, Dano managed to give me chills with a single eye movement in one scene. The best Batman villains are the ones who challenge at least two of the three of his mind, morals, and body, and this Riddler puts the first two to the test. Whenever Pattinson and Dano face off, it’s impossible to look away.
Unforgettable images — the coned, fiery blue flames of the Batmobile, bodies thrashing, enveloped in shadows, the brailed scars crawling across Robert Pattinson’s muscled back — converge in Matt Reeves’ three-hour, noir-infused epic “The Batman.” Ever since Bob Kane and Bill Finger created him in 1939, the philanthropist playboy by day, Caped Crusader by night, has signified isolation, grief, trauma — vengeance. Over the decades, television and cinematic incarnations, projected through the personalities of the actors who’ve portrayed him, have amplified those traits through both campy and brooding means. But Pattinson’s Dark Knight, more vicious, more forlorn, and less worldly, hampered by his privilege rather than aided, is not only different from every version before him. Inspired and enthralling, this detective story veers far away from the current homogenous superhero landscape.
Do we really need yet another “Batman” reboot? The answer, after watching Matt Reeves’ tremendous “The Batman,” is apparently a resounding yes. The story of the Dark Knight has been told and retold again so many times that you might think there’s nothing left to do with this character, and yet, Reeves and company have crafted a sprawling, ominous, dreamy epic; a mash-up of action-adventure, mystery, horror, noir, and even a little romance thrown in for good measure. There were multiple moments here where I had to stop and ask myself, “Wow, is this the best Batman movie?” It just might be.
In ‘The Batman,’ Matt Reeves’ slick, overlong, majestically moody superhero spectacular, Robert Pattinson really puts the goth into Gotham City’s chief protector. His eyes slathered in mascara like Robert Smith (or The Crow, another nocturnal winged avenger), this version of the DC crime fighter zips around town on a motorcycle to the non-diegetic accompaniment of Nirvana’s album-closing downer “Something In The Way.” He also narrates the film in hushed voiceover that teeters, gargoyle-like, over the edge of self-parody. “They think I’m hiding in the shadows,” he whispers. “But I am the shadows.” These musings sound like diary entries — and it turns out that’s exactly what they are. At last: a Batman who journals!
While the seriousness is welcome, the level of darkness risks becoming oppressive in a manner that doesn’t leave much room for fun of any kind. If that’s hardly a negative for Batman-ologists, it threatens to blunt the film’s appeal among those who can’t identify the issue of Detective Comics in which he first appeared. Still, that’s a modest quibble compared to the main gripe that “The Batman” could easily lose 30 minutes without sacrificing much. Most of that flab comes during the final hour, which serves a purpose in terms of the character’s maturation but piles on at least one climax too many.
For every one of “The Batman’s” good ideas — like focusing on Batman and Gordon bonding over their shared fondness of actually doing detective work — there are at least two things holding it back. These include the fact that none of the Riddler’s riddles here are all that complicated, or that Pattinson and Wright don’t have all that much on-screen chemistry. In The Batman’s defense, the movie does want you to understand how profoundly lonely Bruce Wayne is and how difficult it is for him to relate to other people; the weird energy between him and Gordon may be a directorial choice. But even in Bruce’s more vulnerable moments with longtime Wayne family butler Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis), there’s an emotional inertness that feels intentional, but ultimately unsatisfying, given the intimacy the characters traditionally share.