Official film still provided by Warner Bros Entertainment
**This article contains spoilers for “The Batman” (2022).**
I will admit, I am a fan of superhero movies. Since I was a child, I watched both Marvel and DC films, preferring the former even though I knew there were DC gems like the “The Dark Knight” trilogy. Disappointed with Ben Affleck’s portrayal of the titular Batman in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016), I was optimistically cautious about Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of the hero in “The Batman” (2022). However, I knew Pattinson was a talented actor, having played in critically acclaimed films, such as “The Lighthouse” (2019).
It should be noted that my only knowledge of “The Batman” was through the news of Pattinson’s casting, a teaser for the film released a few years ago, and photos of Pattinson in the Batman costume. I did not watch any trailers for the film and tried to keep away from social media when the film was first released. I came into the movie completely blind, with the exception of knowing that Robert Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz played in the film (a focal point we’ll discuss later).
I watched the film the weekend after its official premiere with a few friends. I was excited about being in a movie theater again, even though I was a bit anxious about COVID-19. “The Batman” is a film that should be watched in theaters. The big screen and powerful surround sound systems add to the ambiance of the film.
The film centers around the titular character, Batman (Robert Pattinson), who is following a line of murders involving several prominent members of Gotham’s city government. A clue is left behind at each murder, the Riddler (Paul Dano) being the villain of the film. Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz) gets involved when her friend, an escort named Annika, disappears one night after photos of her with the mayor go public online.
In Gotham, there is a power struggle between Gotham’s infamous mafia and other lowly gangs and villains trying to gain control of the city and who has access to a huge fund that was provided by the Wayne family. This provides a very interesting character arc for Bruce Wayne, whose father was the mayor and started the fund to expand social services and philanthropy in a declining Gotham shortly before his tragic death.
“The Batman” quickly became one of my all-time favorite superhero movies, aside from “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017) and “Captain America: Winter Soldier” (2014), and my favorite DC film of all-time. I couldn’t stand Ben Affleck’s interpretation of the character in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” whenever he showed up in other DC films. It didn’t help that Ben Affleck’s Batman was trying too much to be similar to Robert Downey Jr.’s Ironman, flying in private jets and being more charismatic than other iterations of Batman.
Pattinson takes Batman and Bruce Wayne to a whole other level, making Wayne a daytime recluse who takes his vengeance on evil at night as Batman. It was also great watching Batman calculate his moves in real-time and playing detective while searching for evidence of the murder. Watching Pattinson switch seamlessly from Wayne to Batman didn’t surprise me because Pattinson is a talented actor, but it was satisfying. He really knew what he was doing with his character and what he wanted to convey to the audience. His chemistry with Zoe Kravitz was also pretty great, although the relationship that blossoms between them felt a bit rushed at times.
Zoe Kravitz did an equally great job playing the iconic Catwoman, also known as Selena Kyle. Catwoman is a character who has always been a sultry femme fatale, even in the comics. I loved that Kravitz wasn’t afraid to lean into Catwoman’s character, even mastering her iconic, hip-swaying catwalk (no pun intended). She was able to convey the sneakiness of her character but also the righteousness she felt while trying to avenge her friend. It was refreshing to see a truly morally grey character in a DC film, one who isn’t necessarily a villain but isn’t exactly a hero either (and isn’t part of the Suicide Squad).
There’s one point in the film where Catwoman points out the hypocrisy of Batman’s character, something I really enjoyed because it came from a non-antagonist of the film. It came from someone that Batman had some comradery with, sharing understanding about their dead (and in the case of Catwoman, absent) parents. But Catwoman points out that many of the problems in Gotham started when the Waynes started their fund, and that he can’t really stop the crime without addressing the systemic problems Gotham faces. I think it presented an interesting moral dilemma for Batman, one that points out his privilege of being a Wayne and fighting crime while ignoring the reasons why crime is so prevalent.
The movie is very reminiscent of the “Batman: Arkham” video game series, which made me feel a little nostalgic because those games meant a lot to me when I played them in middle school and high school. There’s a specific scene where Batman has Catwoman infiltrate the Penguin’s club, speaking into her ear while watching everything that she’s doing from a special camera device in her eye. While he’s speaking to her, you can see Catwoman calculate her own moves and risks aside from whatever Batman has her doing. It’s very reminiscent of stealth missions in video games. I could feel my arms grip the armrest nearby in anticipation of what was happening on the screen.
Unfortunately, while the movie was amazing, there were some things that I can’t help but nag at. For instance, the movie’s runtime is 2 hours and 56 minutes. While I was entertained most of the movie, I think there were some parts that could’ve been cut out, especially some scenes at the end that felt like they ran too long.
One of my other main gripes with the film was the lack of development for Selena Kyle. While Kravitz did her character justice, many parts that made up Catwoman’s character were glossed over. I wish that they spent more time developing Catwoman’s motivations and her relationship with her father (who is revealed to be Falcone). I wish that Catwoman was also allowed to explore her sexuality beyond Batman. The film was criticized for being fanservice, utilizing the looks of both Kravitz and Pattinson. I would even go further and say that the film does not really explore Kravitz’s character beyond her relationship with her father and Batman. Even her canonical bisexuality was glossed over, which irked me a little because bisexual erasure is still very prevalent in society. Kravitz did say that her Catwoman was bisexual even though the director said that the character “was up to interpretation.” While she does foil Batman, there’s a lack of character arc for Catwoman. Catwoman was a victim of sexist superhero movie tropes, and it is unfortunate when there’s so much that could’ve been done with her character.
Nonetheless, I think the film is a great Batman film. I think its success is in the fact that the film strives to be something different from its predecessors, opting to take a more nuanced look at Batman/Bruce Wayne’s role in Gotham’s systemic struggles. The actors take innovative liberties with their characters that really transport you into the comics. Still, it pays homage to previous adaptations, an unchanging Gotham that’s seeking justice. I am hopeful for the future films in this new trilogy and can confidently say that Robert Pattinson is my new favorite Bruce Wayne.