The Dark Knight returns with a thrilling new interpretation of the Caped Crusader with Robert Pattinson as The Batman. Matt Reeves brings the character back to his roots showcasing the vengeance-fueled vigilante as more of a film noir detective early in his career than an origin story or as an established superhero as he takes on The Riddler. Warner Bros. brings fans an exciting 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release with an excellent Dolby Vision HDR transfer with a demo-worthy Atmos track and some interesting worthwhile bonus features. Until the next film and the HBO Max spinoff series, this will have to hold you over. Highly Recommended.
Two years of stalking the night streets of Gotham as the Batman (Robert Pattinson) and Bruce Wayne is no closer to his goal of deterring crime. Murder and mayhem are at record highs before Gotham’s mayoral election. The city is turned upside down when the sitting mayor is murdered in his home by a criminal called the Riddler (Paul Dano) who leaves provocative clues and letters for the Batman to solve. With the heart of the city’s rampant corruption pointing towards Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) and his right hand Oswald “The Penguin” (Colin Farrell), Batman will turn to cat burglar Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz) and Lt. Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) to stop the Riddler’s sinister plot.
Another day, another take on the world’s greatest detective. With the fan-dubbed DCEU “Snyderverse” floundering in the wake of the critical drubbing of Batman v Superman and the horrible theatrical version of Justice League and Ben Affleck’s exit from his own solo project, Planet of the Apes shepherd Matt Reeves was brought in to deliver hungry Bat-fans a fresh new take on the masked vigilante. Moving away from the heavily Frank Miller-inspired material of the last films, Reeves' The Batman pulls pieces of the classic Long Halloween storyline while cherrypicking bits and pieces of Batman lore that’s part classic early Bill Finger Batman and part gritty hard-boiled Dashiell Hammett detective with nods to the Arkham games and even the 1966 television series. The cape and cowl are practically lifted from Mike Mignola’s Gotham By Gaslight design.
For my part, I loved The Batman, gleefully going to see it at IMAX three times in as many weeks ahead of its arrival on HBO Max where I've honestly lost track how many times I've watched it. This is the kind of thing I want to see in a Batman film for a long time. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Nolan films are good - well the first two of the three - but Batman still was relatively an incidental figure compared to the life of Bruce Wayne when it should be the other way around. Bruce Wayne is Batman, not Batman is Bruce Wayne. This Batman is still raw and new to the streets but cuts an imposing figure ready to strike fear into the hearts of Gotham’s criminal element. This film gives him strikingly little time out of the cape and cowl and when he is out from under the mask, he’s far from the attractive hunky billionaire playboy. This nightlife of crimefighting has taken its toll and he genuinely looks like crap.
Ever the faithful servant, Alfred Pennyworth, this time played by Apes actor Andy Serkis is aimed as a man coming to terms with the monster he helped create. He knows he’s powerless to stop Bruce’s mission as Batman so he does all he can to help. He doesn’t stop to splay out some nonsensical rambling metaphor, he's the one who trained Bruce and gets to work helping him with the case in spite of any misgivings because at this point it's the only way he can help keep him alive.
No Batman film is complete without a Gordon to work with. This time we’re treated to Jeffrey Wright as Lt. Gordon. He’s an early friend of Batman regularly working with him and consulting on cases, but Batman hasn’t won over all of the cops in the city. The corrupt have reason to fear him but the honest cops still don’t know what to make of this vigilante. Wright's Gordon has to walk that thin line of trust between turning to a masked crime fighter and working with his brothers in blue.
Zoë Kravitz delivers a terrific Selina Kyle. She’s not full-on “Catwoman” - but she’s definitely a master thief who isn’t above stealing from the rich or corrupt to line her own pockets. Using a bike chain as a whip is a nice touch. This is another strong spot where Reeves nailed the relationship between the Bat and the Cat. She’ll help Batman as long as it serves her interests but she’s not going to share his mission. I also dug that instead of a cat-like mask she’s turned a black pussyhat into a makeshift balaclava.
Standing tall for the ciminal element of Gotham is John Turturro as crime boss Carmine Falcone with Colin Farrel delivering an amazing performance as The Penguin. They're gangsters rolling legit enterprises but they've managed to pocket essential city servants. Then there’s Paul Dano as the Riddler. This 8chan fringe conspiracy extremist version of Riddler is just damn chilling and like Pattinson, Dano gets very little actual face time instead hiding behind an arctic combat mask streaming his crimes to his followers. He's John Doe from Se7en meets the Zodiac.
Top to bottom The Batman is an exciting fresh take. Perhaps the film runs a tad long, but for the life of me, I can’t figure a scene that could be cut out to tighten it up. Some trims here and there maybe, but that wouldn’t dramatically bring in the runtime. In all honesty, I didn’t want less - I wanted more. This was one of first films in a long time that made me feel like when I saw The Fellowship of the Ring where I get to the credits and I’m ready to watch the next film. Since that wasn’t an option I just kept going back to my local IMAX as often as I could.
Thanks to Colin Farrel’s excellent turn as the Penguin, HBO Max is moving forward with its spinoff series while at Cinemacon it was confirmed that Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson will be coming back for another round of caped crusading. I’ve been a Batman fan damn near my whole life and I’m always game for a new movie. While I know this one wasn’t for everyone and aren't as enthusiastic about it as I am, that's totally cool. But I do have to point out how damn awesome it is that we’re getting a Flash movie featuring Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton in costume with Keaton returning for Batgirl as well. It’s a damn cool time to be a Batman fan at the theater.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K UltraHD Blu-ray
Warner Bros unleashes The Batman to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in a three-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital Set. The 4K disc is pressed on a BD-100 disc with the 1080p on a BD-50 with another BD-25 disc for the bonus features. The discs are housed in a three-disc Elite case with identical slipcover artwork. Each disc sits on an individual tray and is not stacked on top of other discs. Each disc loads to a static image main menu with basic navigation bar at the bottom of the screen. The included digital copy can be redeemed through Movies Anywhere and will port to all connected and supported digital streaming services.
The Batman storms onto 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with an often stunning albeit very dark native 4K 2160p Dolby Vision transfer. I mean, this is a Batman movie - it’s going to be dark but this film took that to a whole new level with some beautiful cinematography by Greig Fraser. The film is steeped in shadows - even when it’s daylight there are dark ominous shadows for any character to lurk in and it’s glorious. Details are pristine allowing you to fully take in facial features (lighting contingent), the Penguin’s extensive makeup effects, and costume textures. Looking closely I love the details in Batman’s skull-like cowl from the individual stitching to the scrapes and scuffs he’s taken from close-quarters combat. You can also fully appreciate the practical and CGI elements employed to create this new Gotham City with London, Chicago, Liverpool, and Glasgow locations used to create the city.
The Dolby Vision pass has a lot of work to do with the black levels and it handles the load magnificently. There are deep creepy black voids that slowly ease into the available light allowing for some dramatic entrances for Batman. The film isn’t one to celebrate for its bright primaries except for a few key incidents of blood or deep red lighting and the yellow pulsing lights of the Iceberg Lounge. Whites are crisp without blooming - at least where it isn’t intentional. The primary lighting for a lot of the film is those eerie orange sodium lamps. There are many scenes like where Selina breaks into the mayor’s house that have very little lighting except for whatever ambient light is coming in through the windows. It’s moody and beautiful stuff - I loved it and it certainly makes for some demo-worthy material. But depending on your setup, it’s likely going to stress test your capabilities and may require a fully dark screening room to appreciate - even still, it's a beauty.
Both the 4K and 1080p Blu-ray releases score a fantastic Dolby Atmos audio mix. Since this is a very wet movie with a lot of rain, there’s plenty of near-constant overhead activity in the height channels. Likewise, even in the quietest scenes of Arkham or the crime scene in the Mayor’s mansion, there’s plenty of surround activity to keep the channels active and fully engaged. Dialog is never an issue even with a lot of whispering and low-voiced conversations. Never felt the need to compensate there. Action sequences like the big car chase, the final climactic fight sequence, or the pulsating music of the Iceberg Lounge go full immersion blasting throughout the channels without drowning out score, dialog, or key sound effects. Michael Giacchino’s score is a great accompaniment to any given scene and is well placed through the front/center/height channels and for some segments into the sides. Then you have the guttural screeching engine of the Batmobile punching LFE nicely on top of several key sequences throughout the film. Not that you need to, but play it loud! I’m glad most of my neighbors work during the day otherwise I wouldn’t get away with half the movies I watch to review and this was a fun one to crank up.
Considering the near-three-hour runtime, I appreciate Warner Bros slipping the bonus features onto a separate disc. Neither the 4K Disc nor the 1080p Disc has any bonus features. What we get here is a collection of small featurettes focusing on small individual pieces of the production with a nice large making-of documentary Vengeance in the Making that aims for a much bigger picture overview of the making of the film. There are only two deleted scenes with optional commentary with Matt Reeves, one is the already widely seen deleted Joker scene and another brief but interesting interaction with Selina and Penguin - not essential to the show, and while a cool scene, I’m glad they dropped the Joker scene. It was too much and very on the nose almost pulling word-for-word from Manhunter.
The Batman is the sort of Batman flick I’ve wanted to see on the big screen for a long time now. While past films have had their highlights with the characters, it didn’t feel like Matt Reeves pulled from just one or two sources but the entire 80-year history of comics, television shows, films, and video games to create a singular experience. I loved it and I can’t wait for more.
Warner Bros. delivers Bat-fans a practicality-perfect Bat-4K release. The Bat-Dolby Vision native 4K transfer is beautifully dark and ominous and the thundering Bat-Atmos mix is a beautiful piece of demo-worthy material to showcase on your home Bat-theater setup. Top things off you’re getting over two hours of excellent informative Bat-Bonus Features to dig through. In short, I’m calling this Batman a very Highly Recommended disc and an essential addition for fans.