After what seems like an eternity, the wait is finally over for Director Matt Reeves to unleash his brand-new vision of ‘The Batman’ onto the world. To say that this is one of the most anticipated movies of the year is a true understatement, with Robert Pattinson donning the cape and cowl for a dark and mysterious new tale from Gotham City that delivers on practically every level. This is proper blockbuster filmmaking of the highest order, with a compelling and utterly absorbing story that channels the rich legacy of the character into a wholly-satisfying and spectacular crime-noir.
This is a spoiler-free review, so I won’t go into too much detail regarding the plot. A mysterious figure known as The Riddler (Paul Dano) is terrorising the city, targeting people in influential positions of power in a bid to shine a light onto the corruption eating away at Gotham. The Batman aka Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) has been serving up justice across town for two years now. The GCPD are still wary of this vigilante, but Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) has developed a strong working relationship with him. As they investigate the slayings – which ultimately tie into a crime-laden history that affects not only Bruce, but Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), a woman who has her own agenda in the city – it becomes clear that Gotham City could be on the brink of disaster.
Robert Pattinson takes on the mantle of the Bat, after such illustrious cinematic company as Adam West, Michael Keaton, Kevin Conroy, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck. Batman is up there with James Bond as a legacy-character that gets everyone talking when any new casting steps into the Bat boots. Pattinson is no stranger to frenzied franchises after ‘The Twilight Saga’, but his output since then has been nothing short of brilliant. A diverse and intriguing resume full of great characters, it’s almost a surprise to see him take on Batman, but he delivers a unique and immensely satisfying iteration of the character – one that feels fresh but also pays true homage to the fundamental dynamics of the comic character.
Pattinson is brilliant as the Bat, and a joy to watch throughout, handling the weight of expectation expertly well. He bounces off an assured ensemble who all deliver their A-game too. Jeffrey Wright as Jim Gordon is a key factor to why ‘The Batman’ works so well. The central partnership between he and Pattinson is the heart of the film and adds some long-overdue layers to this key Batman/Gordon relationship that builds upon the great work of the Bale/Oldman years from the Christopher Nolan trilogy, but adds a fresh, new level of depth. Similarly, Pattinson’s rapport and natural chemistry with Zoë Kravitz is a masterstroke that captures the essence of the Bat & the Cat’s complicated relationship in just the right manner. Selina Kyle’s story is well-developed here, allowing Kravitz to really shine and deliver a captivating performance – and perhaps narratively-speaking – gives Catwoman her greatest ever cinematic arc yet.
An unrecognisable Colin Farrell is sensational as The Penguin, who we will see much more of in his own upcoming HBO limited series, that will fill in certain blanks between the end of this film and the upcoming sequel. And make no mistake, ‘The Batman’ is certainly getting a sequel or two – the Bat Universe created here is land that’s far too fertile to be left unsown. Andy Serkis plays Alfred with a restraint and angst not seen on the big screen before. He’s a man who has his own demons and who struggles to connect with Bruce, but their at-arms-length relationship is a fascinating one, hinting at unresolved emotional trauma for both men after Bruce’s parents were killed.
Paul Dano is truly frightening as The Riddler, and he is at the centre of most of the film’s most disturbing sequences. His first appearance in the movie is unforgettable. He has a similar impact in ‘The Batman’ as Heath Ledger did in ‘The Dark Knight’, delivering something unique and different to what’s come before whilst making the role his own. His Riddler is a far cry from the camp zaniness of Jim Carrey’s portrayal in ‘Batman Forever’. This is a serious criminal mastermind and a very worthy opponent to Batman. Elsewhere, John Turturro, Rupert Penry-Jones, Alex Ferns, Peter Sarsgaard, Barry Keoghan, Con O’Neill and Jayme Lawson round off a sensational supporting cast that hold your attention in every scene. In fact, the film has no lulls whatsoever because every moment feels completely relevant and unmissable. Perhaps don’t order that super-sized Coca-Cola at the cinema… you don’t want to miss a single frame of this unbelievable film.
Concentrating on the detective-noir aspect of ‘The Batman’ is its masterstroke, taking inspiration from the early comic books with a gritty, dark and violent undertone. There’s also clear references from thrillers like Seven, Zodiac, All the President’s Men and The French Connection that gives the world a believability, and a tangible level of threat that completely captivates you. At times, the film plays like a horror – especially the opening sequence – and that’s a wonderfully apt way to frame this version of Batman and set it apart from what’s come before. Matt Reeves, who co-penned the screenplay with Peter Craig, insisted on making the film he wanted to, without any studio interference and thankfully he got his wish. Reeves has been an undeniable talent for years, especially after the success of his ‘Planet of the Ape’s movies. ‘The Batman’ is his vision and it’s a brilliantly-observed one that takes the magic right off the pages of the comic book and brings it vividly to life.
As cerebral and noir as ‘The Batman’ is, it doesn’t disappoint on the action stakes at all. In fact, this is one of the most exhilarating Batman films we’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing. The fight sequences are bone-crunchingly awesome, leaving you feeling every blow Batman takes and administers. And then there’s the Batmobile car chase sequence. It’s so good, I can’t quite put into words how amazing it feels to watch this new version of the Batmobile tear through a rain-soaked Gotham. It’s an infinitely-cool sequence that leaves a huge smile across your face – one that even The Joker would be proud of.
Shot sumptuously, the film has a keen eye for both the dramatic elegance of a decaying city and the beautifully constructed visual points of interest from within that environment. In short, it’s a stunning visual achievement and breathtaking to watch. ‘The Batman’ is a sensational action-spectacular that leaves you firmly on the edge-of-your-seat, even though the movie clocks in at almost 3 hours. The time flies by, captivating the audience with an adrenalin rush like no other. ‘The Batman’ is the best superhero film in decades, a complete triumph and an utterly absorbing action-noir masterpiece. Throw in its incredible ensemble and you have a sure-fire success that will no doubt be hailed as one of the best films of the year.
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Paul Dano, Colin Farrell, Andy Serkis, John Turturro, Rupert Penry-Jones, Alex Ferns, Peter Sarsgaard, Barry Keoghan, Con O’Neill, Jayme Lawson Director: Matt Reeves Writer: Matt Reeves, Peter Craig Certificate: 15 Duration: 175 mins Released by: Warner Bros Release date: 4th March 2022