‘The Batman’ wows with tense, satisfying mystery

Noah Levine, Life & Arts Film Columnist

The legendary comic book character once again glides onto the big screen, this time with director Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield,” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”) at the helm of “The Batman.” Robert Pattinson stars in the titular role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, a billionaire living in the shadows of a crime-riddled city. By day he roams the vacant halls of his family’s luxurious manor, and by night, he takes to the streets as the Batman, striking fear into the hearts of both criminals and villains. 

When iconic villain, The Riddler (Paul Dano), emerges with a string of eerie murders, Pattinson’s Batman faces an incredible challenge — defeating his smartest rival yet. As the crime plot unravels, a dark mystery spirals around the denizens of Gotham including Selina Kyle (Zoé Kravitz), the Penguin (Colin Farrell) and mobster Carmine Falcone (John Turturro). With Commissioner Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) by his side, a young Batman seeks to combat the wave of violence, lies and deception crashing over the city. 

The Batman stands as a fan-favorite, recurring hero, re-interpreted for the screen on countless occasions. Most recently, Ben Affleck had a stint as the caped crusader. Pattinson and Reeves’ approach to the iconic story unravels through the perspective of the hero’s early years as the Bat. The new narrative explores Batman’s cautious relationship with the police department, mainly revolving around Gordon, who seems to be the only one who actually trusts the vigilante.

Gordon and Batman’s hidden, layered relationship consistently results in tense situations. Much like an actual comic book, as Batman navigates the city on his quest to defeat the Riddler, other established characters, such as Catwoman, cross into Batman’s life. Gotham City feels fully realized, housing a plethora of strange denizens and personalities. 

Michael Giacchino’s score elevates the genre elements of the film, most notably with The Riddler’s eerie jingle. Appearances by the character feel as if they were ripped straight from a horror film, accompanied by unsettling harmonies and chimes. Batman’s new theme elicits pure terror, putting viewers into the perspective of horrified criminals in Batman’s path. Much like The Riddler, Batman is a creature of the night who keeps his eyes peeled for his next target. The cinematography and storyline plays with this concept, blurring the line between “hero” and “villain.”  

Reeves and Peter Craig (“Bad Boys for Life”) have written a compelling cat-and-mouse mystery, which logically connects each plot development. Much like Batman himself, viewers are along for the ride as they try to uncover the true meaning of the villainous riddles. Much of Pattinson’s Batman combat — smooth and impactful — feels reminiscent of previous iterations and even the famous “Arkham” video game series. 

Reeves and his team managed to craft a grounded world, yet still incorporate some of the more whimsical elements of Batman canon. Giaccone’s score elevates moments featuring the more obscure characters as something almost fantasy-like. However, some moments clash with the established realism of the film’s world. It’s tough to take an emotional moment seriously when both characters are dressed in Halloween-esque costumes. However, these moments are far and few, as Reeves mostly remains tonally consistent.

“The Batman” serves as a successful re-interpretation of the darkest superhero, filled to the brim with enough plot twists, combat sequences, brooding moments and hints at the future to appease the most dedicated fans.

4.5 Brooding Bruce Waynes out of 5