The Batman


Weeks before I was due to delve into this latest jaunt through the seedy underbelly of Gotham City, I had to admit, I wasn’t exactly stoked for The Batman. Oh, I had no doubt that the film would at least be worthy, but it was starting to feel that the recent influx of Bat-people we’ve been experiencing lately is getting a little out of hand. Including Robert Patterson’s newest take on Gotham’s avenging jaw breaker, we technically now have three, active, cinematic Batmen alone prowling the gloomy streets, poised to give crime the brutal shit kicking it so rightly deserves. But with Keaton’s grizzled original about to make his reintroduction just as Affleck prepares to tag reportedly out for the final time in the upcoming Flash movie, how, in this era of caped crusader over-saturation (baturation?), do you stop the bat becoming old hat? Matt Reeves’ The Batman is nothing short of a masterclass in showing you how.


Utterly divorced from public life, pale as a ghost and already carrying the weight of an entire city on his armored shoulders, Bruce Wayne is slogging through his second year of being Batman as he brings his particular brand of vengence to the sizable criminal contingent of Gotham city. Riddled with corruption all the way up the social ladder, it’s only fair that a puzzle-obsessed serial killer dubbed the Riddler is waging a one-man killing spree on the social elite starting with him killing the Mayor and wrapping his head up with gaffer tape. Graduating from reducing the kidneys of face-painted gang members to mush to tackling a full blown psycho-killer, Batman leans heavily on his impressive detective skills and his strained relationship with Lieutenant James Gordon to figure out who this Riddler is and what he wants.
That’s going to be easier said than done as Gotham contains a pantheon of malajusted maniacs, cynical crimes bosses and crooked cops and Wayne will have his work cut out for him untangling scumbags on both sides of the law. Helping – sort of – is the slinky form of Selina Kyle, a cat burglar who uses her job at the Iceburg Lounge to scout for marks but who is anxious about the suspicious disappearance of her flatmate and while she works undercover to help the Bat dig up some works class dirt, a flirty relationship sparks into life – something Bruce has been missing in his life.
Standing in his way – again, sort of – is the swaggering, criminal element lead by mob boss Falcone and his sweaty lieutenant who is known around town as The Penguin and while Batman attempts to appeal, threaten, bribe, or outright torture the men necessary to get the leads he desperately needs, The Riddle continues to harvest his selected victims in a ruthlessly convoluted manner.
But in the light of this insanity, is beating the tar out of gang bangers ever going to seriously make a difference, or does Bruce begin to suspect that to ever make a difference he might need to change his goal to something a bit nobler than declaring himself “vengence” and giving a goon a hefty knuckle sandwich?


Making a grappling hook-assissted leap from Planet Of The Apes to the City Of The Capes, Matt Reeves set himself an impressively tough job when trying to give the world yet another Batman in the wake of the numerous versions delivered to us by Burton, Nolan, Snyder and sigh, yes, Schumacher – the Dark Knight Rises may have been ten years ago, but the last time we saw a cinematic Batman was in Zack Snyder’s four hour compilation of deleted scenes that was his vindicated version of Justice League – and that was only last year. Reeves, however, gives us possibly the most purely Batman movie ever made, rivaling even the 90’s animated show for a massively accurate version of the oft-used character and shifts the focus, marking a subtle metamorphosis from Nolan’s Bond fixation to almost going full David Fincher by using both Se7en and even Zodiac as touchstones. The result is remarkable; reinvigorating the character in a way that’s wonderfully cerebral (Batman finally gets to be an actual detective in this one rather that just tapping things into his batcomputer), while still delivering the visual punch required when your lead character is required to dress up like a bat.


Robert Pattinson makes a remarkably subtle Batman in the immediate wake of Ben Affleck’s rageoholic, still a little green in his sophomore year in the cape and its fascinating to watch him come alive as Batman, while his Bruce Wayne, racked with obvious sleep deprivation is obviously detached from the very people he’s trying to protect (another nod to Ficher via Fight Club). Loping around his bat cave or waiting to pounce with his black eye make up already on, he resembles an insomniac Noel Fielding channeling Robert Smith with rage issues, but may genuinely be the most intriguing Bruce Wayne we’ve ever had. He’s certainly the first Bruce Wayne we’ve ever had who looks as shitty as he feels and anyone who’s ever had to work nights will immediately sympathize.
His various interactions and relationships with the other characters is key and the rest of the movie benefits well from being insanely well cast, with Zoe Kravitz naturally fitting Catwoman’s aesthetic so well it barely seems she even has to act, while a disturbingly unrecognizable Colin Farrell looks like Richard Kind, acts with Robert De Niro’s vocal chords and magnificently chews more scenery than a great white shark with a set fetish. Paul Dano’s Riddler on the other hand feels like he’s just strolled in off the set of Mindhunter and nails that 70’s era, lunatic with puppy fat look that feels hideously real as he rages against society with his Saw-like crime scenes. However, possibly the nicest surprise is Jeffery Wright’s Jim Gordon who, instead of standing around with his jaw hanging open like some other Gordon’s have a tendency to do, get stuck into matters to the point that he’s almost Roger Murtaugh to Batman’s Martain Riggs and the movie makes great use of having the Lieutenant continuously have Bats stride into closed off crime scenes much to the chagrin of the GCPD.
With such a perfect cast in place, Reeves goes on to show us exactly how much he gets the character by kicking off the movie with quite possibly the best ever visualization of how Batman’s influence works even when he’s not around as criminals spot the bat signal burning in the night sky and immediately get paranoid about the dark spaces all around them. Even more impressive is how little action there is despite the hefty, three hour runtime; and while there’s obviously a big to-do at the climax, up until then there’s only a handful of set pieces and the obligatory batmobile sequence to carry us through, the rest is a gripping detective story that holds the attention fast without having to blow up a quarter of Gotham to do it.


Grittier and somehow even more “realistic” than Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy (the Batmobile is merely a muscle car with enough rumble to make Dominic Toretto mess his kecks), I demand that this new Batman requires a sequel posthaste in order to expand even further on this already cemented world and the spinoff Penguin series can’t come soon enough.
Best Batman movie ever? Ooh, I don’t know about that – The Dark Knight is fucking good; but then The Batman manages a similar feat without Heath Leager’s Joker so it’s damn close, so I think I’m going chicken out of that one and let history decide. But however it turns out, this is best movie the Caped Crusader has been in in fourteen years and while some may possibly write it off for riding on the coat tails of Nolan’s epic – this is still peak level Batman and virtually flawless superhero story telling to boot.
Reeves and Patterson stepped up to bat… and delivered a home run.


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