It’s been almost a decade since Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises”. While actor Ben Affleck has made an appearance as the Dark Knight within the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), his presence within the franchise has been mostly tangential. Either starring alongside other big name DC heroes or relegated to the sidelines as a cameo. We never really got a chance to see him come into his own. Perhaps we will in this year’s “The Flash” film. One thing we can say for certain is that director Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson’s vision of the Batman is the true successor to Nolan and Bale’s. Adapting the best aspects of its predecessor while bringing something frighteningly fresh and yet familiar to the character.
Much like Nolan’s “Batman Begins”, Reeves’ film takes inspiration from popular Batman story arcs such as “Batman: The Long Halloween” and “Batman: Year One”. So diehard fans of the Dark Knight’s legacy comics will find themselves in very comfortable territory. What sets this beginning of a new Batman saga apart is its commitment to an aspect of the hero that has slowly become understated over the years: his role as a detective. In a world populated with gods, aliens and metahumans, it seems almost impossible, if not trivial, to tell a meaningful story of Batman tackling the horrid realities of urban crime and violence. Whether fans would agree with this or not, we believe Reeves made the wise decision to set “The Batman” in a universe of its own.
The film doesn’t bother going into lengthy exposition trying to flesh out the origins of Bruce Wayne, Selina Kyle or the city of Gotham. Reeves, being a brilliant storyteller, sticks to the adage of choosing to show rather than tell. We, quite literally at times, are transported through the eyes of the titular character as the film steadily feeds us more gruesome and tantalizing details. The pacing of the film is very much reminiscent of David Fincher’s “Zodiac”. At the forefront of the narrative is the overarching mystery of the Riddler and his history with some of Gotham’s most powerful elites. Every scrap of backstory, info and dialogue serves to propel the plot to its final, disturbing destination. Not a second wasted.
“The Batman” isn’t just a gripping crime thriller though. It has elements of political drama thrown into the mix. That being said, those unaware of some of America’s more recent issues may find themselves left in the dark. The Riddler is often an analog for the fringe Far-Right. He embodies a QAnon type role to disrupt and ultimately destroy a corrupt system. At the very least the Riddler is actually right about the crazy stuff he says. One prevailing theme that everyone can certainly resonate with is the systemic failures and institutional corruption of Gotham. While the film doesn’t quite stick the landing by offering any sort of believable solution to these issues, its climax will still have the audience roaring in theaters.
If you came in wondering if “The Batman” would be more brain than brawny kick-ass fun, fret not friend. There are plenty of bone-crunching close-quarters melees and large-scale action set pieces to keep you entertained from start to finish. What further elevates the film above mere spectacle is the way Reeves and company frames the violence on-screen. Yes, there are moments of flashy glamour but there’s also something we felt has been sorely lacking in recent media depictions of the Batman: horror.
What made 2008’s “The Dark Knight” such a memorable and iconic film is the way Nolan used disturbing imagery and visceral violence to heighten the stakes of a situation and to reinforce the point that there are real consequences to actions. Seriously, there are moments in “The Batman” that will have your heart racing and your jaw hanging.
The choice to have actor Robert Pattinson take up the mantle of the legendary Dark Knight has no doubt been a polarizing one. With plenty of people arguing that the “Twilight” actor doesn’t have the grit and acting chops to take up the role. Those who have seen the man in films like “The Lighthouse” and “Good Time” though, know better. Robert Pattinson is the Batman, and we wholeheartedly loved his take on the character. Unlike Bale’s charismatic portrayal, Pattinson’s depiction is one of an unhinged, obsessive detective who puts people on edge.
This isn’t the Bat in his prime, rather one who’s still developing a moral compass and it shows! What we have here is a Batman far more nuanced and tortured than any other we’ve seen in cinematic history. This does, however, comes at the expense of his portrayal of Bruce Wayne. Something that we hope future films will develop on.
Paul Dano’s performance as the Riddler is a tour de force. It’s safe to say that he’s redeemed the character from the cartoonish clutches of Jim Carrey’s version. This Riddler is genuinely unnerving. He carries all the aura of an angry incel, full of self-pity, bitterness and rage. While we were horrified at Heath Ledger’s Joker, there was still an element of romanticism in his chaotic worldview. For Dano’s Riddler though, there is nothing to idolize. There is only a clawing, hungry hate that fits right at home with real-life killers like Elliot Rodger.
Zoe Kravitz does an amazing job as Selina Kyle, also known as Catwoman. Her on-screen chemistry with Pattinson is to die for as they exchange witty banter and tug on our heart-strings. That being said, Selina is no accessory to the Bat, proving to be every bit as capable and vengeful as her partner. Really everyone here plays their role to perfection. Jeffrey Wright’s Jim Gordon is the same lovable and supportive cop with a heart of gold we know him to be. Colin Farrell is barely recognisable in his role as the Penguin and that’s a good thing. He provides both levity and menace to his character. Though it seems the ending of “The Batman” is setting him up to be a much bigger threat in future films.
Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” is a triumph! A bold and frankly frightening vision of an urban dystopia plagued by very plausible horrors with a captivating narrative that is as cerebral as it is thrilling. Robert Pattinson has more than proven himself worthy of Batman, showing us a facet of the beloved crusader that we were sorely lacking. Reeves’ masterpiece is a powerful reminder of why the Dark Knight has stood the test of time and still has place in this decade and many more to come.
You can catch Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” at your local theater today!
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The Batman Review
Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” is a triumph! A bold and frankly frightening vision of an urban dystopia plagued by very plausible horrors with a captivating narrative that is as cerebral as it is thrilling. Robert Pattinson has more than proven himself worthy of the as Batman, showing us a facet of the beloved crusader that we were sorely lacking. Reeves’ masterpiece is a powerful reminder of why the Dark Knight has stood the test of time and still has place in this decade and many more to come.
- The Batman Review