Dark, brooding, and tinged with the depressive grit of even the seediest areas of a filthy, downtown Manhattan (or ‘Gotham City’ as we’ll be calling it from here on in), Robert Pattinson‘s debut in the famous Bat-suit is certainly no ‘superhero movie’. A polar opposite of the sometimes-cheesey yet always polished, family-friendly fan-service of Disney’s Marvel Universe, ‘The Batman‘ is a grimey detective drama which feels like an enhancement on the Netflix 2014 TV series ‘Gotham‘. It is, one of the very few movies, which allows you to melt into the fabric of your armchair within the first 10 minutes, safe in the knowledge – that from the cinematography alone – what you’re about to watch is set to verge into ‘masterpiece’ territory.
Avoiding the iconic ‘I am… Batman‘ dialogue echoed by Monsieurs Keaton, Bale, and so on, here our caped crusader prefers to introduce himself as ‘vengeance‘, wreaking terror on the criminal underbelly of his beloved Gotham from the shadows. The move feels like a deliberate introduction into a new chapter of history for such a hugely iconic cinematic character, with director Matt Reeves etching his own legacy through carefully carved colour schemes (the sinister tint of red seen throughout the movie’s marketing/posters etc is once again mirrored through various shots in what proves to form something of an aesthetic wonderland), whilst the pacing of the film is near-on perfect. Despite a somewhat hefty run-time of 176 minutes, perhaps the ultimate compliment to Reeves’ personified vision is that there is a severe absence of any scene ‘dragging’, as we begin to understand the motives and backgrounds of each character as their story arche(s) begin to unravel, often with dramatic revelatory nuggets which help to explain so much of the overall plot.
Unsurprisingly, given the movie’s $200 budget, the productions cinematography is truly flawless, soaked in atmospheric wide-shots, and a particularly iconic still of the dark silhouettes of Pattinson & Zoe Kravitz lighting up a dusk-ridden sunset across the Gotham skyline. The latter, truly excels via her portrayal of Selina Kyle (aka. ‘Catwoman’), whilst Andy Serkis (‘Alfred‘) and a truly unrecognisable Colin Farrell (‘The Penguin’) – coated in what feels like a trillion layers of prosthetic make-up – also deliver stellar performances. The casting involved in this movie glimmers as a real piece-de-resistance, with Jeffrey Wright (‘Casino Royale’, ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘No Time To Die’ etc) picking up Gary Oldman‘s Dark Knight character of ‘Jim Gordon‘ with aplomb. Alex Ferns sparkles in a brief cameo, proving his days of terrorising ‘Little Mo‘ as Eastenders baddie ‘Trevor’ are long-gone, whilst Pattinson himself pales in comparison to Christian Bale‘s ‘Bruce Wayne‘, but for all the right reasons. Whereas Nolan‘s man dazzled as the slick playboy in even slicker Lamborghinis, Pattinson – who, ironically, also crossed paths with TDK trilogy founder in 2020’s ‘TENET‘ – carries the wounded intensity of a man dealing with authentic trauma.
If every hero is judged on the ability of his counterpart, then Pattinson‘s brilliant grit is only accentuated by the eerie chaos of Paul Dano as ‘The Riddler‘. Long gone are the Jim Carrey days of colourful ‘OTT’ extroversion, likewise is the innocence Dano displayed in ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ all those years ago. The 2022 version of this legendary villain – alarmingly – feels hugely current, as his spree of terror is backed by Instagram-live style video broadcasts, and an army of avid Reddit followers, who see this social oddball as the lighting rod for their own emerging cult. In a world more mad-cap than ever before, these heinous crimes penetrate through the screen, seeping into the subconscious of every viewer, gently aware that a ‘Riddler’ may even be sat in their own audience. Dano‘s character represents every bullied child, every abused teen, every man with fragile mental state and a need for attention (finally), but – much like ‘The Joker‘, who is once again teased as a potential sequel antagonist in a haunting scene at the fabled Arkham Asylum – at what cost?
Like Hans Zimmer before him, multi-Oscar/Emmy/BAFTA/Grammy/Golden-Globe winning composer Michael Giacchino sparkles with the best overall cinematic score since Zimmer‘s own work on the 2006-2012 Batman trilogy. There’s also a firm nod to lovers of electronic music, with Alesso contributing the pulsating ‘DARK’ to the film’s soundtrack, and several of ‘The Iceberg Lounge‘ scenes shot at the unmistakable rave paradise of London‘s ‘Printworks’ venue. (There’s also a fitting finale filmed in the fictional ‘Gotham Square Garden’, a re-brand of the iconic MSG, home of Swedish House Mafia‘s 2011 madness). Naturally, with all ‘reboots’, comparisons will inevitable occur as fans look with slanted eye towards predecessors of the franchise. During The Batman‘s opening weekend, there’s been as much talk of this movie itself, as there has been in providing additional column inches on ‘The Dark Knight’. Make no mistake, neither can be remembered as a conventional ‘comic-book‘ movie, such are both production’s reliance on pure, crime-solving drama, authenticity, and fully fleshed characters.
On IMDB rankings alone, ‘The Batman’ currently sits within the Top 20 movies ever made, with an audience score of 8.6 (compared to ‘The Dark Knight’s score of 9.0, earning it a number #3 position within the list). The only other film to amass such skyrocketing critical acclaim within the 15 year gap between Nolan‘s 2008 masterpiece and Reeves’ jaw-dropping spectacular was 2010’s ‘Inception’. Despite the bum-numbing running length, this move is a generational rite of passage which should be viewed with open-mind by even the sternest of anti-superhero movie brigade. Once in a while, a film comes along which truly deserves the mobile-phone-in-pocket lack of distraction of the full cinematic experience. ‘The Batman‘ is not just the greatest Batman movie since ‘The Dark Knight‘, but the greatest movie, full stop, since Christopher Nolan‘s trilogy. Clad with a perfect balance of occasional nerdgasm Batmobile chases, and above all, real gritty realism, this isn’t Batman… This is vengeance.