March 3, 2022

CINEMA | To 'The Batman' – Unmasking the Darkest Knight

"This is a powder keg and the Riddler's the match."
Robert Pattinson Colin Farrell John Turturro | Matt Reeves' The Batman
Warner Bros. Pictures / DC Films
Blockbuster director Matt Reeves takes over the storied Bat franchise by twisting the Caped Crusader into a sprawling superhero crime drama meets detective neo-noir thriller. Starring Robert Pattinson as a much moodier version of the Dark Knight himself, The Batman is possibly the darkest vision of the masked vigilante put to screen yet—drawing strong echoes to David Fincher serial killer procedurals like Seven or Zodiac.

There's a striking detective quality to the film's methodical pace where Jeffrey Wright's Lt. Jim Gordon is easily the second lead as the gruff sidekick. His easy buddy cop chemistry with Pattinson's Batman unlocks the central murder mystery. In contrast, Zoë Kravitz brings a sultry yet hard-edged quality as her Catwoman figures into much of the visceral action seamlessly as another complementary Bat co-conspirator.

Chiefly, it's Paul Dano and Colin Farrell as intriguing interpretations of the villainous Riddler and Penguin who offer refreshing performances as the main and secondary antagonist. Dano reimagines his Riddler as a maniacal serial killer figure sending Batman clues to the motives of his targeted killings against Gotham society's corrupt elites. How Pattinson's much angrier, more tortured Batman plays against the creepily self-assured Dano makes for a compelling back-and-forth chase.

Robert Pattinson Matt Reeves | The Batman

Scripted by Reeves and Peter Craig, the three-hour film uncovers several interlocked mysteries delving into Gotham City's past and the ghosts of the Wayne family. However, the film's biggest flaw is the midway labyrinthian backstory about how all of Gotham's criminal parts tie into each other. Some of the endless exposition feels needlessly languid and I cannot imagine anyone caring enough about the Waynes' scandalous indiscretions.

Cinematographer Greig Fraser frames the pulpy crime drama with such a moody vibe amplified by composer Michael Giacchino's bombastic yet brooding musical score. Multiple needle drops of Nirvana's sullen anthem "Something in the Way" paint The Batman as a sort of pop-noir tale. It's fairly novel how Reeves reinterprets the iconography of the famed superhero into a complex piece of procedural entertainment about political corruption.

The Batman absolutely goes for it in a grounded and gritty yet maximalist sense. Reeves so confidentially unfolds and unmasks his ambitious yet grim criminal blockbuster remixing the Dark Knight's many elements into a familiar but refreshing comic book adaptation. His bleakly entertaining vision of a perpetually downpouring Gotham City gets across the hollowness of seeking a semblance of vengeance through legacy.

More | YVArcade / AV Club / Indiewire / ScreenCrush

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