A New Batman for a New Generation:
The Batman is a film that I had on my watchlist for a very long time. Ever since The Batman’s initial test footage released back in 2020, I knew that director Matt Reeves and DC were crafting something special within the Batman mythos, something dark, violent and gritty.
The Batman’s trailers promised that the film would be something completely different and would bring something new to Batman’s cinematic identity, an identify that had been in filmic turmoil ever since the cinematic debacle known as 2017’s Justice League. The Batman also promised to take the superhero genre as a whole to new heights.
And after an excruciating 2-year wait and audience’s beginning to show superhero fatigue, The Batman would officially release to cinemas worldwide on March 4, 2022.
The Batman would not only open with widespread critical acclaim across the filmmaking world, but it would also provide a breath of fresh air to the superhero genre as a whole.
The Batman in my opinion is the perfect mixture of grit, action, noir, mystery, and thriller all tied together in a 2-hour and 50-minute package which is endlessly entertaining, engaging and thought-provoking.
Matt Reeve’s, The Batman, is a visceral, cinematic masterpiece, which has set the new gold standard for superhero filmmaking. The Batman is a film that not only breaks the mould when it comes to how we interpret/discuss modern superhero cinema but also, how much a film can invest its audience within it’s story, emotion and presented world.
A More Abrasive Batman Story:
“When that light hits the sky…it’s not just a call. It’s a warning…to them”
Taking cues from David Fincher’s ‘Zodiac’ and Roman Polanski’s ‘Chinatown’. The Batman isn’t your typical superhero story that relies on flashy action, characters, and jokey dialogue. Instead, The Batman takes a more methodical approach to the superhero genre.
The film takes its time to delve deep into each character’s thoughts and motives. Each element of The Batman’s narrative feels fully fleshed out and developed from introduction to conclusion, leaving the audience overall satisfied with the product.
The Batman’s narrative begins two years into Bruce Wayne’s career as Batman, stalking the decrepit streets and rat-infested alleyways of Gotham City which has been overrun with crime, gang violence and murder due to crime bosses like Carmine Falcone and Salvatore Maroni.
Matt Reeve’s incarnation of Bruce Wayne (as portrayed by Robert Patterson) is shown to be still traumatised by the murder of his parents. In the two years, Bruce has been patrolling the streets of Gotham, he has become consumed by rage, obsessed with becoming the embodiment of fear within the criminals of Gotham.
This obsession has caused Bruce to become a recluse, pushing away his only family, Alfred (portrayed by Andy Serkis) and distancing himself from his distinguished Wayne family name in order to allow his true self, The Batman, to fully become the personification of vengeance and finally uproot the criminal underbelly of Gotham City. The same criminal underbelly that took Bruce’s parents away from him.
It is clear that in Matt Reeve’s interpretation of the character, Batman isn’t the alter-ego of Bruce Wayne, but instead, Bruce Wayne is the alter-ego of The Batman. Bruce Wayne in the film, only serves as camouflage, a tool in Batman’s wide arsenal in order access information that The Batman typically wouldn’t be able to attain.
Meanwhile, the Batman is seen as a mythologic entity within the eyes of both criminals and citizens of Gotham, a ruthless, one-man army fighting against terror and striking fear into anyone who comes face to face with the mythical creature of the night.
During the opening of the film, it is revealed that Bruce has also created an unlikely alliance with GCPD Lieutenant James Gordon (portrayed by Jeffrey Wright). An alliance formed not only on mutual respect but also, formed over the desperation and the hope of finally driving the corruption out of Gotham, one broken limb at a time.
While investigating the mysterious murder of several high-ranking Gotham officials, the Batman and Lieutenant Gordon would begin to uncover several cryptic letters addressed; “TO THE BATMAN”.
The originator of these letters would be revealed as the cold, calculating, Zodiac-like killer, The Riddler (portrayed by Paul Dano). This discovery would unknowingly swallow Bruce Wayne whole, throwing him down a spiral of criminal conspiracy, family corruption, high-level murder, and uncovering the true actual effect that The Batman is having on Gotham City.
Along Bruce’s chase for The Riddler, he would also cross paths with the likes of Zoe Kravitz’s Catwoman, Collin Farrell’s Penguin and, John Turturro’s Carmine Falcone. Each one of these characters serving a crucial part in the wider conflict between The Batman and Riddler, whether they wanted to or not.
The story that Matt Reeves and Peter Craig presents to the audience is one that pulls no punches. Every character, subplot and action within the film is given plenty of time to flourish under the film’s almost three-hour runtime, and every single element that Matt Reeves and Peter Craig place within the narrative of The Batman serves its purpose.
The film is endlessly engaging and its dark noir-thriller take on the superhero genre is something that audiences haven’t seen since Batman’s previous solo outing; The Dark Knight Rises (2012), 10 years ago.
The story is so meticulously crafted that every element within the film has weight and only serves to add emotion to the film’s narrative.
The Batman’s Cinematography and Atmosphere:
The Batman’s cinematography and atmosphere accentuates the dark and gritty world which is presented to the audience. Cinematographer, Greig Fraser, who is notable for his work on Foxcatcher (2014), Last Ride (2009) and Dune Part 1 (2021), uses both camera and lighting to create a visual feast for the eyes, that harkens back to the noir films of the ’40s and ’50s.
Every shot in The Batman feels dark and cold because Fraser utilises heavy amounts of shadow and contrast. This consistent shadow mixed with the desaturated blue rain, the orange hew of Gotham city and the ever-present darkness that creeps its way into every shot, combines together to create a visual symphony that allows the film to look just that bit more grimy and akin to films produced by Alfred Hitchcock.
Greig Fraser’s cinematography shines brightly throughout The Batman, each frame bleeds character and uniqueness. Greig Fraser’s use of the ARRI ALFA anamorphic lenses creates a focal point in the centre of each frame. This choice of lens also created a severe falloff of resolution with the edges of the frame. This creates the effect that the audience is watching the film layout through a fish eye lens and gives The Batman a truly unique look.
The Batman is a masterclass in both cinematography and atmosphere, Greig Fraser’s use of Mise En Scene, lighting and ARRI ALFA anamorphic lense creates a visually stunning and unique piece of cinema with has the potential to inspire a new generation of cinematographers for years to come.
Not Your Typical Superhero Film:
The Batman feels unique when viewed in the same light as other superhero films that have been released in 2022. While the recent slate has begun to feel similar and generally formulaic over the last couple of years, The Batman differentiates itself from the norm of flashy action and jokey dialogue.
Instead of presenting The Batman as an MCU copycat (which has been the trend for most superhero films of recently), Director Matt Reeve’s instead opted to present a story that is more akin to the pulp noir films that dominated the box office almost a century ago. Instead of a fun, light-hearted, family-friendly superhero film that is appropriate for all ages, The Batman instead replaces everything audiences have come to expect from a superhero film with grit, grime and mature themes.
The Batman is through and through a slow-burn detective story that prioritizes’ s characters and story, over flashy CGI fights and comic relief. The film is cold, dark and violent, its characters are mature and given time to breathe over the film’s 2 hours and 50-minute run time. The film’s action is brutal and given weight by the character’s established beliefs and values clashing against one another.
The Batman feels like the breath of fresh air that the superhero genre needed after Avengers: Endgame. The film feels fresh and brings a lot to the table in terms of storytelling, character exploration and, how to tell a new, intriguing story with old, iconic characters that have been around for generations.
The Batman has raised the stakes when it comes to creating a compelling superhero drama. Matt Reeve and the entire production team have shown that innovation within the superhero genre is still possible and that not every superhero film has to follow in the footsteps of the MCU.
The Batman exceeds in telling an interwoven, complex story with characters audiences are already familiar with.
Greig Fraser’s use of the ARRI ALFA anamorphic lenses is a serious game changer in the realm of cinematography, the unorthodox use of these lenses grounds The Batman’s story in realism and creates an effect that general moviegoers have never seen before.
The Batman is one of the greatest films that I have ever seen, and I truly believe that this film has reinvented what moviegoers should consider to be quality superhero films. Not a flashy, high-budget mess of CGI and comedy, but, a meticulously crafted narrative that engages the audience not just through its story and characters, but also through its cinematography, world-building and use of Mise-En-Scene.
That’s what sets The Batman apart from the rest, that is what The Batman is the New Gold Standard of Filmmaking.
By Michael Qualischefski.