I’ve never really ~gotten~ Batman. And this isn’t even a Marvel vs. DC thing – I’ve really liked Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Green Arrow portrayals before. I just never thought Batman was that interesting of a character. So when it was announced that The Batman was coming (the tenth live-action appearance of the character since 1989 played by the sixth new actor), I was skeptical to say the least.
I’ll admit I don’t have the longest history with Batman. I never read comic books growing up or watched any of the animated series. I’m pretty sure my first cinematic Batman experience was Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. Since then, I’ve gone back and watched the Tim Burton and Joel Shumacher’s films from the 80s and 90s. And boy are they a mixed bag.
Part of my problem with Batman is that he never feels like the main character of his own stories or even the most interesting part. He’s always been upstaged by his villains. What comes to mind first when you think about The Dark Knight? Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker. Tom Hardy’s Bane is the most talked about aspect of The Dark Knight Rises. Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito steal the show right out from under Michael Keaton in Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. Even the much-maligned Shumacher movies had actors turning in memorable villainous performances, like Jim Carrey’s Riddler or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze.
So I’d never been able to connect to Batman and Bruce Wayne as a character or found a way to fully invest in his journey.
Matt Reeves’s The Batman stars Robert Pattinson as the titular caped crusader. Something about this version finally clicked for me. This Batman is the youngest we’ve ever seen him in a movie, and maybe that’s part of what works so well. He’s still figuring things out and learning to balance the Bat with Bruce. The film also leans more heavily into Batman’s skills as a detective than most other movies which gives us a new layer to Bruce that we haven’t seen much before.
In The Batman, Bruce Wayne feels like a real character. He’s a loner that doesn’t really seem to like people but is driven (initially) by this unquenchable thirst for vengeance against the criminals of Gotham. And he’s such a weirdo – the guy puts on sunglasses inside while eating breakfast because the sun is too bright. He’s also still clearly haunted by his past, so it doesn’t feel like much of a stretch for this Bruce to dress up in a bat costume and go out hunting criminals at night.
Since this is a younger Batman than we’ve seen before, he’s still learning and making mistakes. This gives him the opportunity to have an actual character arc with growth throughout the movie. At the beginning, he introduces himself to criminals as “Vengeance.” Even people he’s rescuing aren’t sure he’s not going to hurt them too. Batman’s journey through this movie shows him the different choices he must make to fully set himself apart from villains like Riddler – to make himself a symbol of hope, not fear.
One of the reasons that emotional journey works so well is because of Robert Pattinson. He’s incredible in this movie. The acting he does just with his eyes is chill inducing. The design of his mask allows his eyes to stand out so distinctly and be used for maximum impact.
Another excellent choice Pattinson makes for his Batman is his Bat-voice. We’re all familiar with Christian Bale’s capital-A Acting choices he made with his deep Bat-voice so much so that it became a meme (I bet good money you can hear him yelling “Where is she!?” or “Swear to me!” right now). Pattinson certainly makes a change between the way he speaks as Bruce Wayne voice and Batman, but it’s not so gruff or jarring. He still sounds human and is generally soft-spoken as Batman, keeping a level of humanity under the mask.
Another one of my favorite parts of The Batman was the design of Gotham, which is a perfect mix of real-world and comic book vibes. There are clear New York similarities (a Times Square-esque area and Gotham Square Garden), but it’s not clearly an existing city like the Gotham of the Dark Knight trilogy. And while I love the gothic look of Burton’s Gotham, it clearly feels like a studio set most of the time.
And speaking of gothic vibes, Wayne Manor in The Batman is a gothic dream. The little we see of Bruce’s home is breathtaking. It matches the aesthetic of Pattinson’s Batman and I hope we get to see more of it in future movies.
The design of Batman himself is the best I’ve ever seen. The Batsuits of the 80s and 90s were clearly too rubbery, and even Christian Bale’s Batsuits never really felt like it fit in his world. (Honestly, the Batsuit that Ben Affleck’s Batman wears in the Snyderverse is pretty good.)
Pattinson’s Batsuit feels tactical and realistic while still having a homemade feel. The suit is covered in pockets to store tech and he clearly stashes part of his suit in a backpack he wears when riding his motorcycle, which is just a great detail. But my favorite detail about this Batman is the black eye makeup Bruce puts on underneath his mask. Seeing the makeup smeared on his face after he takes the mask off gives another level of realization that Bruce is just a guy putting this suit on every night, making him simultaneously relatable and something apart from the rest of us.
But the true scene-stealer of this Batman’s arsenal is his instantly iconic Batmobile. It’s intimidating and terrifying – perfect to strike fear in the hearts of Batman’s enemies. The way the Batmobile is introduced and used in The Batman feels more in line with a horror movie and the chase sequence that follows is masterful.
Pattinson’s Batman is surrounded by a phenomenal supporting cast. The update to the Riddler in The Batman has created maybe one of the most terrifying villains ever put in a superhero movie? He’s modeled after the real-world Zodiac killer with shades of other serial killers and online extremists. And Zoe Kravitz perfects the femme fatale nature of Catwoman, slinking in and out of Batman’s mission with her own goals and desires.
But like I said before, this is truly Batman’s story. He is the central character and Pattinson brings such a weight and presence any time he’s on screen. So thank you, Robert Pattinson and Matt Reeves, for finally helping me ~get~ Batman.