My anticipation going into this film was at Everest heights. I love me some Batman and was giddy with excitement when I found out Matt Reeves would not only be directing the film but also co-writing the script. I knew this film would be amazing, it was just a question of how amazing the final result would be? Answer – ICONIC!
Okay, basic plot: Batman (Robert Pattinson) has been operating in Gotham for two years. His war on crime has yet to yield real change and this forces Batman to push himself harder and become more focused. This has led to Batman almost entirely abandoning life as his alter ego, Bruce Wayne. While investigating a string of high-profile murders, Batman finds himself a pawn in a game being played by The Riddler (Paul Dano). In order to uncover the truth, Batman will need to question everything he thinks he knows about Gotham and himself.
I think the immediate response after a new Batman movie is to get into a comparison game and rank where the new Caped Crusader falls in relation to the ones that came before. Who’s your Batman? Who’s the best Bruce Wayne? Who would win in a fight? I think we should rather be grateful that in one generation we’ve had three fantastic and fascination iterations of the character. That being said, Robert Pattinson might have delivered one of the best interpretations of the character I’ve ever seen. Whether or not he is the best is a question I’ll save for a later time; but the one thing that can’t be debated is that this film is the most Batman we’ve ever seen. Just in terms of pure runtime, Batman is present 90% of the time with Bruce Wayne barely getting 10%. Now this is a staple of the modern superhero movie with most heroes not even bothering with a secret identity these days. In this film though, it feels purposeful because it further tells the story of how Batman perceives himself – Batman is the man, Bruce Wayne is the mask.
We’ve never had a Batman movie quite like this. This movie shows us why Batman has the moniker – The World’s Greatest Detective. The audience and Batman are collectively presented with a mystery and solving it is what drives the plot forward. Often with these kinds of mysteries, the hero figures everything out rather quickly and without much effort in an attempt to show us how intelligent or skilled he is. What I love about The Batman is we get a truer sense of the character in the moments where he fails, where he has to rework or completely abandon a theory. This isn’t a battle-hardened Batman who is a complete hero. He’s still learning, vulnerable and often naïve and his progression through the film’s mystery, highlights his evolution as a crimefighter. If it isn’t clear, I think Robert Pattinson was absolutely amazing. He crafts a Batman we’ve never seen but definitely want to see more of.
Pattinson is supported by a dream-team of co-stars. When I saw the casting on paper, I knew we were going to get something truly special and no one disappoints. Zoe Kravitz continues to impress and delivers an emotionally poignant and memorable performance as Selina Kyle aka Catwoman. It’s interesting to see the differences in focus between her Selina Kyle and Pattinson’s Batman. Kravitz gives us Selina Kyle who happens to be Catwoman; Pattinson gives us Batman who happens to be Bruce Wayne. Such an interesting juxtaposition. Jeffrey Wright is a perfect James Gordon. He strikes the perfect balance of being essential to Batman but also a figure in the periphery. It’s difficult to choose a standout performance in the plethora of quality that this film’s cast provides but Colin Farrell as Penguin was one of my favourites. The physical transformation is obvious but the energy Farrell brings to the character makes his performance transcendent. My brain still refuses to believe that it’s actually Colin Farrell. I would be remiss if I also didn’t take a moment to praise Paul Dano for his truly thrilling and terrifying turn as The Riddler. This is one of the best villains we’ve seen on screen and Dano did more than put a little fear in me.
One of the main reasons I was so excited about Matt Reeves signing on as director was because of his approach to action sequences. Christopher Nolan did many things right with his Dark Knight Trilogy but I always felt that action sequences were his Achilles heel. Reeves, however, is a master. The way sequences are filmed and his choice of camera placement not only gives you unique angles of the action but actually transports you into the scene. It’s reminiscent of the tank scene in Dawn of The Planet of The Apes. There’s a car chase in the film that literally had me fearing for my life. Reeves not only directs the film but also co-wrote it with Peter Craig. The pair of them do fantastic work creating the world and memorable characters that make this film a wonder. The focus on Batman’s detective skills and the central mystery that serves as this film’s spine is a masterstroke. The fact that you’re solving the mystery right alongside Batman helps make this film’s runtime palatable. It’s just under three hours BUT because the film is so engaging and filled with so many twists, it doesn’t feel overlong. The film needed to be this length for its story to be fully realised and it’s well worth it.
Overall, The Batman is not only a worthy addition to The Batman Film Catalogue, it might be one of its best. Phenomenal acting, a superb script and a director with a fresh vision for Gotham’s Dark Knight. Simply sensational 9/10