Director: Matt Reeves
Stars: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffery Wright, Colin Farrell & John Turturro.
Review by Damocles
Batman isn’t really a character that needs any introduction. I’m not the biggest comic-book nerd in the world, but I’ve played enough of the Arkham games, seen enough of the Batman animated series and watched all the Batman films to know when something is right and something isn’t.
At his core, Batman isn’t a particularly complicated character. He’s violence personified without the murderous intent and he’s your classic noir detective motivated by revenge. It is the city around him and the villains that live within the borders of Gotham that make him compelling, because his struggle is endless and almost in vain.
In this film, we are introduced to a Batman who is only just starting his vigilante career. I thoroughly enjoyed this approach, as we get to enjoy some of the more popular Arkham styled beat-downs on criminals, whilst trying to establish his unique intellect and emotional issues.
This is a Batman who is still a bit untested, a character who doesn’t quite know where he fits in Gotham yet and is still trying to work through his grief in the most unhealthy way possible: violence.
Pattinson is remarkable in this film, his acting mostly done through highly expressive eye movements and careful measured movements. Whilst there could have been more done to his character of Bruce Wayne, overall, the portrayal of Wayne, as a haunted and scarred man was performed admirably by Pattinson.
I particularly enjoyed the sequences where he was not in costume, relying on all black clothing, a hoodie and mask to blend with the environment. Something about the image of a masked, hooded figure moving through Halloween celebrations stuck with me, long after the film and there was such a great emphasis on realism, on how Batman wouldn’t be relying solely on his suit for reconnaissance and infiltration.
These details can be attributed to Reeves, who wrote the screenplay alongside Peter Craig. In The Batman, they have created a wonderfully dark and noirish world, with elements of Se7en (1995) and Taxi Driver (1976). Whilst the plot did muddle a bit near the middle and in parts of the third act, the pacing was excellent and immersive throughout the entire run-time, never really feeling its 3 hour length.
The dark, realistic nature of the film was offset beautifully with the more classic noir elements that have always been a strong part of the Batman’s mythos.
In Selina Kyle, we have a classic femme fatale, whose costume changes I thought were an intriguing take on the ever-changing chameleon nature of the archetype.
In the Penguin, we have the classic noir decoy character, Farrell disappearing completely into the role, unrecognisable and brilliant as one of Batman’s classic mobster characters.
In Gordon, we have the sole beacon of goodness in the film, a man who just wants to do his job, but understand that he needs Batman’s unique take on justice to hang onto the city. Wright shines as a cynical but honest man who just want to see the good guys prevail in a city as dark as Gotham.
Finally, in the Riddler, we have a fun and twisted performance by Paul Dano, who hams it up, in many ways, resembling certain online personalities that I couldn’t help but smile at the reference.
If you can see a trend, it is that all the cast involved were excellent in their roles, despite some of the more muddled parts of the plot.
Cinematography wise, The Batman boasts incredible visuals that perfectly captures the dark moodiness that has always been associated with Gotham. Whilst I’ve always loved that Gotham has had a more Gothic architecture in some of the earlier Batman live-action films, I am willing to sacrifice that aesthetic for a modern take, with a strong emphasis on darkness. There was a real sense of despair and decay that could be seen in every frame of Gotham, from the nightclub, to the crime scenes and train stations.
In having such a prevalent dark aesthetic, I thought the cinematographer, Greig Fraser (congratulations on the Oscar win!), really employed the use of colours brilliantly, with red lighting being a particular highlight throughout the film.
As for the sound, the foley in this film was ridiculously over the top. The entrance of the Batmobile in particular was enough to make the hairs on my arms stand up, a very rare sensation for me to experience in a cinema. Everything that involved the Batman, had a horror focus to his foley, from the footsteps to the score.
Speaking of score, Michael Giacchino nails the atmosphere needed for such a dark film, with a haunting, nightmarish sound that is eventually elevated to something more heroic for Batman, a sweeping, romantic but dark melody for Catwoman (excellent use of the piano) and a twisted version of a child-like melody for the Riddler.
Overall, the Batman is a worthy interpretation of the famous comic book character. It was nice to see a satisfying arc to what is normally the dullest part of the Batman universe, Batman himself and done right without any transgressions on his famous rules.
And that, in the world of Hollywood, where there are so many little things that the screenwriters get wrong about beloved characters whilst adapting them for film, is something to be celebrated.
A scene to recall: The moment Batman popped the flare and become a proper hero for Gotham, was such a satisfying character arc for the character. Also I copy this moment way too much, when I do my urbex stuff.
To quickly cap off my inner fanboy, I would like make a shot list of the things I really liked in the film. I tried to be a bit more objective in my review, but I will confess, I left the theatre smiling and liking the film a lot.
- The BATSUIT
- What a thing of beauty. It’s a brilliant take on modern plate carriers and armour. I particularly loved how the Bat symbol is actually a tactical knife and magnetically clamps onto his suit, and the various gadgets that he has on his forearms and legs.
- The green medical syringe insert, was a brilliant touch, showcasing how Batman would use any medical tools, whilst maintaining protection against NBC agents.
- I’m a big sucker for thigh bags in general, so to see Batman sport one, was a weird aesthetic that I couldn’t help but adore.
- The camera lens in the cowl was a neat touch and really showed how Batman would be able to analyse crime scenes long after he had left them.
- Overall, I applaud the designers for their more modern, military take on the Batsuit. I can easily see that the utility belt is a lot more akin to modern warbelts worn by modern operators, and I liked the idea that Batman could zip up his cape to create a modern wingsuit for emergency exfiltrations, along with his parachute.
- The BATMOBILE
- An angry, jet-powered muscle car. What’s not to love?
- I love the low-slung nature of the car, as well as the incredible sound design behind it. I got such a huge thrill, when I heard something akin to the V12 era of F1 cars in the sound mixing. Cars aren’t just an aesthetic, they’re also auditory porn when done right.
- The Iceberg Lounge
- Such a cool location, with flashing red lights and industrial aesthetics.
- The sequence where Batman fights his way though and tosses a baseball bat at a gun-toting goon was brilliant. In fact, so many of the fight scenes clearly showcase how this Batman doesn’t care about himself, he is only out for blood, despite the danger he is in. It is only right at the very end, does Batman start to care a bit more about self-preservation.
- The Funeral Sequence
- Easily my favourite part of the film, the funeral sequence was so brilliantly executed and really serve to heighten the paranoia one felt on the streets of Gotham.
- I loved the neck-bomb, the chilling riddle and the eventual failure of Batman to save the victim. I liked the vulnerability, the mistakes Batman made, trying to do his best in a shitty scenario.
- Especially in the aftermath of the funeral, I got to see Batman do his best to escape, using all his wits, and gadgets to flee.
- Overall … this was probably my favourite interpretation of Batman put to live-screen and I’m eager to see more.