The Batman Review

THE BATMAN REVIEW

THE BATMAN REVIEW

 Robert Pattinson stars as the Caped Crusader in this reboot of the Batman franchise, directed by Matt Reeves. Positioned as the first film in a new trilogy, it delivers plenty of Bat-action and ticks all the right Bat-boxes. Matthew Turner fires up the Bat-signal.

The original intention for this new iteration of the Batman franchise was for it to be a solo adventure with the Ben Affleck version of Batman, as previously seen in the Justice League movies and set in the DCEU (the DC Extended Universe). However, when Affleck stepped back from the project (he'd originally signed on to co-write and direct, as well as star), the film passed to director Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), who removed all references to the DCEU and repositioned the film as a straight reboot of the Bat-franchise, with an all-new Caped Crusader in the shape of Robert Pattinson.

As the film begins, billionaire Bruce Wayne (Pattinson, or as he's now been nicknamed, R-Batz) has been cleaning up the streets of Gotham City for two years, dressed as a masked vigilante known as The Batman. Over the course of that time, he's gained the trust of Police Lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and the pair frequently work together to solve cases.

When key political figures in Gotham City are murdered by a twisted serial killer calling himself The Riddler (Paul Dano), Batman and Gordon investigate, uncovering a web of hidden corruption within the city that involves gang boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) and may have links to Bruce's own family history. Along the way, Batman receives help from hostess-slash-cat burglar Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), who's searching for a missing friend and has her own reasons for targeting Falcone.

Pattinson might be a floppier-haired Bruce Wayne than we're used to seeing, but he makes a terrific Batman. Apart from anything else, he has the best jawline of any screen, Batman to date, but he also brings an unexpectedly soulful quality to the character that hasn't really been seen before – it's particularly notable in the moments of stillness he shares with both Kravitz and Gordon.

The supporting cast are equally good. Kravitz is superb as Selina (nobody actually calls her Catwoman at any point, despite the costume) and she sparks palpable chemistry with Pattinson in their flirtatious scenes, as well as investing the character with her own distinctive physicality and movement. Similarly, Wright makes a great Gordon (he has his own soulful quality, which complements Pattinson's performance well), while Andy Serkis contributes a solid turn as Batman's butler, Alfred, even if he only really has two dialogue scenes.

As for the villains, Dano is perfectly cast as The Riddler. He's properly unhinged and genuinely scary in his redesigned costume (essentially combat gear and a gas mask), but also weird and creepy in a way that completely justifies casting Paul Dano once the mask comes off. Similarly, an entirely unrecognizable Colin Farrell is very entertaining as The Penguin, positioned here as a nightclub-owning subsidiary to Falcone and nabbing all the best lines in the process.

Previous Batman movies have often ignored the fact that Batman is renowned as “The World's Greatest Detective”, so it's refreshing that the script actually focuses on the detective work for a change, despite the fact that one or two of the deductive leaps of logic are a little dubious (how Batman gets to “url” is likely to provoke confusion and laughter in equal measure). Similarly, the plot has a contemporary resonance that works well, not just in terms of the general theme of city-wide corruption, but also in the way The Riddler uses social media, live-streaming his crimes to a small cadre of devoted, angry followers.

As for the Bat-action, Reeves handles the key set-pieces well, most notably in a stylish car chase (with a brand new Batmobile), which is low on thrills but compensates with a pair of spectacular visual shots that are up there with the best moments of any Batman movie. In addition, the fight scenes are much better here than in previous Bat-outings, as the filmmakers have finally figured out a way to make the punch-ups look convincing despite the armor-heavy Batsuit. Consequently, they're a lot of fun to watch, especially when Kravitz joins in with her kick-heavy fighting style.

Throughout the film, Reeves creates a suitably dark and gloomy atmosphere for Gotham (there's a lot of rain) that appropriates the feel of the source material, heightened by a fabulous new Bat-score from Michael Giacchino. He also includes a number of nice little touches, including an inspired Penguin moment and a blink-and-you-miss-it callback to the Adam West era.

In truth, the film doesn't need to be three hours long (it's already earned the nickname Long Batman), and certain subplots and sequences could probably have been done with a judicious trim. It's also fair to say that a key emotional moment doesn't really land, but that's a minor complaint considering everything the film gets right elsewhere.

IN SHORT: This is an entirely successful Bat-reboot that bodes well for the next two installments in the proposed trilogy. It also positions Pattinson as a strong contender for Best live-action Batman, if not quite Best Bruce Wayne.

The Batman is in theaters from March 4, 2022.

RATING: 4 out of 5

Director: Matt Reeves

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell, Jayme Lawson, Max Carver, Charlie Carver, Rupert Penry-Jones

Cert: 15

Running time: 176 mins