Riddle Me This: What Did I Think Of The Batman?

I’ll be honest, since the Riddler and the Penguin are part of my top 3 favourite Batman villains, I was fully prepared to watch this film for Paul Dano and Collin Farrell’s performances alone. What I saw in the trailers excited me, and so did what I saw on film. But with a run time of almost three hours, going in to The Batman, I really hopped I enjoyed more than just the villain’s performances.

Obviously I was very excited to hear about the casting choices for this film, particularly when it came to the villains, but the casting of the caped crusader was the one we were all focused on. Like many others, I was surprised by the choice of Robert Pattinson in the lead role, but I decided not to make any judgements until seeing the film. I was one of the many who mocked the casting choice of Ben Affleck when it came to the previous Batman/Justice League films, but I was pleasantly surprised by his performance. As a result, I’m always going to think twice before judging the casting choices for such major roles, especially when it comes to Batman.

Like with Affleck, I was pleased with Pattinson’s performance. I think part of it has to do with the fact that we see Batman in a different part of his life in this particular film compared to all of the others. Most superhero films have been origin stories up until this point – thank goodness this wasn’t another one of those. Even Affleck’s Batman experienced a kind of origin story as audiences watched the origins of the Justice League.

But Pattinson’s Batman isn’t at the start of his superhero journey, and he hasn’t been doing this long enough to become a Justice League level hero. This is his second year, so nothing is new anymore, but he still hasn’t figured out that perfect work/life balance. As Batman, he is a formidable force whose mere suggestion is enough to keep some of the criminals of Gotham in line. But as Bruce Wayne, he is not nearly as put together as some of the Batmans that have come before. His hair is disheveled, he loses his cufflinks, he is unrecognizable to the average (non-elite) citizens of Gotham, and he misses/misinterprets clues. This is a Batman who needs help from Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz) and James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), and would probably fail to take care of himself if it wasn’t for Alfred (Andy Serkis). He’s not a god-like member of the Justice League – he’s a human figuring things out as he goes along.

What’s also refreshingly different about this newest Batman is that he’s a detective first and a superhero second. In the original comics, Batman is supposed to be a detective, but the on-screen interpretations of the caped crusader have always portrayed him as more of a superhero. Based on the structure of the plot, Batman could have been substituted for a mysterious and brooding detective from the GCPD and the story still would have worked. Sure, he got physical when he needed to, but I would argue that Batman did a lot more detective work in this film compared to previous movies. Even the music highlighted this as the score was more what I would expect from a mystery/thriller. Not to say that there weren’t those grand orchestral moments I’ve come to expect from superhero films, however.

But apart from the shift in genre, this movie felt a lot more faithful to the comics than any of the other Batman films. When Mark and I talked about it afterwards, we determined that we had collectively spotted references to Hush, The Long Halloween, Year One, and Catwoman: When in Rome. And I’m sure that when we watch this movie again, we may spot even more. Previous films have presented their interpretations of Batman based on the collective pop-culture understanding of him while building off of the films and shows that came before. This particular story, however, actually felt grounded in the comics, which is an impression I don’t think I’ve gotten from any of the other Batman films.

And yes, I did say I would watch this movie again. I used to dislike Batman, no matter how many chances I gave him. It wasn’t until I read The Long Halloween for school in a Mystery novel course that I truly began to appreciated the caped crusader. I’m not necessarily a fan of Batman the superhero, but I really enjoy Batman the detective. This movie gave what I enjoy most about this character, as well as references to one of my favourite comics. So I can say with absolute certainty that I will watch this movie again, and I really hope we get a sequel.

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