The Batman

The Batman – The world’s greatest detective returns in one of the decade’s best films

The Batman arrives in theatres nationwide Friday 4th March.


After five years, Matt Reeves’ take on the iconic DC detective is here with The Batman. Possibly the most anticipated interpretation since Christopher Nolan’s lauded trilogy, partly due to Robert Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz as The Bat and The Cat, backed by a stellar cast of Paul Dano and Colin Farrell as some of Gotham’s most malevolent menaces, The Penguin and The Riddler. Reeves promised a considerably different take from Nolan’s that returned to the roots of not only Batman but the city he watches over – gothic, gruelling and grim. So, has he delivered on that promise? 

Reeves cherry-picks from several comic runs, including Zero Year and Year One, introducing us to the caped crusader on his second year in Gotham. His presence is fearfully felt throughout every criminal in Gotham, as shadowed doorways and silent alleyways strike fear in the hearts of petty thieves and hoodlums once the Bat-signal lights the sky. Reeves masterfully captures his chilling agitation as a tool in his holster to manipulate Gotham, a trait that echoes the Arkham games. He doesn’t feel like a superhero, but a monster in the night, lurking and waiting in the shadows like a predator stalking its prey. It doesn’t just put fear into Gotham’s underbelly but equally makes your heart begin to race as Greig Fraser’s camera rests on an infinitely-black corridor, wondering if he’s just beyond your sight. 


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This is a Gotham you haven’t seen before. Its sprawling, seedy urban decay creates an ever-constant hostility, like the unforgiving streets of 1970s New York. You must always keep moving in Reeves’ Gotham, lest it devours you whole. It is a rotting corpse of a city embalmed by the corruption that runs rampant through its veins like a ventriloquist’s doll. This gothic metropolis is the blood of the film, as shadows hang tall over the streets and the rain never stops, neon signage and faulty electrics emitting the small glimmer of beauty in this punky landscape of a city.

Much of The Batman takes place at night, allowing Fraser to play with deep, rich contrasts to fracture further Gotham between the salvation of faint light and the ever-growing infection of darkness that Bruce fights to keep from overrunning the city. By amalgamating Liverpool, Glasgow, London and Chicago into their composite, Gotham’s corruption and widespread immorality feel both sleekly modern and frightfully ancient. Here its stained marble and powerfully tall columns support the villainy of Gotham’s corrupt elite. 


(L-R) ZOË KRAVITZ as Selina Kyle and ROBERT PATTINSON as Batman and in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure “THE BATMAN,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne is unlike any you’ve ever seen before – he’s grungy and existentially broody, struck with a death wish through his addiction to his night-time vigilantism, as his fight to save Gotham threatens to consume not only his soul but his mind and body too. He’s become elusively shut-in, making his few appearances in civilization remarkably noteworthy. Pattinson’s interpretation of Wayne and Batman extracts the fractured psyche through his childhood trauma, placing the impetus for ‘The Gotham Project’ as he labels his vigilantism in notebooks. Here he acts not in the pursuit of Gotham’s salvation but the pent-up release of pure aggression. What Pattinson makes thoroughly clear is this is not the Batman you know – not yet.  

One of the clearest inspirations for The Batman is The Long Halloween, as Reeves’ take masterfully encapsulates the World’s Greatest Detective moniker back into the hero, through the city-wide mystery instigated through Paul Dano’s murderous Riddler. Dano’s Riddler is a blood-curling take on the character, a clear fusion of the Zodiac Killer through his green-twinged costume. He is an unsettling creature of the night, surprisingly similar to the criminal perceptions of Wayne’s Batman. Riddler’s ambitions align with Ted Kaczynski’s Unabomber and Saw’s Jigsaw as he creates brutally macabre traps to play out his twisted riddles and puzzles with. 


ROBERT PATTINSON as Batman in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure “THE BATMAN,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

A head encased in a cage, with tubes leading starving rats to their temples, is only one of the horrifying surprises that Riddler has in store. Fraser corrodes The Batman even further as we witness Riddler’s grand designs through many different lenses. Here low-quality CCTV cameras and grainy, choppy videos taken by Riddler feel as though you’ve stumbled across some kind of horrific snuff film on the dark web. There’s a constant cat-and-mouse game at the heart of Riddler and Batman’s relationship, as Bruce is forced to play along to decode Riddler’s plan before he can fully execute it. 

Dano’s Riddler is one of the greatest adaptations of a comic-book villain in a long, long time. Here Reeves places Batman and Riddler as two sides of the same coin, both attempting to oust corruption from their beloved city through their tools of fear and focused violence. It calls into question the validity of Bruce’s actions during his second year and how ferociously brutal some of his methods can be. Dano’s performance as the Machiavellian Prince of Puzzles is psychotically unhinged, with unpredictable screams and grunts in the middle of highly tense speeches or unexpected bouts of gut-busting laughter that cut through you like a sharp knife. What’s so blood-curdling about this Riddler is that he is calculatedly unpredictable – a walking paradox. Somehow the man with a constant plan feels as though he could completely delineate from it at any moment. 


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It seems that Reeves has taken inspiration from the last five years of American politics, folding them into the world of The Batman in his own way. For example, Dano’s Riddler ensnares a host of white, outcasted men into his web of conspiracy eerily similar to the alt-right political icons we’ve seen come to power over the last few years. Building themselves an army of self-appointed incels, alpha males and politicized outcasts through a rhetoric of hatred and ‘revolutionary change.’ Riddler is a terrifying reflection of what an alt-right figure could achieve with the right level of intelligence and know-how. 

Despite the distinct dehumanization of Riddler during his city-wide games, there’s a moment where he becomes uncomfortably human, thanking his followers through a video shared on a dark web server with a genuine heartfelt warmth that completely contradicts everything we’ve seen of him until now – it feels all too similar to figures we still have today. It’s a sobering reminder that Riddler is more than just a villain; to him, he is Gotham’s needed revolutionary, ripping up the roots of corruption that have infected the city – just like a similar caped crusader. 


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The Batman does the impossible: it surpasses the epic magnitude of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and is, simply put, the best Batman to have ever reached the screen. It is magnificently spectacular in its medieval metropolis, delving into the jet-black darkness of Batman’s world in a way that harks back to the bleak landscape of David Fincher’s Seven. Craig Fraser’s visual encapsulation of Gotham is award-worthy as its rich cinematics recall the broody detective noirs of the 1950s and the repugnant decaying thrillers of the 90s and 00s.

Pattinson’s Batman brings the character to life like no other has, delivering a masterful dissection of Bruce Wayne and exhibiting the darkness inherent in what it means to be Batman. Matt Reeves has crafted an extraordinarily dazzling thriller that keeps your mind and heart pounding. The Batman is the world’s greatest detective story and will go down as one of the decade’s best films.

  • STAR RATING
5

Summary

Pattinson’s Batman brings the character to life like no other has, delivering a masterful dissection of Bruce Wayne and exhibiting the darkness inherent in what it means to be Batman. Matt Reeves has crafted an extraordinarily dazzling thriller that keeps your mind and heart pounding.