“The Batman,” the newest adaptation of the Batman character from DC Comics, follows the famous superhero-vigilante in his second year of crime-fighting when an internet personality and serial killer, The Riddler, leaves clues at crime scenes that lead Batman on the trail to Gotham City’s corruption.
Whenever anyone discusses the Batman character in live-action, it is near impossible to not mention the lasting legacy of Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, which brought Batman into the modern-day, gritty world.
Everything those movies did right, this movie takes and runs with.
Robert Pattinson’s Batman is the most grounded and comic-accurate to date. The way he silently walks around crime scenes and slowly emerges from the shadows on the streets of Gotham is commanding and terrifying unlike any other version of the character ever put to screen.
He is quiet, and whenever he speaks, it is in an intense whisper. We follow the mystery from his perspective and put together the pieces as he does, making the journey of the film easy to become invested in and exciting to follow along with.
And to meet Pattinson, Paul Dano’s Riddler is a true force of nature. Within the handful of days his reign of terror spans, he brings panic to Gotham and digs up skeletons from nearly everyone’s closet. Dano rarely ever shows his face, mainly performing from behind a green mask, but when he’s out of the mask, he delivers a brilliant and manic performance as Batman’s most egotistical antagonist.
The rest of the ensemble is also great. Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman is very practical, independent and plays off Pattinson’s Batman excellently. John Turturro plays mob boss Carmine Falcone with equal charm and menace. The most fun member of the ensemble is an unrecognizable Colin Farrell who is caked with makeup as The Penguin and delivers several scene-stealing moments of levity.
But the real star here is co-writer/director Matt Reeves, who previously directed “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Reeves directs the film with immense intention and skill. Though the runtime is a mighty two hours and 55 minutes, not a single frame is wasted.
In addition, the mystery his and Peter Craig’s screenplay brings to life is a breath of fresh air. Inspired by famous Jeph Loeb’s graphic novel “Batman: The Long Halloween,” Riddler’s string of clues and riddles bring Batman through a long line of corruption, lies and secrets that are as engaging as they are surprising.
The action here is surprisingly sparse for a big-budget cape flick, but every punch and strike hits hard. Batman’s wails on a street thug echo through the theater, and the action is over as soon as it begins, making the violence feel real and brutal. The best action sequence, though, is a car chase in the second act that features a muscle car Batmobile and a gloriously hammy Farrell performance.
Technically speaking, this is one of the better-made blockbusters in the past few years. Greig Fraser’s cinematography beautifully captures the filthy Gotham City and lights the dark interiors and exteriors with great drama. Michael Giacchino’s score booms in the big moments of the film and gracefully navigates the more quiet and impactful scenes.
This superhero reboot hits the ground running, creates a fascinating world, fleshed out heroes and villains and lays the groundwork for a trilogy that could rival the best films in the genre. Though the wait for a sequel will not be short, there are enough great things in this film to enjoy in the meantime.