Best Batman Movie Ever? In Depth Review: The Batman (with spoilers)

Luke Pietrzak '22

Directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson, The Batman is a dark, bold, and fresh take on the iconic caped crusader which exceeds expectations on the screen and in the box office. 

There is so much that could be said about the movie, and this article will touch on it all but let’s start with the details. This movie not only had an all star cast but an all star team behind the camera. The film is directed by Matt Reeves who directed most notably the last 2 parts of the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy. The score, which is among the best you’ll ever hear, was done by Michael Giacchino who has an absolutely insane catalog of movies he has composed for. 

Perhaps the most impressive of them all was the cinematography, done by Greig Fraser who has done the cinematography for Rogue One (2016), The Mandalorian (2019-present), Dune (2021), and many more. You may have noticed the similarities between the scene where Batman fights through the dark hallway, illuminated by the muzzle flash of guns and the Darth Vader hallway scene in Rogue One. Both of these scenes paint the character in a very ominous and intimidating way. Fraser obviously has his own style of cinematography which worked extremely well in this film. 

Those three made this one of the best constructed movies I’ve ever seen but the fantastic cast brings it all together. The most important characters are played by Robert Pattinson (Batman/Bruce Wayne), Paul Dano (The Riddler), Zoë Kravitz (Catwoman/Selina Kyle), Jeffery Wright (Jim Gordon), Colin Farrell (Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin), Andy Serkis (Alfred Pennyworth), and John Turturro (Carmine Falcone). I could say so many good things about all of their performances but my favorite acting job was actually Colin Farrell’s portrayal of the Penguin. Besides him, every single one of them were brilliant. Collectively this is possibly the best acted movie I’ve ever seen.

With that being said it’s time to set some things straight. Nobody can touch Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008). Here’s the thing though, going into this movie everybody thought The Dark Knight was completely untouchable. That is simply no longer the case. It is a completely subjective thing now and neither answer is wrong. After I saw The Batman for the first time I thought it was better. Since my first watch however I rewatched The Dark Knight and saw The Batman again and it is very, very close. 

To prepare myself to see this movie I spent the week leading up to its release rewatching Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. One of the most common (and also confusing) takes that has been floating around is that The Dark Knight is a better movie but The Batman is a better Batman movie. No matter how weird that sounds, I agree. The Dark Knight as a film did incredible things for the comic book movie genre and will forever go down as a masterpiece of a film but this new movie accomplishes something that it didn’t. In The Batman, Batman is in every single scene; he dominates the film and is in almost every frame.

Matt Reeves’ vision of Gotham and the Batman is a very unique one. This movie is the darkest and perhaps creepiest version of both and definitely takes on an unusual approach. Batman in this movie is more of a detective than a crime fighter. One of the most interesting things is the relationship that he has not only with Gotham’s class of criminals but with its citizens as well. People are afraid of him; they get scared when they see the bat signal, nobody seems to know his motive, and this is shown when the man he saves in the first fight begs him not to hurt him as well. 

It’s impossible and redundant to efficiently summarize a three hour film so instead I’ll talk about the biggest moments and my favorite scenes. We open to the Riddler spying on and then brutally executing the incumbent mayor of Gotham, Don Mitchell. He goes on to kill Gotham Police Commissioner Pete Savage and Gotham District Attorney Gil Colson in a very tense scene at the mayor’s funeral. The Riddler’s goal is exposing Gotham’s lies and corruption which is why he targets and exposes those three: they were all corrupt in some way. 

We see Batman’s complicated relationship with two people very early on: Jim Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth. Batman works very closely with officer Gordon but will not reveal his identity to him and the higher ups of the police department are against Batman’s involvement in criminal detective work. One of the things about the movie that is hardest to figure out is Bruce Wayne’s relationship with Alfred. They act cold towards each other and Bruce has little patience for anytime Alfred disagrees with him or bothers him. Andy Serkis plays Alfred very well but very differently than we are used to from Michael Caine and his amazing portrayal of the character from the Dark Knight trilogy. 

One of the biggest criticisms of this movie is that there is too little Bruce Wayne. It is true, there is very little screen time for the billionaire and he is in character as Batman most of the time. I think this was actually a good choice and more than anything else aids to showing his character development. In the beginning of the film, Bruce believes in order to make a difference in Gotham he has to be Batman, he has to be vengeance, and he has to be fighting. At the very end we get the scene of Batman helping clean up Gotham and saying that he needs to be more than vengeance; finally he is beginning to realize that he can be doing more and even though he’s bound to struggle we’ll likely see more Bruce Wayne in the future. 

We meet Catwoman at the Iceberg Lounge where Batman is interrogating Penguin and she walks in. Batman follows her back home because she might have inside info about the important regulars at the club. We see her talk to her friend who is the mystery girl the mayor was having an affair with and then Batman catches her sneaking into the mayor’s home. Their chemistry goes back and forth throughout the movie as they work together but with conflicting motives each time. Of course with the plot twist that Falcone is her father and everything that happened as a result of that information, this version of Catwoman successfully became the best rendition we’ve seen to date in my opinion.

I think what worked so well with Catwoman was how even though they had mixed morals and intentions, her and Batman worked together. In the past, the Catwoman character has usually been portrayed as a criminal who spends the whole movie almost teasing Batman and trying to get him to have some fun and get into some trouble. That does happen at the end of this movie but after lots of character development. What made Kravitz’ version work so well is her role was written with more respect; she’s not just a love interest, she’s not just comedic relief, she’s not just an attractive character for viewing pleasure but the character is a very vital part of Bruce Wayne’s external and internal conflicts and character development. 

One of the most important chain of events is when Bruce learns the Riddler is targeting him next and what happens as a result of this. Batman finds this out with Gordon at the old Wayne Manor where Bruce once lived and the Riddler (Edward Nashton) used to live as an orphan. He races home in the batmobile as fast as possible and tries to reach Alfred by calling him but he’s far too late as Alfred has already opened the package the Riddler sent: a bomb. The beloved Wayne family butler spends the rest of the movie slowly recovering in a hospital bed where he & Bruce have a few emotional exchanges; one specifically about the Wayne family history. After Bruce’s late parents are exposed by the Riddler, Bruce talks to Carmine Falcone and then Alfred where he learns the truth behind “the sins of his father”. 

After learning from a corrupt cop that Falcone was the “rat” in the Salvatore Maroni drug bust, Batman goes back to the 44 Below club where he not only has to stop Catwoman from killing him but arrest him as well. Falcone is later killed by the Penguin and then Bruce sees the Riddler in a window across the street. The Riddler basically gives himself up in a cafe but the damage has already been done and his further plan will not be stopped. Upon further investigation, Batman and a cop unlock a video on Riddler’s computer of him outlining his plan to blow up vans along the water surrounding Gotham which would cause catastrophic flooding. This plan succeeds.

Now in the last act of the movie, Gotham is flooding at a fast rate and thousands of people are trapped in or around Gotham Square Garden where the newly elected mayor was supposed to speak. However, as we also learned from the Ridder’s video he had followers dress up like him and go to the stadium with plans to assassinate the mayor-elect and anyone important they could find. Batman busts in through the roof and fights off dozens of the Riddler goons before dropping into the water below to escort the mayor & more to safety. The scene of him leading the people through the water with a lit flare is just one of the many examples of the stunning cinematography. 

Just when the audience is left to assume there won’t be any more surprises, one scene plays. We see Riddler in his cell emotionally distraught watching Batman save the day. Then someone begins talking to him, comforting him, and telling him he did so well. This strange Arkham asylum prisoner delivers the line that sent chills down everyone’s spine: “What is it they say? One day you’re on top, the next, you’re a clown”. This we know of course has to be the Joker.

Here’s what we now know: this character is played by Barry Keoghan. He is an Irish actor most recently known for his role in Marvel’s Eternals and is credited in this movie as “Unnamed Arkham Prisoner”. Director Matt Reeves spoke about the character revealing this information: he is not a full fledged Joker yet. So far he’s just a criminal with a birth defect that won’t allow him to stop smiling, he has had run-ins with this version of Batman already who did put him in Arkham, and there is a deleted scene where Batman visits him and attempts to get info about the Riddler from him. He is obviously on his way mentally and physically to becoming the Joker but he just hasn’t fully adopted the iconic persona yet.

The movie ends with Selina Kyle telling Batman that she is going to leave and head upstate. She asks him to come with and says “the bat and the cat… has a nice ring to it.” Of course he decides to stay but briefly the audience is led to believe the opposite as he follows her on his motorcycle before splitting off into a different direction.

There are many incredible scenes in this movie. By far my favorite is the car chase between Batman and the Penguin. From the batmobile revving its engines to jumping through the fire and finally the stunning upside down walk towards Penguins flipped car, it was just incredible. 

There are a few more things worth mentioning. Director Matt Reeves said that he was listening to Nirvana while writing the script which inspired them to use their song “Something In The Way” twice; and he said Bruce Wayne’s personality is inspired partly by Kurt Cobain. There are three spin-off shows confirmed for HBO max including an R-rated Penguin show, a Catwoman show, and a horror show about Arkham Asylum. I’m very cautiously optimistic for them but still excited because I’m not looking forward to waiting years for a sequel and the spin-offs will help.  

I did not expect to like this movie as much as I did but every second of it was good. Here are some grades I would give to categories of judgment: (out of 100 so I can be more specific) cinematography 100, plot 96, character development 97, score (music) 98, pace 99, acting 99, script 97, and ending 93. Overall I’d give the movie roughly a 96/100. If I had to come up with complaints I’d say I wanted more Alfred, more Bruce, I wish they didn’t cut out the one Joker scene, I suppose it’s a little long, and there should be a longer post-credits scene.

I saw this movie with my dad and brother so I decided to get their opinions as well. We all agree that this movie is 2nd to The Dark Knight but we disagree on some other things. Earlier I said my favorite acting performance was Colin Farrell’s portrayal of the Penguin but my brother liked Paul Dano’s portrayal of the Riddler the best because “the character’s personality wasn’t what he expected but it was played perfectly”. My dad liked Robert Pattinson’s Batman the best because of how much he “made the character his own, carried the movie, and didn’t try to one up or copy past Batman actors”.

Going into the movie my dad was “excited to see a fresh reset of Batman’s story” and my brother was “expecting it to be a slow movie” which I can agree with. 

My dad agreed with me that the car chase was the best scene and frankly one of the best car chases in cinematic history. My brother loved the scene where Batman was walking through the dark hallway in the Iceberg Lounge that was lit up by the flash of guns by the people he was fighting. I also asked them what they wanted to see in the next movie. We all agreed more Bruce Wayne moments but we had different opinions on some other things. My brother wants the next main villain to be Barry Keoghan’s Joker (which I think should wait) but my dad said he is “less concerned about the main antagonist as long as it’s a new plot and it’s not just the return of the Riddler” or something less complex. 

I can attest to the fact that there seems to be endless extra information on this movie and endless rumors for the sequel. Among some of these rumors are: the substance Batman injected himself with is venom that the villain Bane used in the comics and one that’s less of a rumor more of a fact is that the villain Hush is teased in the segment about Wayne corruption. The effect this movie has had on people is just like what happened with Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) early this year. This movie is all over social media and it seems to be all people can talk about. 

Everybody seems to have a different opinion on this film but the truth is The Batman straight up delivers. It exceeds all expectations and gives us a new iconic portrayal of the story and characters. It’s a noir murdery mystery thriller with compelling action, captivating relationships, brilliant cinematography, and near perfect execution. While some people think they may have an idea, nobody knows what’s next for the Batman except Matt Reeves. The only difference is now we can all have total faith in his vision.