Director: Matt Reeves
Writers: Matt Reeves and Peter Craig
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, and Colin Farrell
After false starts and delays we have another solo Batman film, this time simply called The Batman. Co-writer and director Matt Reeves delivers a more slow-burn story that leans into the detective side of Batman than action. At points it’s almost a noir film with voiceover and a gritty approach to Gotham City’s underworld.
Anyone who still has doubts that Robert Pattinson isn’t fit to be Batman, put your mind at ease. Pattinson fills out the suit perfectly, being completely believable as The Dark Knight. He looks the part and there’s not one moment while he’s in the cowl that you don’t believe he’s Batman. As Bruce Wayne on the other hand, he’s more as a brooding teenager than the charismatic billionaire that we’ve come to expect. It’s jarring compared to what’s come before, and he doesn’t spend enough time as Wayne to really settle into the role.
Matt Reeves has wonderfully created his own unapologetic take on the legendary character. It feels completely different to any of the film versions that have come before, with a distinct look and feel. Gotham has never felt so alive as it does here, with so many villains and characters popping up. Compared to some other recent DC films, it doesn’t feel like there’s any compromising going on behind the scenes. Reeves and Pattinson are doing there own thing and that’s enough to make this film worth watching. At no point does it feel like this is a cash-in. There’s also a lot of bonus points for not going over Martha and Thomas Wayne’s death in detail, again.
While it’s still a man in a bat suit tackling crime, it does feel a lot more grounded than recent superhero films, or even the recent Batman inspired TV series, Gotham. The villains are real people, not over-the-top caricatures. Colin Farrell is absolutely brilliant as The Penguin, and one of the strongest parts of the film. Jeffrey Wright is perfectly cast as Jim Gordon. Andy Serkis is sadly completely underused in the film, barely making an appearance. His version of Alfred is clearly inspired by Sean Pertwee’s excellent performance from Gotham, but he’s not in it enough to really leave an impression. Zoë Kravitz, however, does leave an impression and is absolutely excellent as Catwoman, when do we get her solo film?
Paul Dano, on the other hand, is not believable as The Riddler, he just doesn’t pull of calculated madness of the iconic character. His plot of unveiling the corruption of Gotham City quickly unravels itself with an ending that doesn’t land with a punch. Dano is intense whenever he’s on screen, but there’s never a real sense of The Riddler’s true genius. That’s probably mostly down to his riddles and clues being stupid and some of his killings feeling like something ripped straight out of Saw. Then in the third act his plan just falls apart completely. It is an origin story for The Riddler, but it’s not a good one.
There’s less of a focus on the action and fighting this time around and more on the detective side of Batman’s character which is something we haven’t seen enough of on the big screen. Even so, the action and set pieces are fantastic, it looks awesome to watch and the car chase that’s hinted at in the trailers is one of the best moments of the story. The fight choreography is fantastic. There’s a moment where Batman if taking down people, in the flashes of gunfire and it feels like something that could have been lifted from the comics. It’s looks great and is exciting to watch.
The Batman is an incredibly long film, running at almost three hours in total, and it really suffers because of it. There are so many moments that just don’t feel necessary and pad out the run time. It’s a real slog to get through and the third act makes everything feel kind of pointless. For the most part Batman isn’t doing much, he follows the clues, but the film makes a point of telling you that the story would continue without his involvement, up until it can’t.
There are also a couple of silly moments that completely take you out of the grounded and gritty reality. It’s made even worse by how serious the film takes itself, so when silly things happen they’re harder to ignore. An event that takes place during the day is disrupted by a man with a bomb strapped to him and a phone taped to his hand that is to be answered by the Batman. Bruce is there but can’t answer so the film just skips to night-time when he can return as Batman. He couldn’t just get changed quickly, he must come back hours later, while the man is just sat there, and no one is doing anything about it. There’s also a really forced emotional moment between Bruce and Alfred feels cringy to watch.
The greatest crime the film commits is with its music. The main theme for Batman, which feels very ‘Darth Vadery’ when it first starts is just a short piece repeated over and over in different styles with varying instruments and tempos. It’s grows really irritating very quickly and is made even worse by just how many times it’s repeated throughout the film, tunnelling its way into your ear so you can’t get it out on the way home. When that’s not playing it’s either Ava Maria, The Riddler’s theme, or Nirvana. There are no real great moments of the score, but then again, no Batman score is going to beat Danny Elfman’s.
The Batman is stylish and bold, not being afraid to be its own thing. Reeve’s film feels completely different to every Batman that’s come before. It does suffer with some poor pacing and some silly moments, but it’s one of the better DC films from the last few years and will lead to bigger and greater things.
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