After many disjointed, gimmick-filled installments from the early 2000s, the latter half of the decade saw more polished superhero movies that significantly improved in writing, directing, cinematography and music.
One film that helped lead this transition was Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight,” a 2008 thriller that pitted Batman against Heath Ledger’s unforgettably maniacal Joker.
Since Batman helped fuel the renaissance of superhero films, it’s only fitting that The Defender of Gotham once again sends the genre soaring to new heights.
Director Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” does exactly that. The movie, released last week, seamlessly combines elements of a high-paced, action-packed blockbuster and a noir spy thriller into a package that well exceeds Nolan’s magnum opus.
From the very beginning, a gritty monologue from our protagonist playing over a torrential downpour and a montage of crime around Gotham City shows Nolan leaning all the way into the tortured, dark aesthetic that distinguishes Batman movies from their cheerier, more colorful Marvel counterparts.
A reduction in the film’s scale makes it a far more intimate journey than most recent superhero films. Instead of trying to stop extraterrestrial villains intent on interplanetary domination, Batman simply aims to keep his city safe from criminals and corrupt city officials.
Characters are shot at close range, with the camera focusing on their facial expressions and each minute movement amplifying their emotion without needing to reduce them to histrionics. Dialogue is curt and sharp — able to deliver just enough information to keep the plot moving while keeping the mystery of The Riddler’s puzzles intact.
Robert Pattinson’s restraint opens doors to an interpretation of Batman more creative than those of his predecessors. Viewers get a deeper look into the emotional turmoil that led him to become a hero, with his actions and gravelly tone speaking far louder than his words.
Pattinson’s stellar performance is accompanied by show-stopping performances from Zoe Kravitz and Paul Dano as Catwoman and The Riddler, respectively, and another great performance from Jeffrey Wright — who can seemingly do no wrong at this point — as Lt. Gordon.