Gotham’s Prince of Darkness (The Batman) returns, with enough new direction to shake up the formula

The Batman had massive bat boots to fill following the largely derided “Bat-fleck” movies (Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice/Suicide Squad/Justice League) as well as going up against the critically acclaimed Christopher Nolan trilogy starring Christian Bale, yet director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield/Dawn of the Planet of the Apes/War for the Planet of the Apes) capably crafts a singular vision which suitably stands out from the rest of the pack with an unnerving musical score to boot. Following on from our ranking of every Batman film, here we investigate the most recent offering in-depth.

The sweeping rain-slicked metropolis of Gotham takes front and centre stage in Reeves rendition of the caped crusader. The city sports a worn, lived-in look akin to the worlds of Blade Runner or Star Wars, with grit and dirt lining every nook and cranny in opposition to the uncharacteristic clean-cut streets of most superhero movies. Batman is cast more so as Sherlock Holmes than James Bond, with the over reliance on gadgets stripped away, allowing for Wayne’s keen intellect and investigative skills to take centre stage as he unravels the mystery of the Riddler, played perfectly by a simultaneously unsuspecting and unnerving Paul Dano, lisp and all. The Bat feels less so like the sole beacon of hope for the city who can answer all of its woes, but a mortal man attempting to make sense of the crime and corruption enveloping the city around him.

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Similarly, Zoe Kravitz shines as the moody Zelina Kyle/Catwoman (despite having been deemed too “urban” to play the role in The Dark Knight Rises), brimming with intrigue and serving as an excellent counterpart to Robert Pattison’s Batman with their on-screen chemistry taught with tension. Any story is only as strong as it’s villains however, and The Batman provides fantastic renditions of both The Riddler as the Zodiac Killer meets 4chan and The Penguin, played by an unrecognisable Colin Farrell in a career-highlight performance, every word of dialogue coming from his mouth dripping with sleaze. Andy Serkis’s showing as Alfred deviates from past depictions in excellent fashion, portrayed more so as a blokey bodyguard with his larger frame and scars on show, as opposed to the gentlemanly Mr Pennyworth we have become familiar with.

Similarly to Joker, The Batman isn’t afraid to take the clean-cut Wayne family and cast them in a darker light, which on one hand provides a new reading of the now eighty-year-old tale, but on another highlights a problem with the Batman formula, being an overreliance on the past and the Wayne family. The film makes a good showing of portraying the pain and trauma Bruce has suffered more so than ever before, but one can’t help but feel that a setting such as Gotham is ripe with far more interesting stories. Similarly, dialogue can at times range from groan-inducing to literally painful, be it Commissioner Gordon remarking that someone can be “privy to a lot of dirt” like a cop in a cartoon, or Catwoman incessantly referring to Batman as “Vengeance”, and the less said about referring to the upper echelons of society as “dickbags” the better.

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The Batman: Final Thoughts

The pacing is nice and even for the first two hours, with an even mix of action and investigation never leading to any lull in the plot, yet the whopping near three-hour runtime could have benefited from leaving more on the cutting room floor particularly in the last hour or so. Yet from the Batmobile chase to the funeral crashing, the wingsuit flight from the top of the Police Headquarters to Pattison pounding goons in The Iceberg lounge to thumping techno, we can only wait with bated breath for the inevitable sequel.

Compelling performances
Fantastic Casting
Brilliant setting and mood
Hokey Dialogue
Final third a bit too long

Review Summary

The Batman sees Matt Reeves craft a compelling version of both the titutal Bat and Gotham city with a wealth of supporting characters both good and evil, creating a great deal of anticipation for the sequel, whenever that may be.

Cameron Cairns

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