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Review: “The Batman”

“The Batman” is available to stream on HBO Max. (Warner Bros.)

Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” gives audiences a darker, grittier and more grounded version of the Caped Crusader than ever before. 

The movie follows a Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) that’s already been donning the cape and cowl for two years prior to the events on screen. Despite being the hero in the film, Batman is not all that super. 

When compared to previous depictions of the Batman, Reeves opted for a more realistic depiction. Hardcore fans need not worry, he still has the trademark suit and Batmobile. However, the Batmobile is less of a tank as in previous depictions, instead, it’s more of a souped-up 1970s muscle car. The same is true for all of his usual gadgets. 

That’s not to say Reeves’ grounded approach ruined the movie, actually the exact opposite. This new take on the character and world coupled with the neo-noir story makes the movie suspenseful and thrilling throughout its 2h 56 m runtime. 

The role of Batman really requires an actor to play two distinct characters, Bruce Wayne and Batman. Pattinson nails both of them. 

His portrayal of Bruce Wayne is unlike any to come before. If Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne was a billionaire playboy, Pattinson’s should be described as a troubled orphan. 

In every scene we see him in, he seems reserved and self-conscious like he feels he is an imposter in his own skin. Where the character feels more at home is during his time as Batman, which is fitting since a majority of the film is spent with this persona. 

Batman in this film is, more than in any film before, an unstoppable force. He fights crime in a brute force way that pairs perfectly with the villain of the film the Riddler. 

The last time the Riddler was shown on the silver screen was in 1995 when Jim Carrey played the role in Joel Schumacher’s “Batman Forever.” Carrey’s portrayal was over the top and comedic, a good contrast to Paul Dano’s chilling performance.

The Riddler in this film is far from the typical comic book movie villain. He feels like a character plucked straight out of a serial killer movie, which comes as no surprise as Dano himself said in an interview on “Late Night” that the Zodiac Killer was his primary reference for the role. Every time Dano’s Riddler is on the screen, he conveys a legitimate sense of psychopathy that really helps support the film’s plot. 

Pattinson and Dano were not the only great actors in the film. Zoë Kravitz was born to play Selina Kyle/Catwoman, and Colin Farrel is unrecognizable as the Penguin. They both deliver impressive performances. Jeffrey Wright as Jim Gordon was also impressive, although not a stand-out. This may be due to the extremely solid Gordon portrayals of the past, specifically Gary Oldman in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Trilogy.” However, the whole cast meshed well to sell the story and set the overall tone of the film, which can only be described as dark. 

The dark atmosphere is mainly achieved through the setting of the film. Gotham City is rife with corruption which the Riddler is determined to bring to light. The rich don’t just get richer, they get more powerful, buying off the local government and police.

The city doesn’t look like it’s falling apart from the inside out, it looks like it fell apart twenty years ago. This is only emphasized further by cinematographer Greig Fraser’s masterful approach that makes every scene look so beautifully grim. 

Overall, the film serves as an impressive reboot for a character that has seen weak outings in the recent past, namely “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “The Justice League.” By leaving out the origins of Batman the movie is less approachable for newcomers, but for fans of the previous films, it stands on the shoulders of those franchises and doesn’t attempt to rehash old ideas. Although it’s not a wholly original story, it is an original take on a character and universe that has been done many times before. 

I wholeheartedly recommend this film for fans of Batman, and even those who hate the idea of superhero movies, because the film really plays like a neo-noir, whodunit that just so happens to have Batman solving the case. 

“The Batman” is available to stream on HBO Max. 

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