The Batman: 5 Things Matt Reeves’ Movie Did Well (& 5 It Could Improve on)

Among comic book movies, very few characters have been portrayed as often or as variably as Bruce Wayne. Films featuring DC’s Caped Crusader have portrayed the character in wildly different ways, each one exploring his crusade against crime in Gotham City with such unique styles and tones that they often hold very little resemblance to one another. Not only do different actors and directors focus on different aspects of the character, but the setting has shown a tendency to evolve and reflect on the times that they inhabit, often becoming a sort of social commentary that is uncommon in typical superhero fiction.

In the 2022 film, simply called The BatmanBruce is portrayed by Robert Pattinson. This take on the character addresses a younger Batman early into his crime-fighting career, as he works to polish and perfect his skills. This version of the character is disconnected from the DCEU version played by Ben Affleck, and it is similarly separate from Joaquin Phoenix’s successful super villain origin story, Joker. Instead, Matt Reeves directs a standalone film that is free to take the character in its own direction, and there are many things The Batman gets spectacularly right. However, no movie is perfect, and there are definitely parts of this outing that could use improvement. Here’s our list of five things The Batman got right, and five that it could work on for the upcoming sequel.


10 Good: Batman’s Trauma

DC Films

Bruce Wayne began his journey with an intensely traumatic experience that we have seen over and over again. Witnessing the murder of his parents changed the eight-year-old, sending him down a path of vigilante vengeance to inspire terror in Gotham’s criminals in the hope that his circumstances didn’t repeat themselves. In The Batmanwe do not see the actual event, but we do get hints at the depth of Bruce’s trauma. He is deeply depressed and detached from life, and nothing can pull him from that place. His few interactions with the young son of the mayor, whose father is murdered in the opening scene, show Bruce recognizing the hurt that he himself is still experiencing. These are the only scenes where Bruce is shown to connect with other people, which highlights just how powerfully he still feels the loss that drives his actions. This depiction of Bruce Wayne stands out as the most human depiction of this part of the character to date.

Related: The Long-Lasting Appeal of Batman

9 Could Improve: “Dark” Knight

Warner Bros. Pictures

The Batman is, in a lot of ways, a deeply artistic movie with less in common with typical superhero films than with cinematic masterpieces like Mad Max: Fury Road and Dune. The set pieces are brilliant, and serve to create a shadowy and tense atmosphere that heightens the suspense of the film. Actually being able to see the scenes in the movie, though, is difficult, as almost every scene is shrouded in nearly total darkness. While the use of darkness is a big theme for Batman films, in this instance it is a heavy shroud over every scene, detracting from the overall experience of this movie.

8 Good: World’s Greatest Detective

Warner Bros. Pictures

Batman in the comics is known for a great many things. He is a world-class martial artist armed with state-of-the-art gadgets and technology. He is a master tactician, who has contingency plans for his contingency plans. And while these aspects are demonstrated in every version of the character, most movies forget that Batman is also referred to as the world’s greatest detective. In this film, there is a lot less focus given to how many different ways Bruce has to knock someone out and more given to his deductive prowess as he follows the cryptic trail of clues left by The Riddler in an attempt to uncover the mystery that surrounds the villain’s motivations. This is another welcome departure from what has become the norm for superhero movies where every scene is usually just burning time until the next big action sequence.

7 Could Improve: Lack of Humor

Warner Bros.

A very well known and very successful director once said “Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.” The Batman makes a point to avoid that last part with a vengeance. The tone is relentlessly grim, constantly hammering home how hopeless and dark the setting is without ever once allowing the characters a moment of levity. Even the character of Alfred, played by Andy Serkis, who is shown in all of his cinematic outings and TV show appearances to be a source of dry and sarcastic wit, doesn’t get the chance to make a single quip. While the tone of the film is certainly appropriate for the setting and character, completely omitting humor is a choice that makes the movie less entertaining to watch than it otherwise could be.

6 Good: The Secret Identity

The Batman's Bruce Wayne
Warner Bros. Pictures

The relationship between Bruce Wayne and Batman is one that has been depicted in as many ways as there have been actors for the part, with each new rendition bringing a different interpretation of the dynamic. In some cases, the two characters act almost identical, while in others, there is a clear distinction between the two. However, in the original comics, it is made very clear that Bruce Wayne is the mask for Batman and not the other way around. Pattinson’s Batman closely follows this idea. His appearances out of the suit show a person who is uncomfortable and shaky as a public figure. A brilliant move is to display moments where the character of Bruce Wayne slips, and Batman comes though again. Playing Batman this way adds a layer of depth to the character, and shows his deep commitment to the identity of The Batman.

5 Could Improve: Long Runtime

Warner Bros.

The Batman is not your typical high-octane superhero blockbuster. Rather, it is a thoughtful examination of the setting and characters with overt themes relating to real world concepts like wealth inequality and corruption. The movie takes its time to delve deep into all of these things in between long, beautiful shots of Gotham City. While this approach to the themes helps get the message across, it also stretches the runtime to nearly 3 hours in length, making the experience into something of a marathon for most viewers. In addition to the themes and characters, each beat of the plot takes its time to pay off, and with so many storylines present in the story the finished product is difficult for most audiences to sit through.

Related: The Batman’s Barry Keoghan Teases the Return of His Joker

4 Good: The Riddler Has a Point

Warner Bros. Pictures

The age of cackling, evil villains that just want to watch the world burn is over. For a modern hero film, it is almost a given for the antagonist to be a well-intentioned extremist taking irrational and violent measures to accomplish a goal that the audience will relate to. In the case of Paul Dano’s Riddler, the battle he is waging is one against wealth inequality. In the world of Batman, this is a subject that is borderline untouchable, as it is an issue that also enables the protagonist’s heroics. Bruce Wayne is a billionaire, and poverty is both present and prevalent in Gotham City. The Riddler’s grievances are well-founded, and he is absolutely correct when he asserts that the rich, powerful, and corrupt have been exploiting their positions for personal gain. This challenges not just Batman, but the audience as well, and makes for a more compelling narrative than if the bad guy wanted something that was entirely selfish.

3 Could Improve: More Gordon Please

Warner Bros.

Jim Gordon is one of Batman’s greatest allies in any setting, comic, TV, or film. In this rendition, he is portrayed brilliantly by Jeffrey Wright. Gordon’s sober and grounded demeanor is a good match for Batman’s brooding attitude, and the two share a dynamic that clearly goes beyond professional respect. While Gordon does feature prominently in this film, he ultimately functions as little more than Batman’s police sidekick, and both the character and Wright’s performance, deserve a stronger showing for the next go around.

2 Good: Batman’s Epiphany

Bruce Wayne in The Batman
Warner Bros. Pictures

Character development is one of the most critical parts of any story. In The Batmanwe get to see a version of Bruce Wayne that is lost and angry gradually evolve into the hero we are all familiar with. At the beginning, Batman answers the question, “What are you supposed to be?” with one simple word: vengeance. This outlook defines his early scenes as Batman, exacting brutal retribution against the city’s criminals. Toward the end of the movie, after his views have been repeatedly challenged, and he is faced with disaster, having that very same word used by a criminal that is out to hurt people functions as the last straw that makes Batman commit to changing the way he both acts and thinks. Pattinson’s performance shows the sudden realization, and every scene that follows demonstrates the development that has been building up for the whole movie.

1 Could Improve: Originality

Warner Bros. Pictures

The Batman is a film that deviates heavily from what comic book movies have become, however, it also wears the inspiration of what came before on its sleeves. Many of the plot points found in The Batman show startling similarities to ones found in The Dark Knight. Both feature villains with large and intricate plans, both deal with internal corruption in the city’s government and police force as a major plot point, and the interrogation scenes in both movies are used to showcase Batman’s weak points. The film also borrows from films like Zodiac and Se7enwith plot devices and setups that could have been much more subtle, if they were even included at all. Batman is a rich character with nearly limitless potential for truly original ideas and stories, and future installments of this series would do well to come up with fresh and original ideas rather than simply borrowing from other works and tweaking them just enough to get by.

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