Matt Reeves’ Gothic-noir captures “The Batman” in 4K Ultra HD
Updated: Jun 9, 2022
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Actor Robert Pattinson plays Batman/Bruce Wayne in the reboot of the DC Comics character first introduced in Detective Comics #27 (1939).
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4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2022; PG-13 for strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong profanity, and some suggestive material; streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: The 53-minute “Vengeance in the Making”
AFTER DIRECTING the highly successful “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (2014) and “War for the Planet of the Apes” (2017), writer/director Matt Reeves received an unsolicited meeting request from Warner Brothers. “I didn’t understand what the meeting was for,” Reeves says during the first-rate multi-part making-of documentary (disc and digital). “So, I kept turning it down.” Finally, his agent called with the scoop – Batman.
Actor Robert Pattinson (“Twilight” series; “The King,” Netflix 2019) was in the middle of production with Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet,” when Warner called wanting him to screen test within the week. “It was like a super high-pressure scenario,” Pattinson says. The studio also reached out to Zoë Kravitz to audition for Selina Kyle/Catwoman. “Yeah, they gave me a motorcycle helmet, and I had to take the helmet off… and Rob was in a half-bat suit,” she says. He wore Val Kilmer’s suit from “Batman Forever” (1995) in the test. “I was trying to project performance through a mask. You realize pretty quickly that this is way harder than a normal part,” Pattison says.
Once Reeves signed on as writer/director/producer for this intense Batman reboot, he was determined to make his version a film noir detective story. He began reading Batman comic books, going back to the 1939 original: “I basically did a deep dive.” Anything he connected with he wrote down, drawing sketches in a huge notebook. “It was a way to have a dialogue with myself… Eventually, a story started to emerge.” One of the elements was to give Bruce Wayne the look of the late Kurt Cobain, of the alternative rock band Nirvana, wearing black eye makeup. As Batman arrives home after a night of vengeance – Cobain and Nirvana set the mood with “Something in the Way” – as he removes the mask and suit. What “remains of his makeup looks very rock n’ roll,” says makeup designer Naomi Donne.
Murder and Mayhem - Gotham City
(1&2) Gotham City Mayor Don Mitchell Jr. (Rupert Penry-Jones) is murdered by the Riddler/Edward Nashton (Paul Dano), who bludgeons him with a metal carpet tucker. (3) Halloween Night - Downtown Gotham City. (4&5) Thugs try to rob a man at a subway station, but Batman comes to the rescue.
Pattinson envisioned the caped crusader as an investigator, “Someone who just is exceptionally observant ... He’s more emotional and doesn’t necessarily know that he’s going to save the day, or if Batman is going to work or do anything. He knows there’s no other option other than Batman or death.”
Film composer Michael Giacchino (“Up,” “Ratatouille”) provides his fifth score for Reeves. The night before Pattison’s highly anticipated screen test, Giacchino sent Reeves a secret audio clip of the film’s theme. “I was blown away; it was so emotional,” Reeves says. He played the music during the screening as Pattinson put his makeup around his eyes. The brief audition footage was so good, it made it into the movie.
The extremely dark and grim film runs nearly three hours, with shades of David Fincher’s “Se7en” and “Zodiac” as the story unfolds. Batman strikes fear into the criminals of Gotham, a city of despair, violence, and corruption. Meanwhile, Lt. James Gordon, played by Jeffrey Wright, keeps the Bat symbol blasting onto a black, storm-tossed sky. Billionaire Bruce Wayne is seldom seen. He’s a recluse, who snaps at his loyal butler Alfred played by Andy Serkis. “Bruce just doesn’t care about surviving at all,” Pattinson says. “He just wants to inflict pain. Inflict his kind of – a form of justice, which is kind of questionable.” Reeves and his production designer James Ghinlund moved Batman away from the underground bat caves to a Gothic, cathedral-like penthouse overlooking the city. Reeves also reveals the subplot in which Alfred wasn’t prepared emotionally to raise young Wayne, although he was the one that taught him how to defend himself.
“Two years of nights have turned me into a nocturnal animal.” — Bruce Wayne
(1&2) Batman arrives at the murder scene of Mayor Mitchell, whose face was wrapped in duck tape. (3) A card address to Batman is found by Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and it includes a riddle. (4) Police Commissioner Peter Savage (Alex Ferns) addresses the media. (5&6) After a long night, Bruce Wayne is finally home and talks with his butler/mentor Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis).
Reeves assembled an excellent supporting cast with an unrecognizable Colin Farrell as outrageous mobster Oswald “Oz” Cobblepot/Penguin, manager of the Iceberg Lounge and member of the Falcone crime family. John Turturro plays crime lord Carmine Falcone, with Paul Dano cast as macabre serial killer Edward Nashton/The Riddler (Edward Nygma), who’s terrorizing Gotham politicos, murdering Mayor Don Mitchell Jr. (Rupert Penry-Jones), Police Commissioner Pete Savage (Alex Ferns) and Falcone stooge, District Attorney Gil Colson played by Peter Sarsgaard. Each victim is left with a card addressed to Batman containing a series of riddles/clues to solve.
Reeves and company have given us a mesmerizing tale filmed under strict COVID protocols. The production faced numerous uphill battles in the late summer of 2020 as the main star tested positive, causing filming to be halted. It finally hit theaters in early 2022, becoming an instant blockbuster, and raking in over $769 million worldwide – the director’s biggest box office success to date. It received a 77 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes from top critics and 86 percent from moviegoers.
“They think I’m hiding in the shadows. But I am the shadows.” — Bruce Wayne
(1) Batman confronts the Penguin/Oswald “Oz” Cobblepot (Colin Farrell). (2) Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz) leaves the Iceberg Lounge. (3&4) Selina finds out that Mayor Mitchell had stolen her friend Annika Kosolov’s passport and she breaks into the Mitchell mansion, which is still a crime scene and steals the passport back. (5) Batman questions Selina, who’s dressed in her Catwoman suit. (6&7) Batman and Lt. Gordon find another card addressed to the Batman inside a sophisticated rat cage the Riddler attached to the face of Police Commissioner Pete Savage.
Cinematographer Greig Fraser (“Dune: Part One,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”) captured “The Batman” on 4.5K and 6K digital cameras (2.39:1 aspect ratio), pushing the limits of filming in dense black shadows and pockets of light. Footage and VFX shots were mastered in true 4K bringing extraordinary depth and clarity to a very dark picture. Imagery tests the strengths and weaknesses of black levels on all 4K setups, as Batman moves among the shadows. The best OLED 4K sets shouldn’t have any problems. Meanwhile, a friend watching the film on HBO Max on a 4K set raved about the quality.
Editing was purposely slowed down, with fewer shots and longer takes – 1970s style – while the action moves throughout the set and frame. An intense car chase between Batman and Penguin thrills with changing point-of-view shots.
The HDR10 and Dolby Vision grading are excellent, extracting the texture of bold highlights contrasting against the shadows. A splash of red and cyan for Catwoman’s scenes are perfectly rendered. The added resolution of 4K over 1080p view is obvious, especially in wide shots, where objects retain smooth edges, along with the bonus clarity of lettering and numbers on distant signs and buildings.
Overall, the 4K is slightly darker adding to the film noir tone, and a slight post-production film grain was added. Plus, a soft bokeh effects filter was added to the anamorphic lens to give the edges an out-of-focus look, bringing attention to the center of the frame.
The 4K disc & digital (Apple TV, Movies Anywhere) and Blu-ray feature the eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack, with endless effects and music cues for height speakers. The car chase is definitely a sonic highlight, with its deep bass response and effects bouncing around the room. Giacchino’s haunting score is his longest yet, nearly two hours of music with a 70-piece orchestra and a small boys choir spread into two Abbey Road studios because of COVID protocols.
(1&2) Selina agrees to wear a special lens over her eye that transmits live video to Batman. (3) Outside the Gotham City Hall, the location for Mayor Mitchell’s memorial service. The exterior scene was filmed in Liverpool, England. (4) “Oz” Cobblepot/Penguin and crime lord Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) talk with Bruce Wayne before entering the memorial service. (5) Bruce Wayne spots Mayor Mitchell’s son and remembers his loneliness after his parents were murdered. (6&7) The Riddler strapped a time bomb to the neck of Gotham District Attorney Gil Colson (Peter Sarsgaard) and ordered him to crash his car into the memorial service.
Surprisingly, Apple TV (iTunes) gets the exclusive Reeves commentary track in which he reveals he wanted to divert from the traditional opening action sequence of previous Batman films to a POV opening. The Riddler wears high-tech goggles as he spies on Mayor Mitchell. The mayor’s 10-year-old son dressed in a red ninja costume for Trick or Treat pretends to kill his dad with a long sword. Reeves said his own son’s red ninja Halloween costume from 2018 was the inspiration.
The remaining bonus features – 10 featurettes and deleted scenes – are included on the third disc and on digital platforms. “Vengeance in the Making” is the best, detailing the production from beginning to end. Cameras began rolling two months before COVID-19 overtook the globe and production at Warner Brothers Studios outside London. Filming was originally scheduled to last five months.
“I wanted to do an imperfect Batman… to not be in total control, who was being challenged by these crimes,” Reeves says. “You kind of have to feel like, ‘Okay, so can I come into this and do something definitive, distinctive, and different?’”
Filming started on January 27, 2020, in the mayor’s mansion, one of the film’s many fabulous set-pieces. For several days Reeves and Pattinson tried to figure out how “Batman sounded, how he moved, how he looked, and how other characters related to him.” Pattinson felt his character was at home with being a “savant or witch doctor or something” as the world’s greatest detective. Jeffrey Wright agreed; “It’s about sleuthing. It’s about thinking through the clues, and again, just takes us back to the core of what Batman is and what Gordon is. They’re detectives.”
The center section of the documentary details the creation of the Bat-suit, based on U.S. military and ballistic protection, plus the look of the bat logo, which was intended as reminiscent of real bats in flight.
Car Chase - Batman vs. Penguin
On March 11, filming started with Mayor Mitchell’s funeral with hundreds of extras and an out-of-control car crashing the service. It was shot in two old blimp hangars in Bedford, England.
Two days later, the production shut down indefinitely as the pandemic intensified. “Honestly, it was a very scary time,” Reeves says. One of the crew, a dialect coach, died two weeks later. “We dedicated the film to him, Andrew Jack,” Reeves says. “It’s heartbreaking that he’s gone.”
Six months later, production began again. First, they started small with just two characters, then moved outside adding more people and extras for the exterior of the Mitchell funeral filmed in Liverpool. Reeves admits he struggled for the rest of the film, calling it “a strange experience,” since his actors couldn’t see his face covered with a mask, a hat, and eye protection. “He [was] more obscure than Batman,” John Turturro says. One of the final scenes shows Batman and Catwoman overlooking Gotham City. They used a new technology with hundreds of high-resolution panels projecting an active background, with moving clouds and traffic. “It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful technology. It looked 100 percent like we were on the roof,” Reeves says.
On March 21, 2021, the film finally wrapped.
“We made this movie during [COVID-19], a movie that we loved and a movie about a character that we love so much.” — Matt Reeves
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch Producer
(1) Bruce Wayne finally gets the complete picture of the Gotham City corruption. (2) Selina/Catwoman wants Batman to help her get former Gotham detective William Kenzie (Peter McDonald), who was involved with Annika Kosolov’s murder. (3) A rough night for Batman/Bruce Wayne, as the Riddler releases a video condemning his father Thomas Wayne. (4) Bruce asks Carmine Falcone about his relationship with his father. (5) Batman questions Edward Nashton/Riddler after his arrest. (6&7) The Gotham Square Garden is the election night headquarters for mayoral candidate Bella Reál (Jayme Lawson). (8&9) The Riddler has one more terrorist attack on Gotham, as Batman leads hundreds of victims to safety. (10&11) The Batman signal continues to hit the clouds over Gotham City.