The Batman (2022)

The Batman directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield), is the first standalone Batman film since The Dark Knight Rises (2012) completed a near perfect trilogy of movies from director Christopher Nolan, that started with Batman Begins (2005) followed by The Dark Knight (2008) with its mesmerising and infamous version of The Joker played by the late Heath Ledger (A Knight’s Tale).

Christian Bale (American Psycho) put in a definitive performance as Bruce Wayne and his crime fighting alter ego in the trilogy, and certainly set the standard with huge boots to fill for Robert Pattinson who takes on the role this time around. Pattinson is best known for his role as the mysterious, moody vampire Edward Cullen in The Twilight Saga (2008 – 2012) and this is his return to a blockbuster role, after largely making indie movies in between, working with directors such as David Cronenberg (Cosmopolis – 2012) and starring in art house flicks such as The Lighthouse (2019).

As Batman he very much looks to Bale’s characterisation for inspiration, playing the role with a commanding presence. Although his version of Batman comes across as more thoughtful, moving slowly through his scenes as he assesses the danger around him, or as he surveys for clues in a crime scene. We also see the vulnerabilities of the character, as Pattinson’s version is young and in his second year of fighting crime. For example we see him spectacularly crash land as he dives from the top of a building, and stall his bat mobile at the beginning of a thrilling car chase. We also see his inner turmoil as he questions the impact his role as the caped crusader is having on the city of Gotham, while also struggling with how far to go when he is fighting criminals.

As Bruce Wayne he brings elements of his Twilight character Edward to the role, a younger moody, sultry emo version. A tortured soul the likes of which we’ve not seen before, which works well and adds a new element to the well told story. He also delivers a monologue throughout the film which is reminiscent of Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen (2009) which at times is perfectly accompanied by the bleak, mood setting ‘Something In The Way’ by Nirvana, a song that inspired Matt Reeves as he was writing the character, which allegedly features traits of the late, great Kurt Cobain.

His outlook on the city he cares for is also bleak, and this film is set in a Gotham that is darker and more depressing than ever before. Set mostly at night in the underbelly of the city, The Batman is essentially a film noir where the streets are permanently rain drenched, creating a mood similar to that of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982), with an enormous debt also owed to David Fincher’s gritty serial killer film Seven (1995).

The nod to this film in particular is intensified beyond the mise-en-scene, as the narrative has many similarities as we watch the dark knight, along with Detective Jim Gordon, played by Jeffrey Wright (Westworld), investigating a number of murders, in which cryptic clues and riddles are left for them to uncover by The Riddler, played by Paul Dano (12 Years A Slave). In fact this element of the story also pays a debt to the true crime story of the Zodiac Killer, who was immortalised in David Fincher’s other serial killer based movie Zodiac (2007).

This is a very different Riddler to who we have seen before, he couldn’t be more opposite to the over the top pantomime villain portrayed by Jim Carrey in Joel Schmacher’s Batman Forever (1995). In this film he is a psychotic serial killer, taking out Gotham’s corrupt elite in violent fashion, providing the opportunity for Batman to live up to his status as ‘The World’s Greatest Detective’, the tag given to him in early versions of the DC comics he first appeared. In fact the film looks back and pays homage to many of the printed versions of the character across the years, with a particular nod to the dark, intense graphic novels of the 1980’s and beyond, from the likes of Frank Miller and Brian Azzarello.

Elsewhere there is a fine supportive performance from Colin Farrell (Total Recall) who is totally unrecognisable in his role as Oswald Cobblepot aka The Penguin, played as a night club owning mobster in a very different version of the character to Danny DeVito’s iconic version in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns (1992), and providing some subtle comic relief to the story at times.

We see Zoë Kravitz (Mad Max : Fury Road) play Selina Kyle, who has an integral part to play in the story, stealing most of the scenes she is involved in, as an early version of Catwoman and played as a true Femme Fatale opposite Pattinson’s lead character. We also see John Turturro (Barton Fink) as crime lord Carmine Falcone and Andy Serkis (The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy) as Bruce Wayne’s faithful servant and guardian Alfred Pennyworth.

In a nutshell The Batman is absolutely bloody fantastic! Delivering a film that fans of the character will love, stripping the tone and story down to a dark and gritty tale, grounded in a reality not seen before. Especially compared to Ben Allfeck’s version of the character currently seen in the wider DC multiverse in Zack Snyder’s Batman Vs Superman : The Dawn Of Justice (2016) and The Justice League (2017). A sequel is coming and if The Batman is anything to go by we are going to be in for a treat, especially given the introduction of a certain unspecified character with a sinister chuckle, that The Riddler meets in Arkham Asylum towards the end of the movie. 👍


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