WARNING! Spoilers Ahead!
The Batman is a cinematic experience that is both a high-octane action movie, while also being a true, dark noir detective story. The feel, the scenery, the ambiance is the embodiment of a gritty world inspired by Batman: The Animated Series, a tinge of 1980’s America (ie. the crime-ridden streets of New York) but wrapped in a modern-day metropolis. It’s the perfect setting for this version of Gotham and this version of Batman. The story is a sweeping mystery that plays with the Bat mythos to tell a thriller that avoids repeating the origin of Batman yet again, while still successfully bringing in the Wayne’s murder. The Riddler is a kind of ‘Zodiac killer”-style serial killer leaving clues as he takes out those in authority working for organized crime boss Carmine Falcone. A pre-Catwoman Selina Kyle is more of a sidekick to Batman than the anti-hero from the comics. Jim Gordon is true to form as the Batman’s ally. I don’t think anyone could out-Gordon Gary Oldman, so Jeffrey Wright is a welcome take that works very well here. Alfred is expertly played by Andy Serkis but doesn’t get a lot of screen time. Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne is something we haven’t seen. He’s noticeably younger, only in year two of his crusade on crime, but still has that fortitude of being a seasoned warrior. There’s a moment, when we first see Pattinson in full that reminded me of Bruce from Batman: The Animated Series.
Here are my hot takes:
The Batmobile Chase – This amazing, non-stop action scene sees Batman chasing down the Penguin on a crowded Gotham freeway. The hotrod, rocket engine-equipped Batmobile is one of the most unique as it seems to be a down-to-earth and clearly built by Bruce to be the ultimate muscle car that will scare the crap out of you if you see it in your rear view mirror. The culmination of this scene is some weird mixture of Dukes of Hazzard meets Halloween when the Batmobile jumps over a flaming tanker, sails menacingly out of the fire and out steps Batman, undeterred and stalking his prey—not unlike Michael Myers himself.
This Movie is Scary – Speaking of Halloween (it’s even Halloween in Gotham at the start of the movie), The Batman borrows a few pages from the Michael Myers playbook. Whether its Riddler lurking behind an unsuspecting victim, poising himself in a dark car as his victim notices the fog on the windshield or Batman’s moving in the shadows leaving his prey to wonder if he is there or if their fear is getting the better of them.
The Joker – One of the final scenes appears to set up Joker as he talks to the Riddler. While his face was mostly hidden, you could see the gruesome, twisted smile as he appeared to manipulate the distraught Riddler. The inclusion of the Joker at this point seemed a little bit strange. Batman Begins set up The Dark Knight’s Joker by a mere mention, but this seemed forced and almost tacked on.
Martha Who? – One of the retcons of the movie was that Martha Wayne’s maiden name and family lineage was that of the Arkham’s. Martha herself suffered from mental illness. This may have happened in the Flashpoint comics universe (she was the Joker), but I don’t recall this ever happening in the regular DC universe. The Arkham change may be related to the Batman: Earth One comics, but that was the only reference I could find. Martha was always played as the wholesome, honest and caring mother to Bruce, but this is a strange take. I’m not saying it was bad, but it was certainly surprising and opens up more possibilities for connections to the Arkham family. Maybe even the Court of Owls?
The Music - For the first time since the Tim Burton films (and more prolifically, Shirley Walker's score for Batman: The Animated Series), Batman has a powerful new theme. It's one of those themes that you can hear in your head as you stride down the street. It evokes fear and emotion. Power and intensity. The Batman score is online (legally) and I recommend you go check it out!
A Robin Rises? – My last observation is the prospect of setting up the character of Robin. There are two possibilities that emerge. The first theory, and my favorite, is the young thug that Batman encounters early on. This character, of course, is played by Jay Lycurgo. DC fans know Jay also plays Tim Drake (and hopefully the new Robin) on HBOMax’s Titans. As a Tim superfan, I would be ecstatic if Jay were to also play Tim in this version of the Bat mythos. As noted above, there are changes from the comics, so skipping Dick and Jason would be fine.
The second option, and probably the more likely is the Mayor’s young son. From what I could find, he wasn’t given a name. However, he is saved by Batman during the mayor’s funeral and Bruce seems to take notice of him, likely because of the parallels to his own parents’ death. Could Bruce seek out this young boy and help him find his own vengeance?
The conclusion: go see this movie. It’s an excellent take on Batman and his mythos. It’s familiar and different from the comics at the same time. Batman has proven time and time again that it is an evergreen concept that can be changed and reinterpreted for a new generation. This is the Batman for current times—and that’s a good thing.