Sunday, March 6

The Batman Review

The Batman

Dir: Matt Reeves

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Colin Farrell, John Turturro, Andy Serkis, and Paul Dano 

2h 55m

The opening scene of director Matt Reeves’ new incarnation of the Batman is the best introduction to the character delivered to film. In the black of night, with the fog-covered beam of the Bat-signal barely illuminating the skies of Gotham City, Bruce Wayne narrates the entire lore of the Dark Knight while bad guys cower at sounds echoing from the shadows. “I am vengeance” is the final phrase before the reveal from the darkness. 

Reeves, who co-wrote the script with Peter Craig, separates the superhero from the 60s television show playfulness and the 80s/90s playboy-by-day, caped-crusader-by-night designs. They move further away from Christopher Nolan’s serious trilogy and craft an even darker, more tormented, and traumatized version of Bruce Wayne in “The Batman.” The most noticeable emotion felt throughout Reeves’ film is dread. The darkness is consuming; much of the film feels shot with minimal light sources. The overwhelming tone feels like a mix of the horrific elements of David Fincher’s “Se7en” with the procedural aspects of “Zodiac.” 

Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) arrives at a crime scene, led by his ally in the Gotham City Police Department, James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright). It’s a gruesome murder of a political figure, orchestrated by a serial killer dubbed The Riddler (Paul Dano) who leaves ciphers and codes addressed to The Batman. Gotham City is corrupt, drugs are rampant, and criminal organizations with deep ties to everything in the city protect old secrets and introduce new mayhem. With the help of Alfred (Andy Serkis), Batman begins solving the devious riddles left for him, uncovering truths that challenge Gotham City’s legacy and Batman’s true identity. 

What Matt Reeves has done with “The Batman” is fascinating in a world dominated by the Marvel machine of superhero films. Those bright, heroic, and hopeful films have come to define cinematic representations of extraordinary people fighting the manifestations of evil from Earth and other galaxies. However, while “The Batman” composes an environment that feels otherworldly, not with fancy technology but more the essence of a society reorganized by the worst people after the first society failed, the quality of this film is grounded with gritty realism. Bad guys are pummeled with fists and heels; no special weapons are needed. And if Batman needs any wonderful toys, they often feel like homemade garage experiments. The Batmobile looks like a 1969 Dodge Charger with a jet engine attached to the back. When Batman must evade a group of bad guys, he jumps from a building in a contemporary wingsuit. 

 At a staggering 175-minutes, much of “The Batman” is a neo-noir crime drama mixed with serial killer horror movie vibes, sprinkled with an occasional action scene that doesn’t boast extravagance but is framed more for character emotions. When a group of officers secures a crime scene, with a medical examiner detailing the cause of death for an unlucky soul, you’d think an inquisitive gumshoe with a fedora, trench coat, and a lit cigarette will enter the moment to describe motive and the assailant. Nope, it’s Batman in a full heavy armor suit doing the detective work. It’s jarring at first, but it works because of Reeves’ steadfast direction. What also helps the detective story is the demented masked villain, a riddle-obsessed killer who uses codes and puzzles to lead Batman to the next victim. 

Robert Pattison is the most haunted, most traumatized, Batman of all the Batman’s. His eyes echo an incomplete life, unleashing moments of rage that are destructive with a vengeance. The central idea of Bruce Wayne’s life, where the isolated and lonely hero tightropes the thin boundaries of vigilante justice, pushes “The Batman” into bolder choices for the characters. It composes a villain that must be worse than the nightmares that haunt the memories of Bruce’s life. The narrative never delves below the surface often, it avoids telling the familiar back story at all costs, but Pattison conveys all the emotions exceptionally well in the quiet moments. Assisting in performance is the wonderfully manic Paul Dano as The Riddler. Colin Ferrall is nearly unrecognizable as The Penguin; he composes the only character of any fun in the film. Zoë Kravitz is somewhat lost in this long narrative but is charming and confident as Catwoman whenever on screen. 

“The Batman” is a bold concept, a push in an interesting, if not thoroughly developed, direction for the often familiar franchise vigilante. Robert Pattison proves completely capable of shouldering the weight and expectations of the Dark Knight. 

Monte’s Rating

4.00 out of 5.00

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