DIRECTOR: Matt Reeves

CAST: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell, Jayme Lawson, Barry Keoghan, Alex Ferns, Rupert Penry-Jones

RUNNING TIME: 176 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: Bruce Wayne/Batman (Pattinson) uncovers corruption at the heart of Gotham City, as he pursues a dangerous serial killer known as the Riddler (Dano)…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Of the many nicknames used to describe Batman over the years – the Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader, or even simply the Bat – there is one that is surprisingly not considered as much: the World’s Greatest Detective. Few people seem to realise that Batman did originally start out as more of a sleuth character in his early days at Detective Comics (known better nowadays, of course, as DC), before later becoming more of the superhero type that we recognise him for today, iconised by the likes of Michael Keaton, Christian Bale and as recently as Ben Affleck in the many film iterations.

Thankfully, director Matt Reeves brings the character back to his sociological roots with The Batman, and shows from the ground up that not only is he indeed the World’s Greatest Detective, but also capable of so much more, all in a soaring and often awe-inspiring crime epic that is easily his best solo outing since The Dark Knight. In fact, it may well even surpass that one, since amongst every Batman movie to exist so far, this one feels like the most “Batman” of them all.

We begin roughly two years into the vigilante escapades of orphaned billionaire Bruce Wayne (portrayed this time by Robert Pattinson) who, as his alter-ego Batman, has already become infamous enough amongst the crime-ridden streets of Gotham City that even seeing the Bat-Signal in the sky turns their faces pale. When a serial killer known as the Riddler (Paul Dano) begins targeting some of Gotham’s most elite citizens, Batman and police lieutenant Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) investigate the mind-boggling clues left behind, and find that they all link to dark truths about some of the city’s public figures. During his investigation, Batman also allies himself with cat burglar Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), and confronts a number of enemies including powerful gangster Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) and his own trusted lieutenant, Oswald Cobblepot aka The Penguin (Colin Farrell, unrecognisable thanks to heavy and impressive prosthetic make-up) – but along the way, our hero also makes an alarming discovery that connects to his own family history.

It is only one of its many forthcomings that The Batman is not another origin tale: there are no scenes of Bruce’s parents being murdered, or montages of him gathering everything he needs for his crime-fighting. Reeves, who also co-writes with Peter Craig, correctly assumes that the audience knows everything they need to know about Batman, leaping straight into a pure-blood detective story that feels straight from the pages of a classic film noir script, and also happens to have familiar Batman characters in it. Both Reeves and Craig find fascinating new ways to reconstruct these classic heroes and villains within this freshly dark and pulpy new mould, as well as Gotham City itself which is a neat mixture of the versions from both Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan’s films, but with the rain-drenched atmosphere from David Fincher’s Se7en (with a hint of the filmmaker’s Zodiac) and the violent (to a point) undertones of something like Roman Polanski’s Chinatown. Batman himself is repurposed as a classic film detective, which works wonders here because Reeves and Craig’s script allows plenty of room to explore his keen eye at crime scenes and in ongoing investigations, in addition to his dark psychological character traits that have only been hinted at in other adaptations. The hero has never been more haunting than he is here, from the way he calmly steps out from the shadows to brutally take out entire street gangs, to how he studiously enters a crime scene with nervous eyes following him from every angle, evoking that sense of mystery and cool, collected flair which some past Batmen, however super-heroic they may have been, might not have perfected.

Robert Pattinson is excellent here as both Batman and Bruce Wayne, perfectly embodying the classic brooding stoicism of the masked vigilante and the sullen, emotionally damaged nature of his true identity. He is, however, only the figurehead of a stealthy ensemble cast who are all at their best here as well; in terms of highlights, Zoë Kravitz makes for a great Selina Kyle, Paul Dano relishes being creepy as hell in the most terrifying Riddler to ever be put on-screen, and Colin Farrell is just a delight for the few amount of scenes he’s in as the Penguin. The stars extend to behind the camera as well, for Reeves directs his three-hour epic with as much grandiose and valour as The Godfather, while cinematographer Greig Fraser delivers some of the most stunning visuals that have ever been associated with the world of Batman, accompanied by stellar set design, make-up prosthetics, and most significantly an instantly iconic musical score by Michael Giacchino, whose bombastic themes call back lovingly to not just Danny Elfman’s classic tunes but also the music for the much-adored Batman: The Animated Series, with the composer’s own gentle touch as well. It is a rather magnificently crafted film, with no scene or character feeling out of place, and each big set-piece being given enough time to make a serious impact (a car chase featuring the Batmobile could be used in future masterclasses on how to edit and design sound for such a sequence in a movie).

There are very few qualms one has with the movie, like certain themes introduced around the third act which can feel a bit underdeveloped, but they don’t even come close to ruining The Batman and how near-perfectly it delivers a compelling and truly epic crime thriller, while also being an excellent Batman movie that’s bound to please enough long-time fans of the original character. It may be three hours long, but the fact that it manages to hold your attention all the way through without ever getting dull is a huge testament to the film that has been made. Hopefully we will be getting more of this Batman in this version of Gotham City very soon, especially if there are plenty more stories to be told with Batman once again serving as the World’s Greatest Detective.

SO, TO SUM UP…

The Batman is a stellar crime epic that wonderfully reimagines the world of Gotham City and its inhabitants as a true detective tale, with a lead hero who has never been more compelling, villains who are a neat mix of both dangerous and fun, and some excellent filmmaking that helps make this feel like the most “Batman” movie yet made.

The Batman is now showing in cinemas nationwide – click here to find a screening near you!

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