The Batman, 2022.
Directed by Matt Reeves.
Starring Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, and Colin Farrell.
Matt Reeves’ grim-and-gritty The Batman arrives on 4K with a presentation as stellar as you’d expect, along with a big batch of bonus features that do an excellent job of telling the story of the making of the film. Highly recommended.
When I was a kid in the 1970s, I enjoyed superheroes, like a lot of us Gen Xers did back then. There were plenty of them on Saturday morning cartoons, and the campy 1960s Batman TV show was in reruns. I was a pretty casual comic book fan back then, so I didn’t read a lot of superhero comics, although my perspective changed during my freshman year in college when I read about Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns in Rolling Stone magazine.
I picked up the trade paperbacks of both of those series at my local comic book shop and was hooked. I had no idea comic books could be like that (yeah, I’ll confess I missed the classic Batman comics of the early 70s, when guys like Neal Adams were reinventing him), and soon I was engaged with the medium in a way I never was before. I became a big fan of various comics starring the X-Men and Batman in particular.
That same year, Tim Burton’s wonderful Batman movie hit theaters, and I saw it, of course, along with devouring the various 50th anniversary comic books DC was putting out at the time. I’ll admit I was underwhelmed by Batman Returns, and then the film franchise went downhill during the 90s before being resurrected by Christopher Nolan for his trilogy.
There was a lot to like in Nolan’s work, even though there were some clunky moments too, but it was a step in the right direction, away from the campier elements of Burton’s films and toward Frank Miller’s excellent comic book work. I’ll admit Ben Affleck’s Batman didn’t do much for me, and I’ve never gotten into DC’s haphazard cinematic universe the same way I’ve enjoyed the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
However, there was a lot to be intrigued by in Matt Reeves’ reinvention of Batman, with Robert Pattinson now in the lead role. Thankfully, he decided to eschew the retelling of the character’s origin, which I think pretty much everyone knows by now, and instead focused on creating a movie that feels like a comic book on the big screen, much like the MCU efforts.
My favorite moment in The Batman is easily our hero’s fight against armed bad guys in the dark, with gunfire lighting up the scene in a staccato way. I saw the film twice in the theater, and both times that moment felt like something that could have been pulled straight from a comic book. (And perhaps it was, since I fell off the comic book bandwagon about 20 years ago and really haven’t kept up with the medium since then.) That tends to be my biggest litmus test of comic book movies: Does this feel like it could live on the printed page too?
At nearly three hours, The Batman feels a bit bloated at times, but the plot is top-notch and the characters feel real. For example, the Penguin is a nightclub owner without the top hat and tuxedo, and Catwoman is a thief who prowls Gotham sans an on-the-nose costume. Gotham is consistently dark and dreary, which falls in line with the gothic take on the Batman mythos that started in the early 70s. At times, it even feels a bit like David Fincher’s excellent movie Se7en. (Thankfully, there’s no head in a box.)
Every fan has their favorite version of Batman, and for me, Reeves’ vision is the truest take on the character. He originally had a harder edge on him before being softened due to Comics Code restrictions in the 1950s, which led to the campy tone of the TV show and the assumption of a lot of people that that was the definitive Batman. If you’re in that camp, this movie is the complete opposite of that version of the character, but if you’ve been waiting for a definitive noir version of him to appear onscreen, this is the one for you.
Warner Bros. has released The Batman in a 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray package that also includes a code for a digital copy. The 4K disc is reference quality, as you’d imagine for a movie that was playing in theaters just a couple months ago, although you’ll want to watch it in darkened, movie theater-like conditions to get the look and feel Reeves was going for. The Blu-ray isn’t a slouch in the A/V department either.
The film lives by itself on 4K and Blu-ray discs, giving it plenty of breathing room for maximum bit rates and the best image quality possible. All of the bonus features are found on a second Blu-ray, and they include:
• Vengeance in the Making (53.75 minutes): This is a substantial making-of documentary that’s packed with insights from the cast and crew, along with plenty of onset footage. This is the kind of extra I wish would show up more often on modern big studio releases — it seems like only boutique labels like Arrow and Criterion are commissioning that kind of content anymore.
• Looking for Vengeance (5 minutes): This is a longer look at the fight choreography for the film, which could be best described as street fighting, rather than the more acrobatic martial arts-infused style found in other Batman movies.
• The Batman: Genesis (6 minutes): Reeves and Pattinson talk about their take on the iconic character.
• Vengeance Meets Justice (8 minutes): Paul Dano, who plays The Riddler, shares some time with Reeves and Pattinson to compare and contrast the hero and the villain, who also has a grim-and-gritty take here.
• Becoming Catwoman (8.5 minutes): Zoë Kravitz talks about her take on the character.
• The Batmobile (11 minutes): Just like the main character, his vehicle of choice has gone through many iterations over the years. The sleek car of the 1960s is long gone, replaced with one that’s meant to get banged up and grungy while pursuing the bad guys. It fits perfectly with the tone of the film.
• Anatomy of a Car Chase (6 minutes): The Batmobile’s ability to literally drive through fire was on display during Batman’s pursuit of the Penguin, and that sequence is broken down here.
• Anatomy of the Wing Suit Jump (6.5 minutes): This is another scene breakdown, this time of Batman’s winged suit and how the footage was shot with help from a drone.
• Unpacking the Icons (5.75 minutes): This featurette takes a look at the various costumes and how they were designed to feel like they were not only representative of the characters but also a fit for the environment.
• A Transformation: The Penguin (8 minutes): Colin Farrell needed some makeup work to become the Penguin, but the end result was the complete opposite of Danny DeVito’s version in Batman Returns. He feels like a villain who happens to own a nightclub, as opposed to a cartoony stereotype laughing maniacally as he schemes to ensnare the hero.
• Deleted scenes: Both of the deleted scenes come with optional commentary by Reeves. One of them is the Joker scene that’s already appeared online, while the other gives us another moment with Selina Kyle (Catwoman). Given the film’s runtime, it made sense to excise the nearly eight minutes of footage found here, but both scenes are still worth viewing to get a little extra perspective on the characters.
Normally, I’d close with “The trailer rounds out the platter,” but it’s not found here, nor is there a commentary track. (I’ve read that you get a commentary track with the digital edition being sold by Apple, which is a shame; I wish the studios didn’t do these exclusive editions for various online and brick-and-mortar retailers.) I think the trailer would have been an easy extra to include, given the work that Warner put into this release, but it’s not a deal-breaker in my book. This edition is well worth the money, especially for Batman fans.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★