The Batman has finally been released after a five-year wait. We’ve seen the star and director replaced, we’ve experienced pandemic-related delays, but the wait is finally over. And we’ve got the spoiler-free review of The Batman for you. After all the hype and anticipation, I’m happy to report that this film delivered wonderfully. With great performances, strong visuals, a film-noir story, and an impressive new Batman in Robert Pattinson, this movie provides us with a break from the DCEU for a much darker and grittier story in which we see a young Bruce Wayne struggle with his identity and purpose as he protects Gotham from the growing threat of Paul Dano’s terroristic Riddler. Matt Reeves has crafted an impressive Batman story that leaves you wanting more in upcoming films and in the two upcoming spin-off series for HBO Max. Read on for our full, spoiler-free review of The Batman.
The Batman Story – Bruce Wayne’s Existential Crisis
The film opens on Halloween night when a prestigious Gotham resident is murdered by the eerie and mysterious Riddler. The villain starts targeting more of Gotham’s most influential figures and revealing his motivations only after doing the violent deed. As Jeffrey Wright’s Commissioner Gordon puts it, “Bastard murders you and your reputation.
At each of his murder scenes, the Riddler leaves envelopes addressed “To the Batman,” containing cards and riddles for the caped crusader to solve. This is all happening in the midst of Bruce Wayne, only two years into his work as the Batman, still learning the ropes and struggling with his motivations. He’s tried to use fear and vengeance to combat Gotham’s criminals, yet the crime rate remains high. This and the Riddler’s obsession with him make Bruce wonder if he’s really doing any good at all.
His efforts to track down the Riddler lead to many interactions with some famous Batman characters, including Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz). The connection between them has been clear even in the trailers. They both find kindred spirits in one another, as they both have troubles pasts, and they both fight for Gotham’s most vulnerable, albeit with different methods. The Batman also has heated exchanges with villains such Oswald “Oz” Cobblepot (Colin Farrell) and Carmine Falcone (John Turturro).
We also glance into Bruce’s more complicated relationships. Specifically, his relationship with Gordon has the commissioner constantly bending over backward for the Batman to do his job, and his relationship with Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis) is a bit cold, with Bruce shutting Alfred out when Alfred is trying to be the father-figure Bruce still needs.
The Batman’s Challenge – A Film With a High Bar to Reach
There are two questions on everyone’s mind: Where does Robert Pattinson rank among other Batman portrayals? and How does this film compare to its predecessors?
Let’s deal with the first question. Pattinson doesn’t quite get to Michael Keaton or Christian Bale, but he’s a major step up from Ben Affleck. The actor has come a long way from Twilight, doing an excellent job portraying a young, reckless, emotional, and insecure Bruce Wayne. There are moments where his limits are tested dramatically. For example, there’s a scene where he’s visually terrified of gliding off a tall building, and his uncertainty with himself is clear throughout the whole sequence. Pattinson also does a great job showing Bruce unsure of his identity, unable to separate the daytime Bruce Wayne persona from the nighttime vigilante routine. Some will complain that we never see the playboy billionaire come out, but I’m going to remind them that this is a young Batman still figuring out his footing, which Pattinson demonstrates wonderfully in his performance.
Also, I gotta give Pattinson props for the physical labor of this role, including moving in that suit and doing batmobile stunts. That is a commitment to the craft you have to respect.
As for the second question, the film isn’t quite up to par with Nolan’s landmark trilogy, nor does it live up to the game-changing work of Tim Burton. In fact, one of the film’s flaws is that some moments are almost completely copied from past films, especially The Dark Knight. Since this is a spoiler-free review, I won’t specify those moments, but let’s say they’re a little too obvious, and that hurts the film a little.
The Batman Spoiler-Free Review – A Film-Noir With a Masked Detective
That said, the film is still an impressive stand-alone story and a big step up from the DCEU’s Batman-related entries. While I like those films and feel that Ben Affleck is underappreciated in the role, I still prefer when Batman stands alone apart from the Justice League and other superheroes. I preferred it with Burton, I preferred it with Nolan, and I prefer it here with Matt Reeves. The Batman feels less like a superhero film and more like a film-noir in which the detective happens to be dressed as a bat. And quite frankly, that’s fine by me.
Reeves and his team have created an intense version of Gotham city, which may be the darkest and ugliest it’s even been, which serves this story well. The visuals are stunning, and the effects never look cheesy or CGI-heavy. We get excellent action sequences; a thrilling batmobile chase, and great combat skills during fights. The performances are also impressive, with Colin Farrell unrecognizable as the Penguin. Farrell shows impressive range here, and I look forward to seeing more of him soon. And I’m also going to give the best Catwoman ever prize to Zoë Kravitz, who makes Catwoman much more complicated and deep compared to the gimmicky past portrayals. This strong and fierce Catwoman brings to mind the version from Batman: Year One, which is excellent given how great that comic is.
I also gotta give Paul Dano credit for being the very first GOOD live-action Riddler. While he does borrow pages from Heath Ledger’s Joker, he manages to make that work, and he makes the character menacing and twisted in his own way. It’s hard to not shudder with this character’s special brand of psychotic is on display.
The film could have been more original and borrowed less from The Dark Knight. I also would have liked to see some more depth between Alfred and Bruce. There’s a moment in the film that was somewhat weakened by that lack of depth, but since this is a spoiler-free review, see it and decide how you feel. I will say the exchange is still believable, so I will cut Reeves a bit of slack.
The Batman Spoiler-Free Review – The Verdict
The Batman may not be up there with Christopher Nolan’s or Tim Burton’s films, but given how high those bars are, there’s really no shame in not quite hitting them. And trust me, Matt Reeves only missed the bar by a tiny few centimeters. The director has done an excellent job introducing us to Robert Pattinson’s impressive take on Bruce Wayne/Batman, and the whole ensemble of actors leave you wanting to see more of them in the next two films in the trilogy and in the series spin-offs. Combined with striking visuals and action sequences, all this makes this a fun and thrilling movie.
Does this review of The Batman make you want to go out and see it? If you have seen it, do you agree with us? Share your thoughts on The Nerd Stash Facebook page or @TheNerdStash on Twitter. And don’t forget to like and follow.