The Batman is the start of a brand-new trilogy directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson as Batman, and the new film starts the trilogy with a bang.
This version of Batman is only two years into the job and still rough around the edges trying to figure out his role and what he means to the city. In the film, the young Batman goes toe-to-toe with the Riddler (Paul Dano) trying to solve a series of high-profile murders while uncovering the corruption in the crime-riddled Gotham city.
Reeves’ take on The Batman dives into the noir detective side of the hero that is such a large part of who he is throughout the comic books and the film does a masterful job of doing so.
The Riddler and Gotham’s corruption
The plot of the film centres around The Riddler and his series of high-profile murders and exploits intended to weed out the corruption that plagues Gotham city.
The Riddler is a deranged and sadistic serial killer who brings out the darkness of the film by exposing the darkness of the city itself. He is a puppet master who uses Batman’s investigation into the murders he commits to expose the corrupt nature of his victims.
The Riddler does this by committing two murders for the price of one. Every murder he commits also exposes the sins of his victims, murdering their reputation along with them. This aspect is the very core of the story as it sets the tone for everything that happens in the film.
While Gotham City is the setting of the film, it feels like a character in the film as well. The darkness of the city, its filthy streets riddled with drug addicts and the twisted underbelly that controls everything from the shadows to facilitate their illegal activities really make it feel like the city itself is crying out for help.
With the city in such a desperate state, the viewer is presented with a horrible question: who is worse? The psychotic serial killer who commits a brutal series of murders in the name of exposing corruption, or the city’s leaders who let greed and power corrupt them?
Batman is only human, but that only makes him more impactful
Pattinson’s Batman possesses all the qualities that make Batman great in the first place: genius-level intellect, unmatched combat ability, and a knack for detective work. His lack of experience though also means he is reckless, makes mistakes and is still haunted by his past which gives the hero a sense of vulnerability and humanity that has never been seen in cinemas.
This is especially true of Batman in the first act of the film. There is a scene when he goes to the Penguin’s (Colin Farrell) night club during his investigation into the first of the Riddler’s murders to question the Penguin himself. He recklessly goes through the front door fighting off the club’s guards while taking some hits and gunshots to his bulletproof suit until he draws out the Penguin and can interrogate him.
Batman’s obsession with seeking vengeance is the flaw that has the most impact on the plot. Throughout the film, he is consumed by a need to catch the Riddler and seek vengeance on the crime lord Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) having found out he was the person behind the murder of his parents. His focus on seeking vengeance blinds him to almost disregarding one of the key details of the investigation: the murder of Anika Kosolov (Hana Hrzic).
This mistake makes Batman miss the biggest piece of the Riddler’s puzzle leading to the detonation of bombs that destroy the city’s sea wall which floods the whole city.
Batman growing from his mistakes is one of the most important themes of the film and is the most humanising aspect of his character. When he goes to the Penguin’s club again to capture Falcone at the end of the second act, he sneaks in and uses darkness to get the jump on the guards instead of charging through like he did the first time.
The pinnacle of Batman’s growth though comes at the end of the film. Once he sees that nothing can be done to save the city from flooding, He realises that all he can do is save as many lives as possible.
Batman’s growth from a vigilante hell-bent on seeking vengeance and driving fear into his enemies to a hero who realises that he must do more and be a symbol of hope to make a difference is the highlight of the film.
The importance of symbolism and cinematography
From the very beginning of the film, it is obvious that this is unlike the Marvel films people are used to seeing. This is a film that focuses on the art of cinematography to drive home its main themes.
As a result, it is a film that relies more on lighting, noise, score and visual symbolism rather than dialogue. In fact, the most powerful scenes in the film have no dialogue at all.
Batman has a dominating presence throughout the film, not because of who he is, but what happens when he is in any scene. Whenever Batman comes into a room, there is a silence, then the silence is broken by the eerie sound of his boots, his silhouette approaches in the form of a menacing shadow until he finally appears. He also towers over everyone making his presence even more imposing.
The score of the film really emphasises the dark mood the film has. Most of the songs related to Batman in the score are brooding with powerful crescendos, Cat Woman’s are sombre – using the piano for a more subtle tone. Anything to do with the Riddler is eerie and haunting. All of them combine to create a noir ambience.
Visual symbolism is an important part of the film as well. One of the best examples of this is at the end of the film when Batman leads the people he saved in the stadium out to safety. He is holding a flare, and everyone is following him, symbolising that he is now a leader who inspires hope rather than the symbol of fear and vengeance he was at the beginning.
This film is a breath of fresh air for those who are tired of the same old Marvel superhero movie formula. It is dark, powerful and demands your full attention for the entirety of the three-hour run-time.
It is an intense film-watching experience and while it may not end up being everyone’s favourite superhero film because of its dark themes, it is undeniably a great film.
Most importantly, it leaves you excited for what will happen next in what is sure to be an incredible trilogy.