The Batman Review – Epic rebirth of the legendary hero

The Batman

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Grim, gritty, groundbreaking, and gorgeous – ‘The Batman’ and Catwoman lead this ambitious return of Gotham’s favourite son.

The Batman packs in layers of Gotham secrets to uncover, crimes to investigate and puzzles to solve. It’s less ‘all-out action’ movie and more slow burn detective noir thriller, but the third act delivers some impressive set pieces which should satisfy and thrill traditional superhero fans.

Following on from visionary directors like Tim Burton, Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder and creating something unique was never going to be easy but Matt Reeves understood the assignment. This is possibly the most ambitious interpretation of Batman on the big screen. Raw, unsure, minimum gadgets and almost no regard for his Bruce Wayne persona. This is going to shock and annoy some but surprise and delight others.

Batman tries to defuse a dangerous situation

Director Matt Reeves understood his task was considered daunting and near impossible by many. Batman remains DC/Warner Bros most reliable and bankable franchise. With the recent failed relaunch of one of their most valuable properties (The Matrix) with ‘The Matrix Resurrections, it once again falls to Batman to deliver big at the box office. But could Matt Reeves bring us something we haven’t already seen on screen with the character over the last 80 years? I’m pleased to say he was more than up to the challenge.

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Being a lifelong fan, I always approach a Batman film believing I know the character so well that my sole focus would be on the villain’s performance. But quite quickly I found myself feeling uncomfortable, looking at my childhood hero and realising that for the first time, I didn’t recognise this version of Batman. And for me, that was intriguing

How did Robert Pattinson become the Batman? Check out ‘Road to the Batman’ here

Yes, this is Batman, but not as we have known him. Not flush with gadgets, not the smartest person in the room. Being manipulated by the bad guys and given the run around. Unsure of himself and not even completely confident performing the magnificent feats we’ve seen him do in so many other movies. This is a socially awkward character who doesn’t yet know how to control a conversation or manage the dual personalities of Bruce Wayne and Batman.

Having said that, what we are presented with here isn’t Batman right at the start of his journey either. There are no flashbacks to his parents’ execution even though he is still obviously suffering from a severe disorder relating to the trauma. This Batman is much closer to the year 2 or 3 mark, where he knows how to fight and solve crimes but hasn’t got some of the exceptional skills he’s known for. He also lacks the finesse and penchant for dramatic entrances. He is untamed, unpredictable, led by rage, vulnerable and most of all, damaged.

Robert Pattinson breathes life into this interpretation wonderfully, making mistakes and learning hard lessons. The supporting cast are great, providing an excellent ensemble of intriguing characters, each hiding behind masks of their own. Paul Dano’s Riddler is disturbed and a million miles from Jim Carrey’s version in ‘Batman Forever‘. I would have liked to see more from Andy Serkis ‘s Alfred but maybe they are saving that for the sequel?  

Zoe Kravitz gives an accomplished performance as her own Catwoman, keeping the character mostly grounded in reality, but not in a boring way. Shes still Incredibly sexy with a love for cats but not to the point of comical caricature (she doesn’t go round licking people or herself!). Robert and Zoe made a fantastic on-screen couple as the Bat and The Cat and continue the tradition of these lovestruck couple who are never meant to be. Colin Farrells Penguin was an unexpected stand out, both menacing and comic relief, at times unintentionally doing a funny impression of goodfellas, but entertaining and engaging to watch throughout.

Who is Catwoman? Find out more about the history of this fantastic feline here

Make no mistake, Gotham has always been a terrible place to live but somehow, Matt Reeves managed to make it feel even worse. The undercurrent of lies, greed, deception, corruption, and murder run deeper and feel like a permanent fixture in this city beyond saving. Catwoman illuded to the fact that the city ‘will end up killing Batman.’ Was that a general statement or a foretelling of the end of the trilogy?

The movie gets almost top marks for successfully bringing us a new unique vision of this well-travelled DC road. I’m not certain the almost 3hr runtime was absolutely necessary, but it offers plenty of food for thought and delivers what I believe was a very satisfying conclusion to the first part of this story. The Batman theme composed by Michael Giacchino is genius and captures this hero perfectly. If I were going to nit-pick, I’d say it may have been slightly overused during the film which reduced its impact.

After so many interpretations, it’s refreshing (and scary) to see a Batman who hesitates before jumping off a building! The performances are all top notch, and while Matt Reeves should be credited for taking a major franchise in this ‘noir’ direction, acknowledgement and praise must also extend to Greig Fraser for the cinematography. The use of the limited colour palette was sublime, yet the film still never looked dull or dreary.

This Batman isn’t slick or stylish. There are no ‘cool’ over the top entrances, flashy exits, or ‘wow’ gadgets but that was by design. It mirrors a young hero still trying to find his feet and I couldn’t be more excited for the next instalment of this trilogy.

The Batman hits cinemas on March 4th, after which point, the heated ‘discussions’ over whether it’s as good as/better than ‘The Dark Knight‘ trilogy will begin!

Screening courtesy of the Warner Bros Publicity team
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