Review Roundup: Matt Reeves’ The Batman

Critics react to the Caped Crusader’s latest silver screen incarnation.
The Batman - Matt Reeves
Robert Pattinson is the latest to don the Caped Crusader’s cowl

Do we really need another Batman movie? Maybe not, but ten years after Christopher Nolan wrapped up his distinctive Batman trilogy, we’re getting a new cinematic adventure starring the Caped Crusader, courtesy of director Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Cloverfield).

The Batman stars Robert Pattinson as the latest to don the cowl, along with Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman, Paul Dano as the Riddler, Colin Farrell as The Penguin, and Andy Serkis as Alfred Pennyworth. If the trailers are any indication, The Batman dives deep into the character’s noir-ish aspect, as he tries to track down a serial killer targeting Gotham City’s elites. But doing so may also uncover certain secrets of the Wayne family. Again, I don’t know if we needed an even darker Batman, but here we go.

The review embargo recently lifted, so critics are now posting their reviews. Read on for a selection of critic reactions, both positive and negative.

Peter Bradshaw, “Robert Pattinson’s emo hero elevates gloomy reboot”

Director and co-writer Matt Reeves has created a new Batman iteration in which Robert Pattinson reinvents billionaire Bruce Wayne as an elegantly wasted rock star recluse, willowy and dandyish in his black suit with tendrils of dark hair falling over his face; but Wayne magically trebles in bulk when he reappears in costume and mask as the Dark Knight, his whole being weaponised into a slab-like impassivity. And this of course is happening in the sepulchral vastness of Gotham City, the brutal and murky world which Christopher Nolan thrillingly pioneered with his Dark Knight trilogy and made indispensable for imagining Batman on screen.

Justin Chang, “A moody, methodical and, finally, disappointing return to Gotham City”

In these and other moments, “The Batman” seems on the verge of critiquing its hero and the compromises of his own inestimable privilege, to expose some of this Bat’s figurative blind spots. But it stops far too short, and Pattinson, who played a supremely smug billionaire sociopath in David Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis,” isn’t given the chance to go similarly deep with this most iconic of one-percenters. Batman is used to getting upstaged, usually by his more colorful nemeses, but here he feels upstaged by the inertia of the filmmaking and an attempted renewal — a word that is pointedly repeated here — that lapses too often into retread. In Pattinson’s touching but underrealized performance, this Bruce Wayne is a little boy lost, a rage junkie and ultimately a chaotic force for good, trying to discover things about himself that the audience has long since figured out.

Phil de Semlyen, “[An] overlong DC thriller”

If dark, rain-soaked superhero reboot’ sounds done to death, the latest Batman may not be for you. Director Matt Reeves brings the apocalyptic doominess that hallmarked his Planet of the Apes franchise and a lot of the brooding DC house style that has lingered since the Christopher Nolan days — as well as the unmistakable influence of David Fincher’s Seven and Zodiac. A more unsmiling, clenched Batman you couldn’t imagine. Did Prince really soundtrack this guy? Where did that funky Bruce Wayne go?

A.A. Dowd, “A flawed but striking pop-noir blockbuster”

This may be the broodiest of all cinematic takes on the Dark Knight, a version much more Gen X in its disaffection than the Bat-movies they made in the ’90s. It also may come closer to the experience of reading a Batman comic than any Batman movie before it. Reeves paces his epic almost like a limited series — you can practically identify the moments where one issue is breaking into the next — and he complements his sometimes episodic storytelling with a striking visual variety.

Bilge Ebiri, “Sad, scary, and even a little sexy”

This film feels like a “through the looking glass” moment for Batman himself. The typical superhero movie’s subtext about the subtle similarities between the good guy and the bad guy here becomes overt text. Reeves shoots Batman’s pursuit of his targets with the same psychotic, heavy-breathing, point-of-view aesthetic with which he shoots the Riddler’s. Now, we have to try and figure out how the hero differs from the villain — and so too does Batman. That’s part of the film’s charm: watching a familiar, oft-filmed superhero try and discover just what it is that constitutes heroism — a question that finds its answer during a moving climax that has almost nothing to do with tracking down bad guys or pummeling people.

David Ehrlich, “A superhero movie that’s not a superhero movie”

It was less than three years ago that Todd Phillips’ mid-budget but mega-successful “Joker” threateningly pointed toward a future in which superhero movies of all sizes would become so endemic to modern cinema that they no longer had to be superhero movies at all. With Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” — a sprawling, 176-minute latex procedural that often appears to have more in common with serial killer sagas like “Se7en” and “Zodiac” than it does anything in the Snyderverse or the MCU — that future has arrived with shuddering force, for better or worse. Mostly better.

Clarisse Loughrey, “A very good detective noir”

The Batman is a very good Batman film. To think of it as anything more only leads to delusion or disappointment. It also undermines the more subtle work at play in Reeves’s film, which remains faithful to the character’s core iconography — bat ears, elaborate gadgets, encroaching darkness — while simultaneously interrogating its usefulness. Comparatively, it’s pitched somewhere between Christopher Nolan and Tim Burton — with one foot in our reality, and the other planted in a Gothic noir aesthetic derived partially from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One comics.

Germain Lussier, “Unlike any other Batman movie”

The story is a gritty mystery that’s gripping and exciting, coupled with several high-octane action scenes and tons of gorgeous imagery. However, the film’s dense story and long runtime create such a deep investment in this untraditional superhero story, it’s consequently a letdown when the film’s finale betrays that overarching vision. After being wowed by The Batman’s ambition and commitment to realism, everything flies right out the door in its finale, leaving us with a detached set piece that could have been in any other Batman movie before it. Thankfully, there’s so much good to be found before that, it’s only a minor gripe on what’s the most unique, and interesting, Batman film since The Dark Knight.

Moira Macdonald, “Depressing, dark and endless”

I don’t know about you, but this particular time in history does not seem like the moment for a movie that will leave you a) miserable and b) wondering why nobody in Gotham City seems to have heard of light bulbs. Your mileage may vary, but for me — who loved both the Tim Burton and the Christopher Nolan “Batman” universes — this one feels like an earnest but bloated misfire.

Mel Valentin, “[A] bleak, noir-inflicted vision, perfect for our times”

As Bruce Wayne/Batman, Robert Pattinson has the Master Brooder/Emo vibe cornered, sometimes to a frightening degree, but that’s at best a superficial reading of Pattinson’s performance. More than any of his predecessors under the cape and cowl, Pattinson brings a level of emotional openness and emotional vulnerability that makes him instantly sympathetic.

The Batman arrives in theaters on March 4. Watch the trailer below.

If you enjoy reading Opus and want to support my writing, then become a subscriber for just $5/month or $50/year.
Subscribe Today
Return to the Opus homepage