New ‘Batman’ film signals new era of Gotham

Robert Pattinson dons the iconic mask and cape to step into the role of the Dark Knight for the newest addition to the Gotham film series, ‘The Batman,’ which premiered on March 4. // Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures

Our Take: 4.5/5 Stars

Over the past few decades, audiences have seen many iterations of the character of Batman, both live action and animated. With so many retellings, it would be easy for the character to become overused and dry. However, in the most recent addition to the Batman lore, co-writer and director Matt Reeves strikes gold. 

Twisting the Batman story into something darker and more original, it will be sure to provide diehard fans and novices alike with an enjoyable ride. In a roundtable press conference, Reeves sat down with his producer, Dylan Clark, as well as several of the primary actors to discuss the film and the experience of finally bringing this story to the big screen.

The prestige and honor of working on a Batman film was not lost on anyone on set. Everyone approached the film with a sense of humility and awe. Jeffrey Wright (“No Time to Die,” “Westworld”), who steps into the role of Detective Gordon, Batman’s police contact, described working on the film as “gratifying and impressive.” 

Everyone involved agreed to take it seriously and to do it right. For Robert Pattinson (“The Lighthouse,” “Good Time”), the acclaimed actor who dons the famous cape and cowl of the Dark Knight, the hard work of the cast and crew is what makes it so easy to do your own job. 

“The people putting in 100 percent every day brings you into the character,” he said.

This dedication from the cast and crew throughout the entire production process is evident in the final film. The attention to detail is incredible and every little thing combines together to create a truly immersive and a truly unique Batman film.

We, as an audience, are no stranger to the darker elements of the Batman story. Many interpretations of the caped crusader in film and television depict the tortured nature of Bruce Wayne and Batman and frame him as the sole incorruptible protector of the City of Gotham against seemingly overwhelming and
impossible odds. 

This film, however, takes this one step further. We are introduced to a darker, grittier Batman who is tortured on a whole separate level. Really this is what audiences have been waiting for, and, honestly, a Batman film like this should have been made a long time ago. A welcome change comes from the insecurity Wayne has not only about his mission but about himself. With a narrative and visual style wonderfully reminiscent of the classic film noir genre of early Hollywood, the film blends the thematic
elements of the story and into the visual style in a way that is both visually stunning and incredibly powerful.  

Reeves relates the writing process and, in particular, facing the blank page as being in a dark room on his hands and knees, reaching out for something familiar. In setting out to write a new and different Batman story, Reeves focuses his sights on a younger Batman, one who is not yet fully fledged. 

For Pattinson, he said that the younger and “more frail” Batman allowed him an opening into the character and helped him craft his performance. 

“Batman is fallible,” he said.

The film embraces that. This attitude and characterization lead to a much more interesting story and a more nuanced portrayal of the iconic character than audiences have seen recently. Desperation, too, seems to be a defining characteristic of not only Batman, but really all of the characters. Zöe Kravitz (“Big Little Lies,” “Gemini”), steps into the role of Selina Kyle/Catwoman, and masterfully counters Pattinson’s Batman, adding depth and intrigue to the film. Her character is driven so much by desperation and watching Kravitz embody the role is almost mesmerizing. The connection between Batman and Catwoman is the emotional core of the story, and the driving force of the entire film. It is expertly intertwined into the narrative and well designed. 

“The connection was built into the script,” Kravitz said. “It was something we, as actors, could connect to.” 

That connection to the role is what pushed them to craft such strong and intriguing performances. This is a great film. It is a step in the right direction for what a Batman film can be and maybe should be. But it feels the studios are trying to balance between the marketability of a rated PG-13 film, and a story and character that so desperately wants to be let loose. With obvious influences from dark crime stories, the film feels a little too reserved for what it wants to be. One immediate influence that comes to mind for the film, both visually and narratively, is David Fincher’s 1995 film “Se7en.” Fincher’s dark detective film benefits greatly from the added freedom of an R rating, and it feels as though Reeves’s “The Batman” would have as well. 

This is what a Batman film should be: gritty and dark with tortured characters and a twisted, mysterious plot. There is so much to say about this film, but really, movie goers just need to experience this film for themselves. 

Paul Dano (“There Will Be Blood,” “Love & Mercy”) said it best when he said that the film “was immersive from beginning to end” and that the film grabs you from the very first frame and doesn’t let go until the credits roll. Both an incredibly beautiful film, and a film that provides powerful and timely commentary about our society, this film is a “must watch.” 

Do yourself a favor. Go see “The Batman” as soon as you can.