By Elias Savada.

For those of you who wondered if another reboot could find itself an audience after Christopher Nolan did such a fine job with his trilogy, please wonder no more….”

Nietzsche would have a field-day analyzing the latest reimagining of DC Comics’ masked vigilante. (Bat) Man might not be the cruelest animal in this vividly entertaining journey into darkness, but there are plenty of morals to be damned in this enervating look at a dreary, damp, and crime-infested Gotham City. There’s enough rain and water to float an ark, and maybe Matt Reeves, the director and co-writer (with Peter Craig), wanted to literally soak the Warner Bros. executives with gloom. Think of 1994’s The Crow, on storm-drenched steroids. There should be some sunshine, though — in the box office. And I say this all with the best intentions, as The Batman is one grand superhero tale.

For those of you who wondered if another reboot could find itself an audience after Christopher Nolan did such a fine job with his trilogy, please wonder no more. If Robert Pattinson’s focused performance doesn’t rise to the top of the short list of best Batman incarnations, it’s damned close. He’s unflinching and unblinking (and I looked really close)! Move over Clooney, Keaton, Affleck, West, Kilmer, and, the previous leader, Christian Bale. His Bruce Wayne is morose and broody, ensconced in a Gotham universe where his parents weren’t as saintly as expressed in past versions. Pattinson has matured considerably from his vampire days in the Twilight series, and his intensity is dazzling. Despite his wicked armor suit, he still takes more than a few punches that obviously shows the viewer he’s human.

The film will provide another test to the world’s ability to move beyond covid and head back into cineplexes, as they did with Spider-Man: No Way Home. And at 3 hours, that won’t be an easy task. Yes, the film’s messy angst seems to parallel much of what is happening in our country and elsewhere, and the joyless cowl that shrouds the film is as absorbing as all hell, much as Joker did in 2019, but without any humor. Despite all the gritty noir (Greig Fraser and James Chinlund were responsible for the cinematography and production design), it’s still somehow a family film. The look is Blade Runner but wetter and grungier. The PG-13 rating for “strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong language and some suggestive material” pushes the limits for that but doesn’t overstep.

And of course, there’s also a vengeful villain the city must deal with, and here it’s The Riddler, a disturbing serial killer plucked out of some of David Fincher more harrowing films, especially Se7en. Paul Dano plays him with a misguided, brilliant cynicism, prodding for answers as the character plots his next gruesome killing. Only near the film’s end will viewers get to see his face, as he’s decked head-to-toe in creepy, second-hand army surplus garb until his big reveal. The film also sports some other grade-A talent in the supporting roles in this underworld thriller. John Turturro as Carmine Falco, a father figure for Wayne but a mobster, nonetheless. There’s also Colin Farrell as The Penguin, the makeup making him totally unrecognizable.

The Batman' Director Matt Reeves Talks About His Love For The Dark Knight

The barebone “love interest” between Batman and the slinky and curious Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), the future Catwoman, offers the film’s few lighter moments as they bicker on how they might, or might not, work in eradicating the scourge of Gotham.

On the good side (in a corrupt city where most aren’t) are Master Wayne’s faithful butler Alfred (Andy Serkis) and Police Lieut. (not-yet-commissioner) James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), all giving honorable performances. Serkis is no stranger to Reeves, as he appeared in the director’s Planet of the Apes films.

The film barely misfires, and especially captivates during one particular car chase that takes place in the middle of a storm, with a Batmobile, Batcycle, and Batsuit seemingly created by someone in their garage, rather than financing by Wayne Industries. The Batcave is a sloppy wreck of a place, one that designed Chinlund describes as eliminating any “splashy piece of design. We wanted it to reflect the DIY aesthetic of everything Bruce was building.” The car is closer to a Fast and Furious muscle car, albeit one with training wheels. Just like its driver.

Reeves, who found fame with the clever science fiction/horror film Cloverfield and then Let Me In, the Americanized version of the Swedish horror film (so he, too, has a vampire past), was also the co-creator (with J.J. Abrams) of the popular Felicity tv series. They’re set to reteam next year on Batman: Caped Crusader, an animated show for HBO Max.

His current piece emphasizes a city in decade, full of crime and dysfunction. Aside from the look of the film, its inhabitants, and the grand storytelling, there’s also Michael Giacchino’s haunting score, his fifth collaboration with Reeves. It so perfectly reflects on the tortured soul of the film’s namesake.

The Batman is an energetic, action-packed thrill ride. Watch out for the puddles.

Elias Savada is a movie copyright researcher, critic, craft beer geek, and avid genealogist based in Bethesda, Maryland. He helps program the Spooky Movie International Movie Film Festival, and previously reviewed for Film Threat and Nitrate Online. He is an executive producer of the horror film German Angst and the documentary Nuts! He co-authored, with David J. Skal, Dark Carnival: the Secret World of Tod Browning (a revised edition will be published by Centipede Press).

Read also:

2 thoughts on “Big, Bold, Brazen: The Batman

  1. DC changes the actors for Batman too much. It would be much better if they built some storyline between their movies, like Marvel. The best Batman, from my point of view, was Christian Bale and even that was the movie in association with DC and could not be called Batman. That is why they called it Dark Knight:)
    DC…buck up

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *