WARNER BROS. PICTURES (2022)
Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell
“The Batman uncovers a string of corruption (surprise) as a psychotic serial killer is loose in the shadows of Gotham.”
The Bat is back for his first solo outing since 2012 and a few years after Batfleck graced our screens in those Snyder movies. Cloverfield and Apes director Matt Reeves brings his sensibilities to the director's chair and it falls to Robert Pattinson (of The Lighthouse, Good Time, and The Rover fame) to don the famous cowl and provide more crime-fighting fun and caper for cinemagoers around the world once again.
Fun and caper, however, is not what Reeves is offering in The Batman. This iteration is dark and gloomy - it’s certainly not swimming in levity. It feels like a mix of the Burton and Nolan films at once, but without the wackiness that followed some of those movies, The Batman certainly follows the grounded, ‘realistic’ route. Whilst there is a hint of the above Batman movies throughout, The Batman is very much a neo-noir offering and it is all the better for it - fans wanting “Detective Batman” will be very happy. Elements of mystery, thriller, horror, and action permeate the (required) near-three hour runtime and it’s impossible to escape the influence of Seven, Zodiac, Fincher, and The French Connection throughout. Reeves takes his time to delve into the psyche of Bruce Wayne and simultaneously expand on the city, the underworld, the and the characters without losing sight of any of the elements in play.
Here, Bruce Wayne / Batman is fighting against himself and the legacy of his family, instead fighting for Gotham and its citizens against the advice of everyone close(ish) to him. As he attempts to keep the streets safe alongside James Gordon (Wright), a socio-political terrorist known as Riddler (Dano) begins a murderous spree that uncovers the deep layers of corruption in the city leading all the way up to DA Gil Colson (Sarsgaard), Oswald Cobblepot (Farrell) and the Gotham crime lord Carmine Falcone (Turturro). Batman’s crusade is further complicated when he becomes embroiled in Selina Kyle’s (Kravitz) revenge mission against those that have wronged her and finds that they are both fighting for the same thing but in differing ways - oh, and they might have a thing for each other too…
The most unsurprising revelation is that Pattinson is very good in both the roles of Bruce and Bats. More time is spent in the outfit than not but he brings a real presence and physicality to the role as the character is struggling to juggle his identities and control his intense rage also. His chemistry with the also-excellent Kravitz was fizzling, Kravitz’s femme fatale performance was alluring and her story provides much of the throughline for the movie. As Riddler, Dano provides a chilling performance as he whispers, yells, and smarms his way through a movie where his presence is used intelligently and sparingly - this is a great villainous performance. Farrell and Wright were strong also, however, I thought Andy Serkis was quite weak in the role of Alfred. It felt more like a miscast than anything that Serkis himself was doing but that was a disappointment. What all of the character do have in common, however, is that none are left behind, each character feels developed and each of their stories has advanced by the time the credits roll.
What wasn’t disappointing was the fantastic score by Michael Giacchino that runs the gamut of genres and really elevates the on-screen events and visuals (nicely crafted by Dune and Rogue One’s Greig Fraser). During the more pensive moments of the movie especially, the score nails the tone of the moment each time. It’s marvellous. The dialogue was mostly solid, the punchy back and forths involving Batman and Gordon (the ‘detective talk’) were great and felt like a throwback to crime films of old, whilst the narrative was cohesive and well-paced - I didn't feel the runtime throughout.
For those expecting action, there is enough in The Batman to satisfy the needs but this is not an action-heavy affair. It’s certainly not without its spectacle, there are some great sequences (hello, Batmobile) that allow us to see the raw fighting abilities of this Batman but The Batman focuses more on the characterisation, deduction, and inner-working of the man rather than OTT setpieces. It is the final set-piece of the movie that felt the most underwhelming given the lead-up to it. It felt consistent with the reach that Riddler has (he isn't trying to take over the world as such) but it felt a little limp, the ending fell a little flat, especially considering the dialogue between hero and villain that preceded it.
Matt Reeves promised something different with The Batman and he certainly delivered on his statement. The Batman delivers on elements that other cinematic iterations have threatened - detective work that really dives into the deduction, the criminal underworld, Bruce Wayne genuinely struggling with his inner demons, etc - whilst remaining true to the nucleus of the character. The noir vibes are rampant, the mystery elements well-worked, and the major setpieces well-executed (for the most part). Pattinson is great as the Caped Crusader and the future stories and characters teased in the finale set up some potentially exciting storylines that can and will take place in further movies in this universe.
The Batman isn't a FUN film so I'm extremely interested to see how it goes over with general audiences, however, I thought it was great. A few issues aside, The Batman delivers on most aspects and is definitely up there as one of the best Batman movies so far. It's intense and at times brutal, this psychological dive into the man behind the cowl is a fine achievement and a huge testament to the talents of Reeves, Pattinson et al.
February 28th 2022