This review will NOT contain narrative spoilers.
‘The Batman’, directed by and starring Ben Affleck. No wait, just starring Ben Affleck with Matt Reeves, of ‘Planet of the Apes’ fame to direct. Oh, nope, Affleck is not involved at all actually. Matt Reeves directs Robert Pattinson in this anticipated and seemingly forever changing production from Warner Bros.
It’s a film that’s been a long time coming for DC fans such as a myself, so to finally see this new, isolated take on Gotham and the Bat, I must say – even as a fan of the DCEU/SnyderVerse – it’s a breath of fresh air.
Everyone lauds Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy as being a super realistic and grounded take on Batman, but I would say ‘The Batman’ is the new king of that territory. Nolan saw us go outside Gotham to the likes of Hong Kong, which while totally feasible in the real world, it didn’t aid in helping mask Chicago as Gotham. It felt like a normal city. Reeves, however, not only keeps us in Gotham the entire time, but does so in a way that it feels like it was genuinely shot in Gotham. Not in Chicago, Liverpool or London, but an actual Gotham City. The world building, in every sense of the term, is truly remarkable.
What’s also fantastic here, and helps keep things grounded, is that we see our Batman make rookie mistakes. Bruce Wayne has only been the Batman for 2 years, so he’s still familiarising himself with everything that comes with that mantle, as noted when he doesn’t quite make a clean landing in an attempted escape. He’s vulnerable, and not this perfect, silent guardian that you come to expect, which only heightens, and makes easier, the atmospheric immersion on the audience.
The tone of the film is very serious, and somewhat slow, some might think. Personally, both those factors work wonders for the film. The tone is established very early on for the audience, which helps us resonate and get a better understanding of this new Gotham very swiftly. It helps us understand, in my opinion, why the pacing is slightly slow. It feels reminiscent of the noir, detective stories of the past – rather than play a scene out to get to the point and move on as fast as possible, they really let the scenes breathe. They let the character explore their setting, their situation and who is around them at any given time. This creates a ton of exciting, suspenseful moments through-out the film, which are massively complimented by Michael Giacchino’s absolutely stellar score. It’s amazing how just 4 piano notes, in a dark environment, can be both chilling and put you on the edge of your seat.
Moving over to the cast, Robert Pattinson is exceptional. I’m a fan of his work post-twilight and so from the moment he was cast I knew he would absolutely kill it in this role, and I think those who still see him as “that twilight guy” will change their tune for sure. We see him under the cowl for the majority of the film, interacting as Batman with the GCPD and Gordon, Selina, Penguin and a whole array of criminals, victims and civilians. From start to finish, not once does he play an emotion-less Batman. We can see and feel every thought that enters his head, with thanks to the emotion that Pattinson is able to express through his eyes alone, it’s truly astounding. We also get what I call a ‘Max Payne’ like narration from Bruce Wayne through-out the film, which I feel really help give an authentic noir vibe to this detective story, but also an authentic Batman comic vibe at the same time. There are so many efncool moments that are led on from a fantastic line or two.
Every single character is perfectly cast here. Zoë Kravitz is a delight in a very believable Selina Kyle. Colin Farrell is unrecognisable and equally terrifying as the Penguin. Jeffrey Wright’s Jim Gordon, who we see a lot of, is somewhat reminiscent of Gary Oldman’s take on the character, but it’s still distinct enough to be different. Paul Dano as the riddler is, as expected, something crazy good (with emphasis on crazy). My only disappointment is that I feel we didn’t see enough of Andy Serkis as the trusty Wayne butler and mentor, Alfred Pennyworth. It’s understandable, given the narrative, and the scenes that Bruce Wayne and Alfred do share together are lovely, but perhaps previous Bat-films have spoiled me in terms of exposure to Alfred. I liked what we saw, but I expected to see more.
‘The Batman’ brings a perfect blend of the caped crusaders of the past – the brutality of Ben Affleck, the criminal underworld of Christian Bale, the detective prowess of the Arkham games along with the stoicism and nuances of Michael Keaton – all under one cowl. I cannot recommend this film enough, and I certainly cannot wait to see it again.
‘The Batman’ is now showing in cinemas, distrubted by Warners Bros Pictures.