Review by Sean Boelman
The latest Batman solo project has had a bit of a tumultuous production history, initially beginning as a project to star Ben Affleck’s iteration of the Caped Crusader and directed by Affleck himself. Now, we are getting The Batman, Matt Reeves’s take on the character starring Robert Pattinson, and it’s a very different vision of the vigilante from what we have seen before.
The film follows Batman as he investigates a serial killer known as The Riddler who is targeting corrupt city officials in a brutal and sadistic way. Inspired more by the character’s detective-driven storylines rather than the superhero ones, this is probably the darkest of the live action adaptations of these comics yet (yes, even more so than the Nolan trilogy).
However, in trying to really create this dark tone, Reeves goes all-in on the darkness in the visual style. And while this does create some really cool, noir-influenced scenes, it can be dark to the point of being unintelligible at times. It fits this extraordinarily seedy version of Gotham City, but it is frequently rather frustrating.
This is also the type of movie that thinks it is an absolute masterpiece, and although there are certainly some times in which this is true, it isn’t always breaking the new ground that Reeves wants it to. The first two thirds of the three-hour runtime are pretty original, but then the final act, which feels like it was tacked on, devolves into more generic studio superhero flick material.
Some of Reeves’s pretentiousness could be forgiven if the film had something more interesting to say about its themes. It is constantly on the edge of brilliance when it comes to discussing these ideas of corruption and culpability, but it rarely crosses over into saying something that is genuinely profound.
Robert Pattinson’s take on Batman is going to be a love-it-or-hate it prospect. There will be lots of fans of this brooding version of the character, but others may find it a bit too cold for their liking. Ultimately, it seems that Pattinson is much better in the role when he is under the cowl, as he struggles to make this very different version of millionaire Bruce Wayne work.
On the other hand, the rest of the cast is all on their A-game. Colin Farrell is fun and disappears into the role as a more grounded version of The Penguin, John Turturro is menacing as mob boss Carmine Falcone, and Zoë Kravits is absolutely alluring as this movie’s version of Catwoman. But it is Paul Dano who shines the most in his performance as the Riddler, with a villain turn that rivals Heath Ledger’s in The Dark Knight in terms of how purely terrifying it is.
There are a lot of things that work very well about The Batman, and others that aren’t quite as effective. It’s the type of storytelling that perhaps would have been more suited to a miniseries format than a three-hour feature length film, because even though it is interesting, it also leaves something to be desired.
The Batman hits theaters on March 4.