The Batman Review

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Whenever a fresh-faced artist introduces Batman to a new generation, we expect something revolutionary. Tim Burton returned Batman to his dark roots, setting a gold standard for superhero movies. Christopher Nolan created a Batman who could seemingly exist in the real world, kicking off the modern area of grounded comic book adaptations. Matt Reeves finds the middle ground between Burton’s otherworldliness and Nolan’s sophistication, but The Batman never feels like a retread. This is the first live-action Batman movie to fully embrace film noir with a detective story driving the plot. The film is just as much a psychological horror film warranting comparison to David Fincher. It’s also the first time more emphasis is put on Batman than Bruce Wayne.

Like Oscar nominee Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson has continually proven that there’s more to him than Twilight with bold performances in Good Time and The Lighthouse. As Batman, Pattison blends his signature blooding demeanor with the hardboiled grit of a detective. Pattinson rarely removes his cape and cowl. When he does, his eyes are often hidden behind black eyeshadow or messy hair. Michael Keaton and Christian Bale both put up a façade as Bruce Wayne. With Pattinson, Bruce Wayne is dead inside, and he’s only interested in embracing the bat. The only thing that keeps him going is vengeance. As Batman gets entangled in a mystery, he finds that vengeance can take on many different meanings.

It’s about high time the Riddler was given a gritty makeover on a cinematic scale. Paul Dano portrays Riddler as a twisted mix of John Doe from Seven and the Jigsaw Killer from Saw. In a story reminiscent of The Long Halloween, the enigmatic villain leaves behind a series of riddles for the Bat as bodies begin to pile up. His carefully woven web of chaos also ensnares an unrecognizable Colin Farrell as The Penguin and Zoë Kravitz as a street-smart Selina Kyle. On the prowl for money and revenge, Kyle emerges as Batman’s unlikely ally in a partnership reminiscent of a heist picture. Although he can’t deny his attraction to the Cat, Batman places more trust in Jeffrey Wright’s James Gordon and Andy Serkis’ Alfred. Serkis’ take on the loyal butler isn’t as polished as Michael Gough and Michael Caine, but this may be the first time we see Alfred’s war scars.

Reeves’ interpretation of Gotham wouldn’t feel out of place in the comics, but you could also see it existing in the grimy 1970s. Cinematography Greig Fraser gives the film a nostalgic look, although it’s not a fondly remembered memory. That’s fitting since the memory of his parents’ deaths looms over Batman like a storm cloud. Since we all know what happens in Crime Alley, The Batman thankfully doesn’t recap the same old origin story. A simple look from Batman as a little boy mourns his father is enough.

The film kicks off with a haunting rendition of Ave Maria, and Michael Giacchino’s epic score carries that operatic note throughout. At just under three hours, The Batman rarely loses momentum. There are a few moments that could’ve been trimmed down, particularly during the climax. Yet, the film flies by faster than any of Zack Synder’s DCEU contributions. If anything, I could’ve used more of Farrell and Dano. That’s not to say they’ve underutilized, but both are shy of a scene that could propel them to Heath Ledger’s Joker.

Then again, the film isn’t called Riddler of Penguin. It’s called The Batman and it presents one of the atmospheric takes on the Caped Crusader yet. It’s one of the darkest as well. Just as Batman won’t cross certain lines, Reeves doesn’t go into R territory, but he comes as close as a PG-13 picture can. Reeves has delivered what might be the grimmest Batman film to date. Is it also the best? Well, The Dark Knight is a tough act to top. Considering that Reeves’ Planet of the Apes films got better with every entry, though, The Batman may do the same.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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