Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” beautifully captures the darkness of the dark knight, masterfully utilizing all the cinematic elements needed to make Robert Pattinson the darkest Batman yet.
In 1986, Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns introduced a darker, more mature orientated depiction of Batman to comic book audiences, becoming one of the most influential Batman issues in all of comic book history. Miller’s Batman run has widely been claimed to have been responsible for updating Batman’s identity to a grimmer, more serious hero. If Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns was his revolutionary introduction of a new, “Darker” Knight to comic book audiences, Matt Reeves’ The Batman is his equally iconic introduction of cinema’s “Darkest” Knight to movie audiences.
In the midst of a pivotal mayoral election, Gotham City is being consumed by crime, and there is only one man who seemingly stands between Gotham and its destruction; The Batman. Billionaire heir Bruce Wayne, tortured by the loss of his parents and consumed by his thirst for vengenace, stalks the night as the legendary, dark vigilante.
When the current mayor of Gotham is murdered by an elusive serial killer known as ‘The Riddler,’ police lieutenant James Gordon calls upon the help of Batman to catch the killer. Now, Batman must face the darkness of Gotham’s corruption and criminal underbelly as he’s strung along by the Riddler’s clues, desperately attempting to capture the serial killer before he claims his next victim.
This is Robbert Pattinson’s most iconic role as a brooding and mysterious character since his Tiwlight days as Edward Cullen, yet where Pattinson’s Edward came off as melodramatic and moody, he portrays Bruce Wayne as a genuinely withdrawn, tortured social recluse.
While his Bruce Wayne is praiseworthy, his most impressive feat in the film is his intimidating and terrifying Batman, perfectly embodying the myth that strikes fear into the superstitious and cowardly criminals of Gotham City. His performance as the Caped Crusader couldn’t be more satisfying, especially as this movie is not a Bruce Wayne story but a Batman one.
While Pattinson’s performance is undeniably effective, the success of portraying Batman as the criminal’s boogeyman for the villains of Gotham is due to Reeves’ brilliant directorial choices.
One of the most influential decisions towards showing audiences a darker Batman was displaying his dark side — literally. One of the most prominent cinematography elements was the sparse lighting throughout almost all of the scenes, reminiscent of a Caravaggio painting. Gotham appears dreary and bleak, one that rivals the depressing depiction we saw in Joker (2019) that seemingly threatened to swallow you whole. Reeves’ decision to blanket scenes with a layer of darkness added to the underlying horror and melancholy that he wished to portray
The lighting wasn’t the only element he manipulated to create suspense and darkness; Reeves clearly used some of his past experience in horror to directly shoot scenes like a horror film, using specific camera angles to make Batman and Gotham seem more menacing and ominous.
While Reeves’ clearly displayed his mastery over visual elements, the soundtrack also played a pivotal role in reinforcing the overall “doom and gloom” tone of the film. Michael Giacchino, composer of the film’s musical score, crafted the perfect sound, which set the tone for the entire movie. Almost every dark hallway or crime scene throughout the movie is delightfully intertwined with the sound of low-pitched, slow piano or string instruments.
I would go so far as to argue that some scenes are completely controlled by the music that accompanies them as the level of suspense, dread or anticipation is decided entirely by the overpowering weight of the musical score. There are also hints of that hidden horror aspect subtly laced throughout the film within Giacchino’s score.
Reeves’ and Pattinson come together to create what is one of the most grounded and grittiest Batman stories we’ve ever seen. It dares you to stare directly into the abyss as it explores themes that poke at the darkest aspects of the human psyche and modern society, such as vengeance, political corruption and obsession. A masterpiece of peak cinema, The Batman draws any film fan to the theaters if they can stomach the grim depiction of a city and hero consumed by darkness.