“The Batman:” The First True Case of the World’s Greatest Detective

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Courtesy of Warner Bros.

“The Batman” was released on March 4, 2022. It is currently in theaters and on HBO Max until April 19.

Grant Soedler, Herald Reporter

Reboots of film franchises are nothing new. Since the beginning of the medium, studios and directors have been taking pre-existing properties and putting their own spin on them in ways that can feel drastically different. In the past several decades, this has become most common in superhero films as filmmakers try over and over again to perfectly adapt a story from a comic’s pages (or, to be more cynical, simply in an attempt to make more money). While this can sometimes be a good way to breathe new life into a franchise, too many instances of this end up creating franchise fatigue in an audience. No franchise is more in danger of this than Batman.
To date, there have been 12 theatrical Batman films, 16 if you count ensemble films the character is part of such as “Justice League” or “The Lego Movie.” Ten of these films were released in only the past two decades, meaning there has been a new Batman film almost every two years since “Batman Begins” in 2005. Thankfully, however, there are many ways in which the newest iteration, 2022’s “The Batman,” stands above the rest.
Originally meant to be a solo film starring Ben Affleck’s version of the character, “The Batman” instead serves as a total reboot of the franchise. Directed by Matt Reeves, also known for the latest two installments in the Planet of the Apes franchise, the film stars Robert Pattinson in the title role as he attempts to catch the Riddler (Paul Dano), a puzzle-based serial killer who has been targeting Gotham’s corrupt elite. He is aided in his pursuit by Lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffery Wright); his butler, Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis) and catburglar Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz).
One of the biggest differences between “The Batman” and previous films in the franchise is that it is an actual detective story. For a character that is known as “the world’s greatest detective,” it is honestly quite surprising how little detective work Batman does in his films, most of which are usually focused on cinematic action scenes or character exploration. Reeves took the opportunity to explicitly show this aspect of the character, as the film spends plenty of time showing Batman working out the clues the Riddler leaves behind with each of his victims, and how he logically follows one part of the case to the next.
That is not to say that the film lacks any cool action. In fact, it provides it in spades: Reeves’ direction emphasizes these moments of the film, giving them an extra flair that increases tension and excitement. The car chase between the Batmobile and the Penguin is a particular highlight, with its brilliant use of sound, music and lighting almost guaranteeing that chills will be sent down your spine.
Robert Pattinson does a phenomenal job in the role, his physical acting showing exactly why criminals are afraid of Batman as he shakes off gunfire and takes down thugs with ease. In many scenes, just the echo of his footsteps in the dark is enough to convey his presence. Paul Dano’s Riddler is another highlight of the film, giving a usually goofy character a uniquely threatening aura that feels like he might shake your hand one second and the next you will wake up tied to a chair. That is likely the best way to describe “The Batman:” the core of the film’s ideas might be decades old, but it takes this content and portrays it in such a fresh way that at times it feels brand new.
“The Batman” can currently be seen in theaters and will be available to stream on HBO Max on April 19.