The Batman: a Successful New Rendition of a Classic Hero

William Schechter, Scarlet Staff

Matt Reeves’s 2022 entry into a long line of Batman films stands out as one of the darkest and most well-done portrayals of the Caped Crusader of Gotham. The Batman is packed full of action and suspense, keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat for most of the 176-minute runtime.  The film truly shines through its brilliant sound design (especially when viewing in a theater with surround sound), its masterpiece of a soundtrack scored by Michael Giacchino, production design, and special effects. These strong aspects are also bolstered by a dedicated cast who portray their characters well and a resonating message sent by the film’s narrative. This is not to say Reeves’s film is perfect; the near three-hour runtime seemed to overstay its welcome by the end of the movie coupled with some tense moments weakened by Batman’s immense plot armor. As a whole, however, this film marks a robust submission into the history of Batman movies. 

With a wide release in the United States on March 4, 2022, The Batman finally made its way to the big screen after a somewhat tricky production timeline. Written by Matt Reeves and Peter Craig, the movie was originally slated for a June 25, 2021 release date. This was then pushed back to October 1, 2021, and finally to March 4, 2022, after multiple COVID-related complications. Reeves and his team set off to begin filming in January of 2020, just two months prior to the start of a pandemic that would shut most of the world down. According to ScreenRant, the planned budget hovered around $100 million when production began; fast forward to release day and that budget ballooned to over $200 million, making it the third most expensive Batman film ever created. The bulk of this increase was due to COVID-linked delays. Further contributing to this budget was the star-studded cast of The Batman: Robert Pattinson plays the titular hero, Zoë Kravitz portrays Catwoman, Jeffrey Wright in the role of James Gordon, and finally, Paul Dano brings life to The Riddler, as well as an excellent supporting cast around these four. However, the cost of this cast was well worth the price tag as every role is played perfectly. 

Regarding the film itself, I went in with few expectations and left the theater pleasantly surprised. Not only was I impressed by the movie’s production, but the plot struck me in a way that left me thinking for hours. The Batman follows Bruce Wayne early in his crime-fighting career, on the trail of a sadistic serial killer; this killer does not strike randomly but rather carefully plans out each attack while spreading his message to his followers. Eventually, the trail strikes close to home and leads Batman to secrets surrounding the past of Gotham that he must come to terms with. This is a barebones plot summary to avoid any spoilers. The film is far more intricate than I described, you’ll just have to go see it for yourself! But, perhaps more impressive than the plot itself was everything surrounding it. 

Everything from the music to the sound to the costume/set design was perfect in making the viewer feel as though they really are in Gotham fighting crime alongside the masked vigilante. Every punch sounds palpable, every gunshot can be felt in your chest; the sound in this film (led by sound editor Will Files) goes a long way to bring what’s on-screen to life. This is why I would recommend seeing this film in theaters if you can, rather than just waiting for a home release. The Batman experience is meant to be admired on the big screen. Perhaps my favorite scene in the movie is when the Batmobile is first seen in action, during a car chase on a rainy Gotham night. The Batmobile appears to be a suped-up all-black muscle car with a rocket booster mounted to the rear. As Batman throttles his car down the road, the sounds of the booster make it seem as though he is ready to take flight. The music also goes a long way in setting the atmosphere; the tracks are masterfully placed in order to fuel the dark atmosphere and raise the tension felt by the viewer. The overall theme of the movie is also a great one, like many Batman themes are, and is certainly very memorable. Finally, the costume and set designs further add to the great production of the film. Batman’s suit is perhaps my favorite of all and the way he emerges from dark alleys sends shivers down your spine. The Riddler’s consume also strikes fear in the hearts of viewers, keeping his face a mystery, just like his evil schemes. The sets of the film are dark and mostly rainy, as Gotham should be – gothic like the name implies. The underground crime areas explored by Batman fill the viewer with a sense of unease and, as a whole, the sets never allow Batman or the audience to feel comfortable. 

The message put forth in the film is a strong commentary focusing on the failed urban policies that swept across the real United States during the latter half of the 20th century. Some in the U.S during this time period sought to fix a number of cities that in their eyes had decayed over the years. This was attempted to be done through improving housing, economic opportunity, and safety. In real life, these policies were a colossal failure in accomplishing their original goals. Many urban redevelopment projects were filled to the brim by corruption from city officials, and led to horrible outcomes for the residents of the cities. We can now see the effects of many urban renewal projects: displaced residents and gentrified areas. Many of these projects also had a disproportionate effect on BIPOC people and forced them out of their homes. The Batman centers around this issue, highlighting the corruption of city officials bribed by organized crime and how these projects only served to make the rich richer. The movie also shows the failed attempts to help those in need and how those attempts actually ended up hurting those they intended to help. Finally, the movie talks about how even those with good intentions can be corrupted by the system and become part of the problem. 

With all this being said, I did find some parts of the movie detracted from the viewing experience. Personally, I believe the movie is slightly too long. As previously mentioned, the runtime sits at an immense 176 minutes, nearly three whole hours, and by the last ten minutes that runtime feels bloated. I found myself in the theater thinking the movie was over multiple times, only for these to be another, seemingly inconsequential scene. Although I was not begging for the credits to roll, I was ready to see the conclusion of the film. My only other primary criticism was the extreme plot armor Batman poses throughout the film. Plot armor is a phenomenon in fiction where the protagonist survives improbable situations with little to no harm to them, simply because they are the main character. I will concede that Batman is Batman, after all, he is filled with unwavering motivation, strength, and rage to avenge his fallen parents and has nearly unlimited resources at his disposal. However, there were a handful of moments in the film that left me puzzled. I will not reveal these specific moments to preserve spoilers, but to summarize, Batman sustains mortal wounds on multiple occasions, only to get up with seemingly little to no damage done to him. Personally, this takes me out of the film momentarily, as I think, “really? Not even a scratch?”. 

Overall, these complaints were relatively minor, and I would definitely still recommend seeing the film for yourself (especially in theaters) so you can be your own judge. As of now, this latest Batman entry has been a smashing hit, leaving fans clamoring for more. The movie has also been a box office success, hauling in nearly $600 million worldwide as of March 20, 2022. The Batman serves as a standout crime-thriller drama reminiscent of the 1995 film Se7en, as well as being a great Batman movie. Critics and fans alike have enjoyed this newest Batman movie and I for one look forward to any possible sequels involving Reeves at the helm and Pattinson as our masked hero!