The Batman (2022) Directed by Matt Reeves
Unbridled, vicious and hypertrophic. Three bombastic words that could aptly symbolize this disruptive, epic and grim production about one of the most iconic and celebrated superheroes in comic book history. There never seems to be a bad time to revive everyone’s favorite bat hero, and this gigantically ambitious new production confirms that with a definitive tone, willfully subverting the ‘entertainment status quo’ to deconstruct the territory of blockbuster cinema by assaulting the soporific conventionality of superhero narratives and completely upending the intrinsic rules of the genre by injecting it with an aggressive dose of visceral style and profuse terror.
The Batman belongs more to the category of thriller cinema than superhero cinema, although I would be more in favor of defining that it reinvents a category, i.e. we could be in front of a film that revalidates the idiolect of comic book adaptation to the big screen. The daring filmmaker Matt Reeves directs and co-writes this visionary film that does nothing more than break every established rule in the contemporary format of insipid superhero cinema, it seems a formidable critique that seeks to form new patterns to follow within this particular milieu.
Watching The Batman is like watching an incendiary interplay between the typical instrumental formulas of horror cinema and the tension-filled, fast-paced and proficient tools of 60’s thriller cinema with singular tinges of David Fincher’s emblematic cinema. Unlike the oppressively dark and evocatively serious splendor of Nolan’s trilogy, this new reinterpretation of the Dark Knight further challenges the sense of drama and austerity in the corrupt and seedy streets of Gotham City. With boundless vehemence the script penetrates the dark mysticism of the character as no other Batman film has done before. The qualities expressed in novelistic nuance and the explicitness enunciated in stark cinematic violence establish a genuine bond that makes the obvious influences an artifice committed to engendering something new, something unique of its kind.
Undoubtedly, the most complex part in the elaboration of this tenebrous spectacle took place in the editing room, in this plot of introspective ferocity, revenge and power, so much happens that deciding what to remove and what to leave for the final editing must have been a tedious post-production exercise. Still, what they compacted here are 3 intoxicating hours that flow in rhythm and forcefulness. Judiciously edited and phenomenally filmed with such filmic ideals that make this exhibition of action, terror and suspense a sturdy audiovisual journey through the darkness of Gotham City.
Every night Bruce Wayne masks himself in the identity of Batman to plunge into the depths of Gotham City. In his fight against crime he only has the support of Alfred Pennyworth and the help of Lieutenant James Gordon, within an armored network of police corruption. A new assassin sets his sights on some of Gotham’s citizens creating a series of sadistic machinations that, through a trail of puzzle-like clues, will lead Batman down a turbulent and ruthless path. On his journey towards revenge, the Dark Knight will encounter Selina Kyle -alias Catwoman-, Oswald Cobblepot -alias The Penguin-, Carmine Falcone and Edward Nashton -alias Riddler. Between shadows and lights, Batman will have to forge alliances with some of them to impart justice and put an end to the abuse of power that plagues the city of Gotham.
Having as its fundamental idea the pragmatic development of a thriller, the narrative evokes the idiosyncratic and literary style of a mystery novel, here the depressive, solemn and altruistic Batman, played with a poe-esque aura by Robert Pattinson, seems more to return to the origins of the comic book, carrying with him a detective essence rather than a superhero. Likewise, the grotesque and uncouth villains here seem to be more attached to a reality outside of the cartoonish. Some buffoonish, some garrulous, some with terrorist tendencies, but in general each of them allegorize the hazardous tangibility of the mental decay we live in the 21st century. The cast, chosen with meticulous exactitude, is a Molotov of personalities astonishingly transferred to this explosive narrative that is full of lethal surprises. The curvaceous and intelligent Zoë Kravitz, plays a captivating catwoman who ends up giving the film an air of strong sensuality. An unrecognizable Colin Farrell plays a sort of gangster version of the penguin. But none of them is the main villain of this film, most of the crimes gravitate around the deranged Riddle, played frantically by Paul Dano.
In The Batman everything is restructured, not even the superlative comic book villains are portrayed as usual. Matt Reeves’ deftness in this film is in having given a genuine voice to the mythological reformulation of the characters, already extremely well known to the public; this is proof of the filmmaker’s non-conformist, maverick attitude when it comes to pushing the boundaries and making these iconic characters more than just inexhaustible legends in the medium, they are part of our culture and Reeves grasps that better than any other director who has made a Batman movie. The adaptability of comic books to the medium of film sometimes erroneously collides with their own colorful and implausible nature, nonetheless this production takes seriously the task of making a translation that is not accurate, not literal, yet faithful to the specific emotions and ethos of what these characters symbolize.
Admittedly, the film suffers considerably from a dearth of set pieces, a last-minute decision or a deliberate decision in advance. Yet in that scarcity there is something far richer and more energetic than any rapid-fire, pulse-pounding set piece, and that is that the arcane way in which the thriller scrupulously unfolds is brilliant enough to make you forget how little action it has. Though, make no mistake, the film still saves the magnificence of the boisterous action for exclusive moments, sequences that must belong to the most epic ever filmed in the history of Batman on film. The action is electrifying and stentorian, the terror is cryptic and chilling and the mystery that makes up the diversity of genres that this film exhibits is homogeneously worthy of a “superhero opera”. A whole big show, excitingly conducted with the operatic musical orchestration of the great Michael Giacchino.
The Batman is not without its flaws, however they are ephemeral, the immersive three-dimensionality of this world is great enough to obviate the uneven final act. The overall result is the quintessential Batman film to date, and perhaps the most wrathful and bleakly depressing Batman ever put on film.