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4K Ultra HD Review: The Batman

May 24, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

It’s been a decade since Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy came to a close with The Dark Knight Rises in 2012 and ended Christian Bale’s run as the character, with Ben Affleck taking over as the Caped Crusader in the interim for a couple of films before stepping back from the role.

Now we have a new Batman in Robert Pattinson, who takes on the role in The Batman. Like Joker, this is a unique film in the DC cinematic universe in that it isn’t connected to any previous films, and is also a much darker movie than the usual comic book fare.

Directed by Matt Reeves (who helped reinvigorate franchise blockbuster filmmaking with the one-two punch of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes), The Batman is a dark and grimy detective story, that plays more like a superhero take on David Fincher’s Se7en or Zodiac. Pattinson’s take on the character is instantly unique, playing him as a loner who has no real life as Bruce Wayne, and just lives by night in the shadows as Batman, as a way to work through the trauma of losing his parents as a young age.

Pattinson’s Batman gets his anger out by donning the cowl and cape to beat up criminals and gang members, obsessively seeking revenge (“I am vengeance,” he growls while pummelling a gang of thugs who ask his name), and keeping a diary of his late night crime-fighting. It’s a different approach from other iterations where Wayne was a sort of rich philanthropist by day, and Pattinson makes this more emo portrayal work, complete with his stringy hair, dark eyeliner, and sunglasses during the day from being up all night.

This is a radically different take on the character than we have seen in other movies; instead of an altruistic billionaire, this is Detective Batman who slinks around in the shadows looking for clues. The main villain is The Riddler (Paul Dano), a different sort of masked vigilante who is murdering Gotham City’s elites to root out corruption, and leaving behind elaborately staged crime scenes with clues as to his next move. The film is intended to show the duality between hero and villain, and Dano’s take on Riddler is similarly a much grittier portrayal of the character than we have seen before; he is a sadistic serial killer who wraps his head in plastic wrap and live-streams his crimes.

Working alongside Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and the Gotham Police Department, who aren’t all happy with his unofficial involvement, the case brings Batman into contact with a number of iconic villains. This Rogue’s Gallery includes the Penguin (Colin Farrell, unrecognizable under layers of makeup), who runs an underground club populated by corrupt politicians; mob boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro); and Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), a cat burglar who dispenses her own form of vigilante justice by stealing from the rich.

With an aesthetic inspired by ’90s grunge culture (including the use of Nirvana’s “Something in the Way” over a moody early sequence), and a story that begins on Halloween and unfolds over the week following the holiday, Reeves has crafted an atmospheric film that is darkly absorbing right from the start. And this is a dark film, both visually and thematically (it’s almost shocking that it isn’t rated R, but since they keep visible blood to a minimum, they are able to get away with some pretty disturbing stuff within the confines of a PG-13, a rating clearly designed to sell toys).

The film is essentially a police procedural that finds Batman being methodically dragged from one clue to the next, and the grittiness of this Gotham City feels palpable in every scene. The cinematography by Greig Fraser (who just won an Oscar for Dune) has a captivating neo-noir look to it. Much of the film takes place at nighttime, including a rainy car chase with the Batmobile that is thrilling in terms of both aesthetic and execution. The visuals are matched by Michael Giacchino’s thunderous musical score.

There are a few pacing issues with the 176 minute film, and some of the supporting characters aren’t that well developed. The story unfolds against the backdrop of a mayoral election, and the main challenger, a young woman named Bella Reál (Jayme Lawson), feels frustratingly underwritten, presented as a sort of vague force for good with no real weight behind her. The film also doesn’t quite land its big finale, and the tension starts to fizzle out a bit in the final few scenes (the film still has studio demands to meet and expectations to set up a sequel to contend with, after all).

But The Batman is at its best when fully embracing its place as a dark and grimy detective story. For the first two-thirds of the nearly three hour running time especially, the film works as a thrilling aesthetic piece that draws us into its world, locking Pattinson’s Batman and Dano’s Riddler in a deadly game of cat and mouse. The screenplay by Reeves and Peter Craig also has some interesting elements exploring how lone-wolf extremists are able to gain online followings of like-minded people.

The film will inevitably draw comparisons to Nolan’s 2008 sequel The Dark Knight, which remains a definitive work both within and without the comic book genre, and Reeves doesn’t quite reach those heights. But The Batman works in its own right as a moody and darkly compelling take on the iconic character, offering an often striking audio-visual experience (heightened by the capabilities of the 4K format to show increased clarity and contrast). Reeves has crafted a solid, story-driven superhero film that lets us live in its world for a few hours, bolstered by some strong performances.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

The 4K set comes with a regular Blu-ray of the film, as well as a third Blu-ray disc where all of the bonus features are held. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package, which ships with a shiny black slipcover.

Looking for Vengeance (4 minutes, 57 seconds): Pattinson and Reeves talk about the inspiration for Batman’s gritty, street-fighting style in the film.

The Batman: Genesis (6 minutes, 9 seconds): A general look at some of the aesthetic choices behind the film and Pattinson’s Kurt Cobain-inspired iteration of the character.

Vengeance Meets Justice (8 minutes, 4 seconds): Pattinson, Dano and Reeves discuss their versions of these characters and the dualities of Batman and The Riddler in the film.

Becoming Catwoman (8 minutes, 36 seconds): A look at Kravitz’s take on Catwoman, and how they approached introducing her in a very grounded way.

The Batmobile (10 minutes, 51 seconds): An in-depth look at designing and building the Batmobile seen in the film, and getting it to perform the stunts.

Anatomy of the Car Chase (6 minutes, 8 seconds): Like a continuation of the previous piece, looks at the logistics and planning that went into the big chase in the rain.

Anatomy of the Wing Suit Jump (6 minutes, 29 seconds): Takes us behind the scenes of the wing suit jump set-piece, from the creation of the suit to shooting the scene.

Vengeance in the Making (53 minutes, 41 seconds): The most substantial of the bonus features is this nearly hour-long “behind the scenes” featurette, which covers a variety of different aspects of the production.

Unpacking the Icons (5 minutes, 47 seconds): A slick overview of the different iconic characters, and how they are presented in the film.

A Transformation: The Penguin (7 minutes, 59 seconds): A glimpse at the truly astounding makeup work that was done on Farrell to turn him into the Penguin.

Deleted Scenes (Play All – 7 minutes, 47 seconds): A pair of decent scenes that were cut from the film both for length and story purposes, presented with and without director’s commentary.

Scene 52: Joker / Arkham (5 minutes 53 seconds)

Scene 56: Selina Gets 44 Below Keycard (1 minute, 53 seconds)

The Batman is a Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release. It’s 176 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: May 24th, 2022

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