Another Batman film? You must be joking. This reviewer has it on good authority that this is the seventeenth Batman film, including one involving Lego apparently. How far can you stretch the story of an orphaned multi-millionaire who fights crime? Maybe if Bruce Wayne invested his fortune in social programs, this franchise would’ve been done long ago.
The trick with The Batman, however, is to forget about everything else that came before. We now live in the world of emo Batman, Cedric Diggory Batman, Edward Cullen Batman. Pattinson, in fairness to the man, delivers a very credible performance as the nylon-wearing chiropteran villain-thwarter. In the hands of director Matt Reeves, it genuinely feels like you’re watching something fresh.
The story is also quite good. The always exceptional Paul Dano goes for an internet dweeb vibe for his portrayal of the Riddler, and it really works. Very important people are winding up dead in Gotham because of him and the more information Batman uncovers, the more personal it gets. Dano somehow manages to be extra Dano, bringing an intensity reminiscent of his performance in There Will Be Blood. Joaquin Pheonix’s Joker is a comic-book villain for a certain type of person to enjoy, Dano’s Riddler is a very disturbed, albeit believable, individual.
Shortly into the film Colin Farrell shows up as nightclub padrone Penguin, although you genuinely wouldn’t know it was him unless you were told. His portrayal of Penguin is kind of like a cross between Páidí Ó Sé and Tony Soprano, but with less authority and more sleaze.
A huge amount of credit has to go to Zoë Kravitz for her portrayal of Catwoman. As good as this film is, a lack of chemistry between herself and Pattinson would have completely undone all the good things. One of the many good things that this film does in comparison to something from the Marvel universe is a blending of unease and sensuality, two things that Kravitz embodies in her performance. Her charisma and nuanced toughness are more than a match for our emo Batman.
In a similar vein to Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, Reeve’s interpretation continues the feeling that you are watching an important film. Something that, again, a Marvel film has never managed to do in my eyes.
There is no doubt about it. Even though it’s three hours long, The Batman is quite gripping. We get treated to a visually stunning car chase, some Adam West-esque brawling, and a dark tension-filled shootout. There is a lot to unpack for fans of cinematography and symbolism too. There’s a lot of the colour red happening so make of that what you will. It’s also worth mentioning an excellent score from Michael Giacchino. Sometimes it’s best to leave a franchise well enough alone for fear of damaging its reputation. That is most certainly not the case here though.