Robert Pattinson dons the cape in The Batman.
When the Comics Code Authority was established in the 1950s to appease those who thought the funny books were corrupting the minds of children with questionable themes, inherently dark characters like Batman entered an era of lighthearted camp. It was not until the 1980s that Batman would permanently reclaim his throne as the prototypical dark-and-troubled king of angst, despite LEGO and George Clooney-with-bat-nipples iterations. Before now, the darkest version of Batman to ever glide onto the silver screen was in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, a series that helped elevate comic book movies to more “serious” cinema. But just when I thought the Caped Crusader couldn’t get any darker, Warner Brothers decided to double down with The Batman, an extremely well-made, intense film that, much like a black hole, does not let a single photon of light escape its inky depths.
Directed by Matt Reeves and led by Robert Pattinson’s almost uncomfortably unhinged, brilliantly subtle, and undoubtedly Kurt Cobain-inspired rendition of the titular hero, The Batman is not for the faint of heart. There is no comic relief to be found, the violence is regularly even more brutal than The Dark Knight at its bloodiest (it is still, somehow, PG-13), and the mystery at the center of it all demands your full attention and brainpower for the entire 176-minute run time if you expect to understand everything that’s happening. If these things don’t turn you off you will find The Batman to be a fantastic watch. The supporting cast, which includes Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman, Jeffrey Wright as Jim Gordon, and Paul Dano as the startlingly creepy Riddler, is perfectly cast and act the heck out of a script that is sharp if not always compelling. Some of it feels like a horror movie (who imagined the Batmobile could be so scary?), some of it feels like a David Fincher-esque psychological thriller in the vein of Se7en or Zodiac, and none of it is what I would describe as “fun.” The Batman is not a movie you want to see if you want to escape the horribleness of the real world and watch a superhero bam, smash, and pow their way through a colorful rogues gallery for a few hours. “Colorful” is the very last word I would use to describe The Batman—black, dark red, and various shades of gray seem to be the only colors that exist in this version of Gotham City.
This limited and dreary color pallet is one of a few nitpicks I had that kept The Batman from reaching loftier heights in my estimation. I had other issues as well, such as the soundtrack, which is overly bombastic, far too intrusive, and has a fixation on a certain two-note refrain that will drive you absolutely insane by the time it is played for the millionth time, as well as the script’s occasional dip into melodrama and self-importance (some of Batman’s brooding voiceovers come uncomfortably close to self-parody at some points). Yet despite these flaws, The Batman is a thrilling, well-crafted film that is well worth your time if you don’t mind your movies having a whole lot of dark and not a lot of fun.
The Batman is now available exclusively in theaters.