Review – The Batman
Batman is back on the big screen, and this time it’s the turn of Robert Pattinson to don the cowl of the caped crusader in the murky world of Gotham City
The film has been in development for a number of years, initially as a dedicated Batman film with Ben Affleck to star in, as the efforts to build out the DC expanded universe began. However soon, this evolved into a Matt Reeves project, and it is Reeves that writes and directs this new film.
Reeves was coming off strong work in directing both Dawn of, and War of, Planet of the Apes and this is the first film where we receives credits for Writing, Directing and Producing. Busy Man right?
The film seeks to reboot the franchise, but rather than going back to an origin story, they instead move to early period in Bruce Wayne’s time as the Bat. In an opening voice over he reveals that ‘Two years of nights have turned me into a nocturnal animal‘.
This is Wayne trying to understand what it is that he’s trying to become. In his mind it’s a tool for vengeance. For retribution. This is the start point as we follow him through the story.
The story itself follows him trying to chase down a serial killer, who is taking out significant members of the Gotham elite, and leaving riddles at the crime scene specifically addressed to ‘The Batman’. (yep The Riddler – played by Paul Dan). He’s doing that with the assistance of Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), Alfred (Andy Serkis) and the mysterious Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz). All do sterling work and also big credit to the unrecognisable Colin Farrell whose role as Oswald Cobblepot (Farrell is doing so incredible stuff at the moment)
In making this film, Reeves has made some very clear choices. Firstly, he’s dialling up Batman’s famed detective skills more than any other film version has gone near. Secondly, he’s leaning into the grimy darkness of Gotham. This film is sinister. It has an air of David Fincher’s Zodiac and also Alex Proyas’ Dark City. It worked greatly for me, but its definitely the first Batman film that I’d think twice about showing my kids.
Its a further step away from the simple madness of Joel Schumacher’s time at the helm of cinematic Batman and feels more connected to Nolan and Bale’s work that any of the Affleck era.
Musically the score by Michael Giacchino uses a simple combination of B Flat and G Flat notes (thanks to the FilmGeeky ‘Head of Music Department’ who explained this to me) to create a recurring unsettling theme that haunts the film’s score.
It’s a real attempt to take a clear grasp on Batman’s cinema legacy after the recent drifting with the DCEU (no fault of Affleck, but its been a bit of a mess), and they absolutely pull it off.
Its dark, its sinister, but its fantastic. In my 2016 post about the Batman’o’Meter, I referenced the range of approaches to the role, and the latest one is probably most to the right, and it really works.
I believe sequels will come in time, and if they can stick with this formula, they’ll be great.
9 batarangs out of 10