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The Batman: An Unconventional Masterpiece of an Origin Story

The Batman (2022) is a film that is not afraid to embrace Batman’s title as the best detective in the world while still accepting his naivete. The performances, the score, the cinematography, and the directing all diverge from the typical nature of a blockbuster superhero movie to produce a gritty, suspenseful, and dramatic film closer to the likes of David Fincher’s detective films Se7en (1995) and The Zodiac (2007). Taking inspiration from many film genres, director Matt Reeves successfully delivers what is quite possibly the best Batman film to date. 

Despite the ambitiously star-studded cast, the film manages to never feel bloated. Rather, each performance feels intricately connected while still allowing each character to shine on their own. Paul Dano delivers on all fronts as the film’s main antagonist, the Riddler, providing an equally terrifying yet amusing take that constantly keeps you on the edge of your seat. Colin Farrell is unrecognizable as the Penguin, completely embodying the character and stealing almost every scene he is in. Farrell also brings a certain level of comedy to every scene that is refreshing in a film so gritty. Jeffrey Wright is amazing as Commissioner Gordon, perfectly depicting Gordon’s need to elicit the Batman for help to solve the Riddler’s murders. This relationship between Gordon and Batman drives the film’s plot while bringing the audience into their investigative journey. Another key person in this investigative journey is Selina Kyle or Catwoman, played magnificently by Zoë Kravitz. Every movement and action by Kravitz is filled with purpose, and her range of emotions throughout the film is nothing but impressive. The caped crusader himself, Robert Pattinson, gives a stand-alone performance as Bruce Wayne, adding a brooding side to the character that separates him from previous Batman performances. His movements as Batman are slow and methodical, evoking fear every time he enters the frame. His character speaks through actions and subtle eye movements, not words. The grit and somber nature Pattinson brings to the role of Bruce Wayne perfectly portrays a character enveloped in grief over his parents’ murder. 

All of these performances are beautifully accompanied by the film’s score. Michael Giacchino has created a musical masterpiece that is capable of shape-shifting to the different tones within any particular scene. Simultaneously grandiose and chill-inducing, while still being hopeful and full of emotion, The Batman (2022) would simply not be what it is without Giacchino’s magnificent score. 

Impossible to go unnoticed, another core aspect of what makes The Batman (2022) stand apart from other films is its cinematography. Gritty, unfocused, and harrowing at times, the shots by cinematographer Greig Fraser do not shy away from showing the dark side of Gotham city. The combat shots are often still and close-up, adding a level of intensity that separates the film from typical blockbuster fight scenes that tend to use CGI and quick camera movements.

By far the film’s best attribute, though, is its willingness to show that Batman is still learning who he is and acquiring the skills he needs to become the infamous character known today. Only two years into his adventure as the Batman, it is improbable that Bruce Wayne would be perfect, and the film acknowledges this reality. Batman stalls the Batmobile when first driving it, messes up a landing while gliding down from a building, and is unable to take out groups of adversaries without taking some hits. This attention to Batman’s naivete grounds the film in reality and makes it feel like an unconventional origin story. On top of this attention to Batman’s fledgling skill set is Wayne trying to figure out his own identity throughout the film. At the beginning of the film, Batman declares that he is “Vengeance” not yet the “Batman.” This declaration aligns with his actions, as he is trying to improve the state of Gotham purely through fear and revenge. However, the crime rate in Gotham continues to go up even with Vengeance on the streets, and by the end of the film, Bruce Wayne realizes that the decimated city of Gotham may need something more than what he originally set out to be: something that symbolizes hope, not fear. Bookended by Pattinson narrating two of Bruce Wayne’s diary entries, the film provides a refreshing take on establishing Batman as a character by focusing on his internal struggles since the death of his parents.

The Batman (2022) delivers as not only the best live-action iteration of the Batman story, only possibly challenged by Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008), but also as one of the best films of the past century. Besides a few plot points that could be harped on longer, the film is riveting and purposeful for its entire three-hour runtime, making it feel no longer than two. Director Matt Reeves has created a masterpiece. Everything from the cinematography, acting, and score to the intricate characters and plot works together at the highest level. Reeves' interpretation of an already well-known intellectual property truly brings a new life and vision to the classic Batman story, while successfully setting up enticing sequels for this newly coined “Batman.”