When the Riddler, a sadistic serial killer, begins murdering key political figures in Gotham, Batman is forced to investigate the city’s hidden corruption and question his family’s involvement.
‘Batman’ has probably appeared on cinema screens more times than any other superhero (give or take ‘Spider-Man’ perhaps), and there’s a reason why filmmakers keep returning to this character. After the stunted attempts to start a DC cinematic universe, with Ben Affleck as the Caped Crusader, DC have gone back to basics with a dark and gritty take more in tune with the Christopher Nolan trilogy than those Marvel-aping movies. Matt Reeves is in the director’s chair this time, with Robert Pattinson in the leading role, and this is a very good Batman movie that reinforces why the character is so popular.
One thing Reeves gets right from the outset is the importance of the city of Gotham to Batman and as it often has been in the past, the setting is the star here. It is such an evocative place, a decaying, crime ridden city that perfectly fits the darker (and in my opinion, better) takes on Batman. ‘The Batman’ takes place almost entirely at night, in the shadows, and there are elements of movies such as ‘Sin City’ and ‘L.A. Confidential’ in the stylistic approach, darkness and voiceovers aplenty. Secondly, it is a quite superbly cast movie with virtually every role played to perfection. Pattinson as mentioned is very good, but he’s ably assisted by terrific supporting performances from Paul Dano as the main antagonist, The Riddler, Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman and an unrecognizable Colin Farrell as The Penguin. That’s before you even get on to John Turturro and Jeffrey Wright who are just as good.
In terms of the narrative, this one takes the form of a crime mystery as The Riddler goes on a murdering spree taking out various members of Gotham City’s political class, drawing Batman into a race against the clock to track him down. Through the Riddler’s machinations, ‘The Batman’ delves into the past and explores the legacy of the Wayne family (there are overt references to the sins of the father – for all its good qualities, ‘The Batman’ is not nuanced), and there are modern touchpoints too with nods to online conspiracy theories and radicalism. It is long at almost 3 hours but I felt it earned its runtime, with a story that gripped and captivated, delivered by some of the strongest takes on the characters to date. On first impressions, it’s not quite as good as the best of the Nolan movies, but it is a really strong superhero movie and once again shows that on the rare occasions DC get it right, they deliver movies that are head and shoulders above anything their rivals at Marvel can produce.
Directed By: Matt Reeves
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Colin Farrell, Peter Sarsgaard and Andy Serkis