Review by Paul Bowler
The Caped Crusader is back In director Matt Reeves The Batman, with Twilight’s Robert Pattinson donning the cape and cowl in what has arguably become one the most hotly anticipated film of the year. The Batman has a dark, crime thriller horror vibe about it, one that often feel more akin to David Fincher’s Seven, and subsequently it elevates this gritty superhero fable into a hugely compelling character study of the Dark Knight. Set against the corrupt backdrop of a crime riddled Gotham City, the gloriously atmospheric film noir aesthetic of this Dark Knight’s world is indeed a cut above anything we’ve seen before in the genre.
Taking place two decades after the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne, and two years into Bruce Wayne’s all-consuming Bat-fuelled Gotham project, the city is now caught in the grip of a puzzle obsessed serial killer, the Riddler (Paul Dano). He’s a maniac with a penchant for murdering the elite of Gotham along with their reputations, and is just the catalyst Patterson’s emo incarnation of the Batman needs to finally step into the light and assist the GCPD’s James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) – much to the chagrin of Gordon’s colleagues.
Matt Reeves and co-writer Peter Craig’s powerful take on Batman’s early career cleverly utilises the oft overlooked trait of Batman being comicdoms worlds greatest detective as the template for one of Batman’s darkest of cinematic outings ever, and the film is all the richer for it. Robert Pattinson’s Dark Knight is an intense, deeply driven vigilante, he may have the bullet proof Bat-suit, but he’s got none of the usual high-tech gadgets and gizmos of his glossier cinematic predecessors. Indeed, Pattinson’s performance as Wayne / Batman is both mesmerising and unflinching as a Batman who is totally focused on his war on crime and hell-bent on instilling fear in criminals. He has yet to earn the trust of Gotham or Gordon, the reclusive Bruce Wayne’s only real ally is his loyal butler Alfred (brilliantly played by Andy Serkis), and this fledgling Batman’s inexperience often sees him taking nearly as much punishment as he dishes out.
Batman’s detective work crucially finds him crossing paths with Zoe Kravitz’s sultry femme fatal Selina Kyle, a.k.a Catwoman, who is conducting her own personal investigation which also brings her into conflict with Batman’s mission to solve the Riddler’s diabolical puzzles. Their tangled love story and alliance of connivence never truly convinces, but the sizzling chemistry between Pattinson and Kravitz is fuelled even further by the intensity of the dynamic between their alter-egos.
The Batman features a number of key villains from the Dark Knight’s ominous rogues gallery, with a virtually unrecognisable Colin Farrell under a mass of prosthetic make up as nightclub boss, the Penguin, Paul Dano’s blood curdling turn as Edward Nashton / the Riddler leads to some truly chilling scenes, and John Turturro proves to be an unexpectedly pivotal player in The Batman’s story as Carmine Falcone.
Greig Fraser’s stunning cinema photography makes the films grimy rain-swept depiction of Gotham perhaps the biggest scene stealer of all. The spectacle of Wayne Tower and the urban gothic of the new Bat-Cave are just some of the films many standout settings. The city feels almost like a character in its own right here, as Reeves stylish direction brings a graphic novel sense of scale and awe to the production, together with a mix of atmospheric locations and fantastic special effects, to make this noir-infused comic book crime caper come to life on the screen in a way that is as menacing as it is breathtaking. Reeves uses the action sparingly, but in incredibly effective ways. Fight sequences are relentlessly brutal, there’s an incredible car chase featuring the Batmobile and a death defying leap from a skyscraper amongst The Batman’s many blockbusting big-action set-pieces to enjoy.
At just under three hours, this first solo Batman movie in a decade is the longest Batman movie ever made. The hard-boiled noir influences and striking visual style are to die for, as is that new Batmobile, and it is only the somewhat overloaded final act that holds the film back from achieving absolute perfection. Pattinson defies all expectations and totally makes the role of the Dark Knight his own as well. This epic superhero movie may have been beset by pandemic related delays but Matt Reeves The Batman has certainly turned out to be well worth the wait, and is everything you could want from a Batman movie.
About The Author
Hi, I’m Paul Bowler, blogger and reviewer of films, TV shows, and comic books. I’m a Sci-Fi geek, a big fan of Doctor Who, Star Trek, movies, Sci-Fi, Horror, Comic Books, and all things PS4.You can follow me on Twitter @paul_bowler,or at my website, Sci-Fi Jubilee, and on YouTube and Facebook