The Batman

Director: Matt Reeves

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Paul Dano, Colin Farrell, John Turturro, Andy Serkis, Peter Sarsgaard

Written by: Matt Reeves, Peter Craig, (Batman created) Bob Kane and Bill Finger

Running Time: 175 mins

Cert: 15

Release date: 4th March 2022

In 2012, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Trilogy ended with Christian Bale as Batman. Since then, we have had Ben Affleck as the Caped Crusader in the Zack Syner movies. Now, we get a completely new twist on the legendary comic strip superhero. Admittedly, I went in with great trepidation. Nolan had done such a great job with his three films that the thought of another variation of the same character that lasted almost three hours didn’t fill me with joy. How wrong I was. This is a much darker interpretation of the story that manages to hark back to Batman’s original world that is more a detective story than a superhero flick.

The city of Gotham is under attack, and the Mayor is murdered, and a strange masked man picks off top officials one by one. The Batman becomes involved when this killer sends him riddles that he must decipher to get closer to the answer. Yet as the criminal underworld becomes increasingly under pressure from this terrorist, The Batman finds his past could cause these actions.

It is almost impossible to give a clear plot synopsis without giving too much away, and as this is more a whodunnit, or more likely, a why do it, it’s best to experience this yourself. Matt Reeves, who directed the monster movie, Cloverfield, has taken on a huge challenge: to bring new life to a character who we did think a definitive version had been filmed. Yet he has returned to where Batman came from. The original comic book, Detective Comics, had the masked vigilante working side by side with the police to uncover crime within the world of crooks, thieves and murderers. He was also called The Batman, hence the title.

Here, we have a story of a criminal mastermind taking on the corruption of a city, where it seems it is run by Carmine Falcone, a big boss who has connections with Bruce Wayne’s past while controlling the police and the politicians equally. When the Mayor is murdered and clues are left involving cryptic riddles and cyphers, The Batman must use everything in his power to find the connections. At the same time, he faces incrimination from the police for being a vigilante, with only Lt. James Gordon as his only ally.

Reeves’s film is a stormy affair. Never has there been this much rain in a movie since Blade Runner. He has also managed to evoke the likes of David Fincher’s Se7en. At one point, it looked like we were heading into the realms of Saw. But, of course, this never once feels like a superhero movie. Even the villains are more human than comic book creations. We have moved away from the smash, bang, zap world of Adam West’s 60s version and even Tim Burton’s versions and even Nolan’s films look like brightly coloured extensions of the comic books. Filmed mainly in darkness, to some terrific effects (one scene where Batman battles a group of henchmen shooting at him, flashes going off in darkness, is breathtaking). The only character who looks like they have appeared from a comic book is The Batman himself.

The film is littered with great performances. Colin Farrell, utterly unrecognisable as The Penguin, is fantastic. This is a wholly convincing character, who is second to John Turturro’s Falcone, and you will be shocked at the transformation. Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle, a.k.a Cat Woman, does a great job, oozing sassiness, but Michelle Pfeiffer was always a hard act to follow. Paul Dano goes total psycho as a very different Riddler and is genuinely terrifying. If there is a complaint, Andy Serkis, as Alfred, isn’t given enough screen time.

Behind the cape is Twilight star Robert Pattinson. Fans of the Bat complained bitterly when his casting was announced, so he has a great weight on his shoulder to prove them wrong, and he does that with aplomb. A much more emo version of the caped crusader, he brings his own level of darkness to the role, a man troubled by his past, almost hidden in the dark as Bruce Wayne while only coming out at night to become the vigilante. It’s a much more rounded role variation, and he does an excellent job with it.

At three hours, The Batman is too long, but I have to say, it is engrossing throughout, and the sign that the film is working is when you don’t once look at your watch or want to rush to the toilet both of which I didn’t do. Is it the best Batman ever? The jury is still out on that one, and it might need a few more movies to decide (there are two more planned). So I have to say, it’s pretty close on first viewing.

5 out of 5

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