Prior to its release, “The Batman” seemed destined to be another attempt from DC Comics to distinguish themselves from Marvel. From the casting of Robert Pattinson as the titular crimefighter to director and co-writer Matt Reeves’ dark vision for Gotham, “The Batman” seemed to be further demonstration that DC is seemingly more focused on telling individual, more creatively risky stories rather than establishing grand multiverses. This time around, it still works mostly in their favor.

Generally speaking, the film doesn’t deviate much from what we’ve come to expect a “Batman” movie to contain: some sort of villain with a grand plan to expose a larger evil within Gotham. Oh, and Batman is in the middle of all of it. It’s well established and still does work here in “The Batman,” but where Reeves’ separates his Dark Knight from other iterations is in how he approaches unraveling the villain’s evil deeds.



We are given some action scenes, which manage to stand out not only because of their sparse use in the film but also because of how still the camera seems to be. We’re actually allowed to watch the fight scenes, and it helps to build on the brutality of Pattinson’s Batman. With that said, we do spend more of our time following Batman pout and peruse various crime scenes and interrogations.

The film draws heavily from David Fincher’s 1995 noir drama “Se7en,” which was very obvious from the numerous trailers released prior to the film’s release and was just as obvious when watching the whole thing. But where “Se7en” had some of the most disturbing and genuinely unsettling crime scenes put to film, “The Batman” really only has some cheap, PG-13 knockoffs. They’re still mostly effective, but really don’t create a sense of fear around Paul Dano’s Riddler.

That being said, Dano still manages to steal the few scenes that he’s in, providing us with a Riddler that, in equal parts, echos his own past characters, like Eli Sunday in “There Will Be Blood” and, of course, Heath Ledger’s iconic Joker in “The Dark Knight.” The performance never feels derivative or stale though, with Dano taking every second he’s on screen to execute a deeply complex and damaged villain with strange vocal deliveries and an even stranger amount of opera singing.

Pattinson’s performance stands in opposition to Dano but more in a way to reflect a different image of a damaged individual. They each deal with similar traumas, but it’s clear they’ve had very different reactions to it. Pattinson crafts a very quiet, brooding and, at times, very childlike Bruce Wayne. It’s a breath of fresh air from the confident and arrogant portrayals of Bruce Wayne we’ve seen in the past.

All other characters are perfectly cast, and Zoe Kravitz’s confident and assured Catwoman and Collin Ferrel’s unrecognizable Penguin are particular standouts.

Reeves relies very heavily on his actors to demonstrate much of the emotional connections between the characters, providing the audience only the bare minimum in terms of character development. It’s strange considering the film has a near three-hour runtime, but Reeves spends so much time putting the pieces of Riddler’s puzzle together that it just doesn’t leave room for much else.

Luckily, we are given a pretty solid helping of other elements that alleviate some of this weight. Cinematographer Craig Fraser, while still disgustingly obsessed with using the absolute shallowest depth of field possible at all times, actually puts up some nice visuals with solid composition, small embellishments of color and a heaping of very film-noir shadows and lighting. Michael Giacchino’s score is also a nice touch, providing a heroic brass crescendo at times and an unsettling amount of high, screaming strings at others.

“The Batman” requires a certain amount of patience and attention. It contains a large amount of political subtext that is quite bold for a superhero film of this stature and is very much a slow-burn in comparison to the other films in this genre. But for those who are willing to put in the time and attention, you’ll find yourself with a rewarding experience.

John Scott is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at managingeditor@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @JScott050901