Review: The Batman reveals the true Batman

Jeffrey Wright, left, plays James Gordon in "The Batman." Robert Pattinson plays Batman. (Jonathan Olley/Warner Bros)

The greatest Batman stories have never been about the caped crusader himself, but instead the world he inhabits.

Batman has always worked best when his stories are deconstructive and subversive. He is a flawed human being and The Batman arguably understands this better than any Batman film released in the past decade.

Some of the most famous Batman stories are the deeply psychological tales of the nature of trauma and its effect on one’s perspective. Batman is the central focus in these stories and serves as both a reflection and influence on the world around him.

In The Batman, he is simply another cog in the corrupt urban wasteland that is Gotham and arguably creates more crime through his actions.

Batman is also an undeniable political character. His ideology and violent approach to even the most minute of crimes is borderline fascist. His hatred for criminals and what he describes as the “dregs of society” finds its roots in his own privileged position growing up as the son of a rich, white family.

All of these aspects come together to create a great Batman story.

The Batman leans into these more questionable traits of the character instead of ignoring them. Its characters constantly put pressure on Bruce’s warped and deeply cynical worldview.

At one point, Selina Kyle, also known as Catwoman, tells Bruce directly, “I don’t know who you are, but you obviously grew up rich.”

Bruce Wayne is no hero in The Batman. Not only does he strike fear into criminals, but also those he saves. He strives to become a symbol of violence through actions that do more harm than good.

Themes aside, The Batman is also a beautiful movie. The cinematography and lighting helps create a Gotham that is thick with atmosphere — the kind of place that no one ever wants to live. 

The film’s aesthetic sensibilities make it feel less like a superhero movie and more like an artsy neo-noir. The kind of rain-drenched neon cities that are found in the works of Nicholas Winding Refn, Wong Kar-Wai and even Giallo films, thanks to the stylized violence and prominent use of red in the colour scheme.

Gotham is a city where the rich and powerful do as they please, where the cops serve only to protect those higher up on the food chain and everyone else must fend for themselves. Almost every frame of The Batman illustrates this perfectly.

The fight choreography is fantastic. Batman is not some all-powerful badass. Instead, he’s just a human being, albeit strong, but fragile nonetheless. Hence all of the fights have a desperate, urgent feel to them reminiscent of John Wick. These bouts are less displays of strength and more a series of decisions made in quick succession and their effects.

Another great part of the movie is that Batman, for the first time in cinematic history, actually does detective work. He decodes things and goes through old files. He sorts through clues like an ACTUAL detective and spends most of his day in a dark, dreary cave growing paler by the second.

On one hand, this furthers the vibe that this movie is actually a David Fincher-esque crime movie, but it also makes sense for Batman as a character, considering he is often referred to as the world’s greatest detective in the DC comics.

The Batman also works as something of an adaptation of some of the most important Batman graphic novels. The whole thing works as a fantastic mixture of The Long Halloween and Batman Year One which is sure to please old fans and newcomers alike.

But one aspect of The Batman that may seem like a drawback is simple: the film’s length. 

Clocking at nearly three hours, the film is a behemoth. It possesses the kind of length usually set aside for epics, art films and franchise-ending spectacles. But despite its length, The Batman manages to be captivating for every second of its elongated runtime.

The Batman goes above and beyond what many consider makes a good superhero movie. It foregoes the general quips and bright colours of its contemporaries and shoots for its own thing.

The Batman is not a movie about heroes, but about people – anger, disillusionment, trauma and the tyranny of the men at the top. The Batman is a fantastic movie and one that deserves to be experienced on the big screen.