Now that The Batman is available to stream, let’s look back at the latest version of DC’s famed Caped Crusader. When Robert Pattinson was announced as the latest actor to portray this character, he joined the ranks of those about whom there had been doubts that he would suit the role. While not everything about The Batman came together, it made for a worthy entry in a long line of portrayals of Gotham’s favorite vigilante in a bat costume.
The fact that this movie was set in Year 2 of Batman fighting crimes was a stroke of wisdom from DC. One thing that the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has struggled with since its inception is building up fully-realized, or at least interesting versions of well-known characters before throwing them together in a massive team-up. The Batman succeeded in providing a snapshot of both Bruce Wayne and Batman at a critical crossroads. At the very least, it’s clear that this character is working through some pretty significant issues, and hasn’t quite found his footing yet. This makes for compelling storytelling.
Robert Pattison gives such a spectacular performance that it’s difficult to recall the doubts anyone had in the first place. Since his starring role in the Twilight franchise, he has progressively shed his sparkly teen heartthrob persona. He’s also proven that, hey, he can actually act! The Batman was no exception. He managed to balance the deadpan humor, and over-the-top theatrics, with a classic stoicism that gave him a compelling chance at being one of the best portrayals of this character to date.
Zoë Kravitz was another absolutely stand-out performance as Selina Kyle. Her empathy and heart shine through every time she’s on the screen. Even when her actions aren’t particularly condonable or all that sympathetic, it’s clear this is a woman always trying her best to stay true to herself and her values. Her flaws are what make her more human and ultimately more relatable. Together with Pattinson, Kravitz has such a strong dynamic. It would be a mistake to rule out combining these two powerhouse performances in the future.
One character that had potential, but ultimately fell flat was Paul Dano’s take on the Riddler. While it was commendable that a Batman villain other than the Joker, the character ultimately fell flat. While Marvel struggles to create compelling villains that last for more than a single entry, DC has more recently opted to make their villains more…cartoonish? Dano’s Riddler just felt like a different version of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor; boorish, cringe, and uninteresting.
As with so many Batman stories, the political and police corruption of the fictional Gotham took center stage. The far more interesting villain in this story was Colin Farrell as the Penguin. The dynamic between him and Batman was compelling. Perhaps the more interesting story to be explored would have been the Penguin vs Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright). There was a lot of potential here, the tension between a crime boss and a police lieutenant. Perhaps these two will appear together again in the future.
Many jokes have been made about DC’s insistence on using a dark and grimy aesthetic in contrast to Marvel’s colorful shiny effects. The Batman, however, uses this aesthetic to its advantage. The scenery lends itself well to the brutality viewers see throughout the movie. There’s a feeling of chaos, without feeling campy or overdone.
Ultimately, The Batman manages to be a reflection on the veneer through which we see our parents. So many can relate to the idea of holding our parents up to an impossible vision of perfection when they were people with flaws who made mistakes. Bruce Wayne’s journey from vengeance to hope is what makes superhero stories so lasting and fascinating. While the pacing wasn’t quite adequate to justify a near three-hour runtime, the story is absolutely one worth telling.
The Batman is available to stream on HBOMax.