10 mins is all it will take for you to love Pattinson as Batman

Synopsis: When the Riddler, a sadistic serial killer, begins murdering key political figures in Gotham, Batman is forced to investigate the city's hidden corruption and question his family's involvement.
Director: Matt Reeves
Stars: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Barry Keoghan, Colin Farrell, Jeffrey Wright, Paul Dano

Have you ever been on a first date where the person sitting across the table from you kept talking about their ex? Not too much fun, right?

Admittedly, this is an odd way to start a review for The Batman, but I feel I was indirectly guilty of this behaviour.

I absolutely loved Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight’ movies. I would say it’s one of the best trilogies of all time. Combining his vision with superb acting and storytelling made for a great series.

After Nolan walked away from directing Batman movies, we were introduced to Zach Snyder’s direction and Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Bruce Wayne, and more importantly, Batman. I was indifferent to the casting of Affleck, but I had a lukewarm response to Batman vs. Superman and Justice League. They were good movies but not ‘Nolan-esque.’ I kept thinking, ‘What if Nolan was still involved?’ really involved and not just some token ‘producer credit.’ I spoke of this in my reviews, and I was, unfortunately, that person who went on about an ‘ex.’

Coming into this new film, my hopes were low. I have well documented that between DC comics and the other guys (that other studio with the mouse), I felt that the ‘other guys’ were more polished; they had things planned out more. That being said, Batman is my favourite superhero, so I was excited to see what this film would bring. It wasn’t until I saw this new film that I understood why Affleck’s portrayal of Batman never made me excited: That childlike anticipation of seeing Batman on the screen; it never came in either of the Affleck Batman films.

That isn’t a criticism of Affleck but the overall films. They were good, but not great. I also feel part of the issue is that when we saw Batman vs. Superman and Justice League, they were collaborative films in that we had multiple superheroes on screen. That isn’t necessary with Batman; he can carry a movie on his own.

It takes me a while to warm up to a new actor in a franchise, and although I never did with Affleck’s Batman, it took me until the third Daniel Craig Bond film to accept him as 007. However, it took me about 10 minutes to accept Pattinson as Batman . . . I was excited for Batman’s appearance. The child in me was ignited, and I found his performance believable. Right off the bat, no pun intended, Robert Pattinson took me back to being a kid who just loved Batman. Now I’m just an adult with that love reinforced.

One of the things I appreciate about this new Batman film is that it isn’t an origin story. It doesn’t waste screen time by taking us back to a period where Bruce Wayne was a little boy. Director Matt Reeves gives us the benefit of the doubt that we know how Batman came to be. Batman narrates the opening scene telling the story of a man who is a ‘nocturnal animal’ and he ‘can’t be everywhere.’ He speaks to the importance of the ‘bat signal’ and what it does to criminals.

From a plot perspective, Batman and James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) investigate a series of murders of high-profile people in Gotham. The murderer leaves riddles for the caped crusader, and some scenes seem to channel David Fincher’s great film Se7en as we deal with grisly murders and try to understand the ‘why’ and the ‘who’ behind them.

My favourite superhero movies all have one common denominator: the hero deals with real adversity, which is true for this film. Pattinson is highly believable in this role, and you could see his performance wasn’t ‘mailed in.’

The decision to cast Robert Pattinson as Batman was met with skepticism, as anyone taking on such an iconic role would. It is understandable if you think of Twilight when you hear his name, but he has done so much more. His roles in The Lighthouse, High Life, and Tenet have shown he is an excellent actor. Pattinson does a fantastic job in this role.

Reeves, to his credit, doesn’t try to copy other Batman films. He puts his own stamp on it by focusing less on the playboy version of Bruce Wayne and more on the man focussed on fixing Gotham. As Bruce Wayne, Pattinson reminded me more of Chris Gaines—respect if you get that reference—than a Gotham billionaire, but it worked for me.

In addition to my ‘man-child’ excitement during certain scenes, I was deeply impressed with this film. At two hours and forty-seven minutes before the end credits roll, the film doesn’t feel that long. I wasn’t checking my watch to see how much time remained because I was so invested in the movie.

In addition to Pattinson and Wright, Zoe Kravitz is solid as Selina Kyle. Unlike the last time we saw this character on film, she is given a backstory, and her character is explained. Kravitz is great with her material, and while most of her previous roles have been in supporting parts, don’t be surprised if we start seeing her in more leading roles.

Colin Farrell and Paul Dano both deliver great performances, as you would expect from actors named Colin Farrell and Paul Dano.

Michael Giacchino delivers an amazing score for the film. Taking over from Hans Zimmer is never easy, but this transition was seamless. The music can be its own character in the movie, and it’s no different here. Larry Fong, who is a great cinematographer, has shot a beautiful film. Not too dark, not too bright, but as Goldilocks would say . . . just right!

There is a cheeky end-credit scene after the film. I caught it because I wasn’t running for the exits; I remained in my seat, taking in everything I had just seen.

I was astonished by this film.

I respect everything you did for the franchise Mr. Nolan, but there is a new boss in town, and his name is Matt Reeves. Reeves deserves so much credit for what he has accomplished with this film. Stepping in to direct an established franchise isn’t easy, but don’t tell that to Reeves because he blew it out of the park. 

Overall, this is a stunning film. People will ask, ‘is this the best Batman movie ever?’ and I don’t like those questions because recency bias steps in. That’s a question that can be answered over time. I never thought another director could use IMAX the way Christopher Nolan does until I saw Denis Villeneuve’s Dune. In this vein, I can confidently say that Matt Reeves has constructed a Batman movie that Nolan and fans of the franchise can be proud of. This film has rejuvenated my faith in DC film projects, and I hope they can take the baton from here and keep it going. The film shows that Batman doesn’t need to be part of an ensemble; the character can carry a successful franchise on his own.

Before I was invited to the press screening of this film, I purchased tickets for two separate screenings of this film. Those tickets won’t be refunded. I am looking forward to seeing this amazing film at both showings.

During the past two years, I understood people’s discomfort with going to the theatre, especially when streaming services are easily accessible. I previously said Dune was one movie that needed to be seen on the big screen; I’ve added a second to that list, and it’s called The Batman.

Grade: A