Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Batman.
After several pandemic-related delays, Matt Reeves’s The Batman has finally arrived. Critics and fans alike agree Robert Pattinson’s version of the Caped Crusader is one of the most realistic on-screen portrayals of the crime-fighting vigilante. What makes his Batman so unique? There are a number of answers to that question, but first and foremost, this Batman is so different from those who have come before him because he is relatable. Unlike previous iterations of the world’s greatest detective, this Batman is young, inexperienced, and vengeful. This Batman does not have all the insanely cool gadgets Christian Bale had in The Dark Knight Trilogy. Pattinson’s Batman has no shortage of tools, but they aren’t ridiculously futuristic like in films past. This Batman is a true detective. Previous Batman films show the Caped Crusader kicking butt, fighting villains, and saving the day. Still, they never really focus on who Batman is at his core: a detective vigilante who works outside the law (with the exception of Detective Jim Gordon).
This film is much more a detective murder mystery than it is a superhero film, but that is what fans have been waiting for, and they were not disappointed. Another critical component that augments the realism of Pattinson’s portrayal is the fear that the audience shares with Batman. In past incarnations, we’ve seen Batman leap from buildings with his flight suits and grappling hooks without a second thought. Reeves chose a different route, and it is just one of the many reasons that Robert Pattinson’s Batman is the most realistic portrayal yet to hit the big screen.
Bruce Wayne’s Introverted Inner Narration
As the Riddler aptly points out in the film, Bruce Wayne is Batman’s true mask. He becomes his true self when he dons the cape and cowl. As we have seen in previous iterations, Bruce Wayne acts like a rich man would, even though he does not really enjoy it. He is doing it to keep people off his scent as the masked vigilante. This film does an excellent job of showing us a Bruce Wayne who is just as introverted as Batman, if not more so. Batman may have a friendship with Gordon and what could be perceived as a love interest in Catwoman (played by Zoe Kravitz), but, in The Batman, Bruce’s only real friend is Alfred. Bruce’s inner monologue from his daily journal writings is an excellent means of attempting to glean his inner thinking. That is part of what makes Pattinson’s portrayal of Batman so relatable as opposed to the billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne we’ve seen in past Batman films.
Young, Angry, Vengeful, and Fearful
Bruce Wayne is only in his second year as the Caped Crusader in The Batman. While still magnificent, Christian Bale’s portrayal of Batman has no problem leaping from tall buildings, using his gadgets, and never showing any hesitation or fear even for a moment. By contrast, Pattinson’s Batman’s rage, the fact that he doesn’t pull his punches, and the fear his character exhibits in certain situations is what grounds this Batman in a more realistic, believable sense. In one scene, Batman attempts to flee from criminals and leaps out onto the edge of a tall building. Before he jumps, he looks down, and hesitates; his fear is palpable, and the audience feels that fear, which allows us to connect to Pattinson’s Batman more than to any that has come before him.We also see Bruce Wayne’s fear of loss return to him when he nearly loses Alfred in an explosion that was meant to take out Bruce. His exposition in the scene with Alfred in the hospital is raw and tear-jerking, allowing for a rare glimpse of Wayne’s vulnerability.
Every time Batman throws a punch, the audience can sense his rage. The fact that he calls himself vengeance is also a manifestation that this Batman is young with some maturing left to do, including learning that vengeance is a destructive emotion to be avoided and that does not change the past. That is what Batman learns at the end of the film. After realizing what releasing his rage across the city has created, Batman learns to let go of vengeance and become what Gotham needs him to be . . . a symbol of hope.
True Detective: Batman’s Investigative Roots
Finally, this film explores heretofore untapped aspects of Batman’s persona. The Batman shows the Dark Knight using his intellect to solve the riddles that the Riddler has left for him. At this point in his career as the masked vigilante, he is a detective first and foremost. He works with Gordon at crime scenes even though most of the police department despises him. We see his expertise as a detective almost immediately, and it remains a staple point of who he is throughout the film. Previous iterations of Batman have not typically focused on the detective angle to much effect, painting him as more of a superhero who can beat his way out of any situation rather than the sleuth detective he truly is. Reeves capitalizes on the detective angle and drives home the notion that Batman sometimes must use his brain rather than his fists to solve a problem. This film is very much a detective murder mystery rather than a superhero film, adding a unique component to the film and to Pattinson’s portrayal of the titular character.
With potential sequels in the works, it will be exciting to see what DC does with Pattinson’s raw, realistic, gritty portrayal of the Dark Knight.
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Chris Cella (4 Articles Published)