The Batman

Genre: Action, Adventure

Director: Matt Reeves

Screenplay: Matt Reeves, Peter Craig

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell

Running Length:  176 minutes

Synopsis: Batman ventures into Gotham City’s underworld when a sadistic killer leaves behind a trail of cryptic clues. As the evidence begins to lead closer to home and the scale of the perpetrator’s plans become clear, he must forge new relationships, unmask the culprit and bring justice to the abuse of power and corruption that has long plagued the metropolis.

Review: It almost feels like a misnomer to call The Batman, the umpteenth reboot for the caped crusader, a superhero movie. Much as it does feature Batman and other characters from the DC universe, it really would be more accurate to call The Batman a serial killer/detective procedural movie that features a superhero (which we can call Detective Dark Knight). Whatever sub-genre you may want to file The Batman under, one thing is for sure – it is one of the best comic book movies ever made, in that it feels like you’re literally watching a comic book unfold on the big screen. It also happens to be a really good Batman movie, coming close to the heights reached by The Dark Knight.

Ben Affleck exiting the production of The Batman as both director and actor meant that this new Batman film, like Joker, ends up in its own Batman universe, instead of being connected to the broader DC Extended Universe. Unfettered by the need to stick to the DCEU canon, Matt Reeves and co-writer Peter Craig managed to craft an excellent film that truly delves into the detective aspect of Batman as a character (he was birthed in the pages of Detective Comics after all), something that has never really been done to this extent before despite the multitudes of Batman films made over the years. Anyone that has been hankering for a movie in the vein of David Fincher’s Se7en and Zodiac would find that itch satisfyingly scratched in The Batman.

Robert Pattinson has had to carry around the weight of the Twilight franchise for much of his career, and despite proving time and again that he’s a much better thespian than the Twilight films would suggest, he’s forever swimming against the current to demonstrate how he’s not just a sparkly brooding vampire. He once again makes this point known in The Batman, and really shines (ahem) in the titular role – given even fewer speaking lines than Christian Bale, Pattinson makes excellent use of non-verbal acting to flesh out his versions of Batman and Bruce Wayne, from the gait he employs while in the suit, to communicating nuanced emotions with his eyes alone. It is a very strong performance and stands toe to toe with Christian Bale’s iconic turns as the Batman.

The rest of the cast are equally strong, with Zoe Kravitz doing an excellent job as Catwoman (possibly my favourite onscreen portrayal of Catwoman thus far) and sharing great onscreen chemistry with Pattinson, and Paul Dano’s Riddler being another highlight, whose performance is genuinely creepy and yet grounded in reality that one can totally imagine a version of his Riddler existing in real life. Colin Farrell is unrecognizable as the Penguin but does more than just be a vessel for make-up and costuming, and Jeffrey Wright is completely on point in his portrayal of Jim Gordon. However, the most memorable supporting character of all has to be Gotham City itself – while we have always seen the city in various aspects, this is the first film where it really feels like an actual living, breathing city, albeit one that is wracked with the disease of crime and decay. I can’t wait to see more of Reeves’ Gotham feature in upcoming projects.

On the technical side of things, The Batman is near flawless. The cinematography by Greig Fraser is stunning, on par with the amazing work he did on Dune last year – the brilliant use of colour, lighting and shadows makes this an incredibly handsome film to watch on the big screen. Michael Giacchino’s massive, percussion-heavy score really adds power to the film especially in pivotal scenes, and this is indeed one of the best Batman scores, very high praise given the illustrious alumni that have worked on prior Batman films that includes Danny Elfman, James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer. The action choreography is also excellent, and while there are just a handful of action sequences, they are all well-executed, including a nighttime car chase sequence involving a very organic Batmobile that is sheer exhilaration to watch unfold on both a visceral and technical level.

Although The Batman is ostensibly a reboot of the franchise, the film skips over the origin story of Batman and places us in the second year of his crime-fighting career, and it can almost be said that the film is more of a coming-of-age story than an origin story, where Batman attempts to figure out his true purpose in Gotham City. It’s an ambitious attempt, and while it is arguably a little too long and could have done with some more judicious editing, Reeves pretty much nails the landing. I went into the film being rather skeptical about how anyone could still bring something new to the table for Batman, but Reeves has proven me wrong. The film’s success is very much dependent on what audiences are expecting to take away from the viewing experience, but it would be difficult to imagine anyone coming out of the theatres being disappointed by what they’ve just watched, even if they went in expecting a more traditional superhero movie.

Rating: * * * ½ (out of four stars)

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