Film Review: ‘The Batman’ (2022)

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Stars: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright
Director: Matt Reeves
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

“I am vengeance.”

The Bat is back. Simple as that. 30 years after the cartoonishly dark, Batman Returns, Matt Reeves reboots the Bat in jet black, featuring the immense Robert Pattinson donning the cape and cowl. 

The Riddler (Paul Dano) is a clear psychopath. A serial killer also, he is murdering politicians and government officials left, right and centre. Why? They’re all dirty. Corrupt. Why is he exposing these dirty figures? If he didn’t murder them, the Riddler would be a hero. To some, however, he is a hero. Leading a storm of online radicalisation, the Riddler is an influencer of the worst kind. Leaving cards addressed to Batman at the scenes of the crimes, there is a mystery at bay here. But what is it? With the help of the only good cop, Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), and a seriously underused Andy Serkis as Alfred, Robert Pattinson’s Batman has a run of riddles to solve as well as a cipher.    

Batman’s journey takes him through the darkest corners, the sleaziest venues, and all with the worst Gotham has to offer. One of the best, however, come in the form of Selina Kyle. Portrayed magnificently by Zoe Kravitz, Kyle is an excellent femme fatale, as well as a skilled thief. Her own journey leads Batman to the likes of crime boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), and none other than a particularly loud, rough and awfully funny chap, Oz (Colin Farrell). 

Sadly, this overwhelming and most unfortunately, feels like a film of two halves. Not as bland or basic as one good, one bad, but instead: one terrifically amazing, and the other good, but not as great. Within the first half, not only is Batman The Dark Knight, but he is literally the World’s Greatest Detective. The investigative intellect isn’t contextually out of place, nor is it debatable or unbelievable. Detective Batman is a spectacle itself. The Se7en / Zodiac vibes are there, and greatly appreciated because cinematic parallels are awesome. The pursuit of Riddler’s riddles, the mystery, and The Riddler himself, are all so engaging and fascinating, they all compliment each other. For a long time, this is a really exciting film even if it is tonally and contextually dark as the abyss. That is until we learn what the mystery is. The pursuit of the truth is more exciting than the truth itself.

The second half sees the film become more personal, though not to outstanding successes. The dip in quality and transition to the feel of an almost generic superhero film establishes an inconsistent reminiscence of Batman Forever  – especially with a painfully obvious green screen.

Witnessing an eventual transition from stalker of the night to superhero, a new expectation is subsequently established. Logically, the dark atmospheric nature – which gradually fades away – would be unlikely to return in the follow-up film. Though perfectly acceptable, and probably welcomed by many, it would presumingly mean that the look and feel of the first half of The Batman will not be replicated. Shame. But who knows? It could get much darker in the sequel(s).

As Batman, a tough don’t-f*ck-with-me Batman, Pattinson absolutely thrives in that spectacle. Though he may occasionally walk like RoboCop, this is a rough-and-ready brute of a Batman without being a monster of a man. In contrast to Bale’s Batman, Pattinson’s isn’t quite the ninja Batman or at least disciplined in a stylistic form of fighting – instead, he’ll just knock sh*t out of you if need be. Captured in an array of wide-shots, Reeves knows exactly how he wants Batman to be presented when fighting. 

On the flipside, however, Pattinson – in The Batman at least – is far from a great Bruce Wayne. A completely different presentation of the character seen from previous renditions, there is an intentional dullness which is fine for the story and tone, but not to the extent that Wayne’s presence becomes tiresome, and a switch back to Batman is needed to salvage to excellence. Because Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne is the antithesis of Batman – as an interesting and exciting character on screen – there are occasions when Batman is just Batman, and not Robert Pattinson. Is this because Pattinson is great as Batman or his Bruce Wayne is so poor, any plausibility in him playing the Caped Crusader is completely eradicated?

Existentially, The Batman establishes an additional layer of expectation. With pre-release statements and suggestions of sequels, spin-off series, shared universes etc. An expectation is established in which the viewer awaits content preluding to an expansion of the world within The Batman. Thankfully, the supporting characters as well as the environments presented do enough to encourage interest in any spin-off products. Farrell’s Oz/Penguin is the clear standout, obviously, as is Wright’s Lt. Gordon – however, the latter showcases an excellent partnership and dynamic with Pattinson’s Batman, something which would be difficult to replicate within his own show.

The Batman is probably the best Batman film, though The Dark Knight is still the best film with Batman. The former of the two views like an entry into the dark comic book world of Batman. It’s dark, dirty and mean, yet it still possesses an unrealistic comic book feel. The latter from 2008 is the realistic presentation of Batman in the real world. 

The hope and expectation now is that Robert Pattinson will grow to become the best Batman and the best Bruce Wayne. Unlike before, there is a terrific excitement for what awaits not only Pattinson’s Batman, but this world of Gotham in which we have only seen snippets of.

The Batman is out now in cinemas.

4 Stars


For John.

This article’s featured image: By Source, Warner Bros, Fair Use

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