This week sees the release of a brand-new Batman movie. This information certainly won’t have passed you by, as the film is practically everywhere right now.
Between bus adverts, viral campaigns, and truck loads of merchandise, the new movie is causing quite a stir. The only way you will have avoided it is if you have spent the last couple of weeks actively dodging the hype machine.
The movie is called The Batman and it is directed by Matt Reeves. The film stars Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Colin Farrell, Jeffrey Wright, and Andy Serkis, and sees the Dark Knight cross paths with the Riddler, Catwoman, and Penguin.
I will give you a few plot details momentarily (don’t worry, there are no spoilers here), but the most important thing you need to know about The Batman is that this movie is not part of an existing series. This is a complete reboot of the Batman movie franchise, so is not a sequel, prequel, or requel, and it is also not part of the DC multiverse (well, not yet anyway).
If the last Batman movie you watched was Batman Forever (1995), that’s fine, it won’t impede your enjoyment of this film. Likewise, you don’t need a degree in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) to understand what’s going on here, as nothing from that movie applies.
All you really need to know is that this is a new take on the Caped Crusader. A new Batman, a new story, and a new journey through Gotham City.
And this journey takes place during the early period of Batman’s career; two years after he first donned his cape and cowl. Within this time, the vigilante has been operating in the shadows, taking down criminals, while also working alongside the Gotham City Police Department.
The story of this film picks up on a dank, drenched, Halloween night, when Batman gets called in to attend the scene of a grisly murder. The victim is the Mayor of Gotham, who was killed in his own home.
The perpetrator of the murder is long gone, but they have left a riddle at the scene of the crime. This riddle makes it clear that this murder was not an accident, nor the result of a burglary gone wrong, this was a carefully planned and meticulously orchestrated death.
As Batman investigates the crime, he soon finds himself on a trail that leads to the Iceberg Lounge – a seedy nightspot run by Oswald ‘Ozzy’ Cobblepot, better known to the criminal underworld as the Penguin. But it’s not just the Penguin that Batman crosses paths with, as he also meets club worker and part-time cat burglar Selina Kyle.
With both potentially linked to the crime in some way, Batman keeps tabs on the pair, but as the days pass more murders take place, with each being conducted by a masked killer calling himself the Riddler. Can Batman get to the bottom of this case and stop the problematic puzzler from killing again, or will his investigation get side-lined by the sheer scale of what is shaping up to be more than a string of murders?
At the top of this review I said you don’t need to worry about being up-to-date with the previous Batman movies. The reason for this is because this film is a new jumping on point for audiences.
But usually when there is a new jumping on point, it means having to sit through an endless set-up, lots of backstory, and a long-winded origin tale for the lead hero. Well, that’s not the case here – The Batman is a movie which gets rid of all of that, because it knows this is not required.
One of the strengths of this movie is the way in which it understands that audiences are now more than familiar with Batman and his crusade against crime. We’ve seen his origin tale told countless times before, and we know exactly what he does, and how he operates.
By taking this approach, the film is able to drop straight into the action. There’s no requirement for endless exposition, which tells us what we already know, there’s just Batman, working a case, in an already established world.
In essence, this film provides us with just enough familiarity to get us on board, but it is more concerned with creating something new. This something new is a step away from the more action-orientated approach of previous Bat-films, and a move toward a detective story.
The Batman is a piece of noir. It is a pulpy, hard-boiled, slow-burning thriller, which is somewhat different to the super hero stories of the past.
This movie is essentially a graphic novel set to film. It is one of those really engrossing comic book stories, where Batman has to solve a sprawling case over multiple chapters, all shot in the style of Seven (1995), by way of Blade Runner (1982).
It is not a film that everyone will love, but I expect the majority will fall for its charms. I certainly did, and I don’t mind telling you that it had me hooked from the opening few minutes and kept me captivated for almost the entirety of its three-hour runtime.
I say ‘almost the entirety’ because I do feel the film starts to lose a bit of momentum toward the end. In fact, my only real criticism of this film is that for me, it is a touch too long and this does become evident as it heads toward the conclusion.
In terms of the setting, director Matt Reeves nails it. His Gotham is a gritty, grubby, terrible place to live, which makes it ripe for a hero such as Batman.
I have no idea if The Batman will get a sequel, but if it does (and I’m confident it will), I can’t wait to return to this version of Gotham. I want to see more from this corrupt hell-pit, which is both grim and yet oh-so appealing.
With regard to the cast, I certainly want to see more from them too, because every single actor in this movie is great. And I mean everyone.
Robert Pattinson is excellent as Bruce Wayne/Batman, bringing a moody determination to the role. He’s not my favourite Batman from the pantheon of Bat-actors, but he certainly fits this movie well, seeing off any doubters and naysayers in the process.
Likewise, Zoë Kravitz is superb as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Jeffrey Wright provides a solid turn as James Gordon, and Paul Dano is suitably creepy as the Riddler. I would have liked to see more from Dano in this movie, but what he brings to the screen works well, and is a million miles away from the Jim Carrey take on the character that we saw in Batman Forever.
And then there is Colin Farrell as the Penguin who is practically unrecognisable as the scheming mobster. For this role, Farrell is decked out in a few prosthetics, but they are only used to enhance his performance – he lives and breathes this part, truly making it his own.
In fact, one of the best compliments I can give The Batman is that while all of the major villains have been brought to the big screen before, none of them feel like a rehash. Every actor is given the opportunity to do something different and new, and they all run with it – especially Farrell.
Now all of the above is high praise from me, and all of it is well deserved, but I want to take a moment to chuck a bit of appreciation at the feet of composer Michael Giacchino, who gets the unenviable task of providing the music for this film. Following in the footsteps of Danny Elfman, Elliot Goldenthal, and Hans Zimmer, who have all provided memorable Bat-themes, Giacchino had his work cut out for him, and yet for this film he has managed to create an amazing score.
The main theme is strong and relentless, suitably matching the central character of the film. Not only does it help shape the tone and feel of Batman and his world, it also becomes a character in its own right.
It all feels so effortlessly done, yet it is clear that Giacchino knows exactly what he’s doing. This takes skill and an attention to detail, so credit where credit is due.
The music is fantastic, but then, so is everything else. I really can’t say enough good things about The Batman – it is a superb movie, and one which I got lost in.
As a Batman/comic book fan, it is clear to me that Matt Reeves understands the character and knows how to put him on screen. In terms of its comic book origins, The Batman takes influences from various sources, including the classic tale, The Long Halloween, but it isn’t just one adaptation that is informing this picture, it is various stories and iterations.
Reeves has looked at decades’ worth of the Dark Knight and has picked out what he feels works best to meet the requirements of a modern audience. This is good stuff!
As I mentioned above, I don’t think everyone will like this movie as much as I did and I expect some will find it a little too dour for their tastes. It also should be stated that this isn’t a family film or a picture for the younger Bat-fans of the household – this is adult-orientated stuff, which works best for those who want to delve deep into Gotham and its dark crevices.
But for those who want to see a detective story, those who liked the Christopher Nolan-era of Batman movies but wanted them a little darker, or those who simply adore gritty films, this is a picture for you. Watching The Batman is three hours well spent.