The Pitch: No one could say that we currently suffer from a lack of stories about Batman right now. Certainly, since the character’s original debut in 1939, he’s been a frequent fixture on our screens, with a wide range of interpretations available to the media consumer going back decades.
Yet, there’s something about a guy who likes dressing up in a cape and Kevlar to pummel bad guys which keeps us watching, and perhaps that’s why it was inevitable that WarnerMedia would eventually get a new solo Batman adventure into theaters at some point (despite the ten-year gap between The Dark Knight Rises and this film being filled with Ben Affleck’s take on the role for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League).
So, enter Robert Pattinson as a younger, mopier Bruce Wayne, with a penchant for eye black and lurking awkwardly in public when deprived of the safety of his mask. In the hands of Matt Reeves, who directs and co-wrote the script with Peter Craig, Bruce Wayne is emo but for a clear reason; a haunted young man focused on his quest to protect Gotham City, at the expense of literally everything else that might be considered important to the human experience.
Time to Solve Some Bat-Crimes: As The Batman is nearly three hours long, the plot does get pretty complex, but the inciting incident is a relatively simple one: Twenty years after the death of Bruce’s parents and two years after he started skulking around the city in a Batsuit, a series of violent high-profile murders in Gotham threatens to destabilize the already tenuous rules of order, with Batman teaming up with Lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) to track down a killer whose crimes are always accompanied by riddles.
Reeves’s direction, especially when it comes to the action scenes, is clear and direct, never losing the geography of a scene, and favoring enough instances of magic hour to ensure that the entire film doesn’t take place in darkness. (There’s also some gorgeous production design on display, including an inspired take on the Wayne family home that’s gothic in a wholly unique way from Tim Burton’s iconic approach.)
It’s all in service to the concept of “getting back to basics” with Batman, who does have a cool car and nifty gadgets, but is very firmly in World’s Greatest Detective mode, albeit coming from a place of extreme emotional damage. Right from the beginning, Reeves seeks to center his Batman’s point-of-view as the primary one, with Bruce Wayne’s journal serving as voice-over narration for key parts of the film.
But even with this additional insight into Bruce Wayne’s psyche, he’s still a bit inscrutable; there are moments where Reeves engages with a classic Batman trope — the idea that this Batman might have an awful lot in common with the criminals he chases — with the ultimate answer being “yeah, for sure.”