Cert – 15, Run-time – 2 hours 56 minutes, Director – Matt Reeves
A masked killer known as The Riddler (Paul Dano) begins to attack some of Gotham City’s most prominent figures, Batman (Robert Pattinson) begins to track him down through layers of unveiled corruption.
For years now it appears that people have been wondering when a live action Batman flick will take us back to the more detective-based roots of the character. Well, co-writer (alongside Peter Craig) and director Matt Reeves – off the back of the VFX heavy spectacles that were Dawn Of and War For The Planet Of The Apes – has managed to successfully conjure up a big-budget noir with a Detective Bat Man leading the investigation. His (Robert Pattinson) primary target is the highly-masked figure known as The Riddler (Paul Dano). A figure linked to the murders of a number of Gotham City’s most prominent and influential figures, particularly in the build up to the upcoming mayoral election.
This is a Batman who has already built up his tensions with the police, their antagonism towards him shown from his first appearance alongside them. As usual, it appears that only Lieutenant Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) is the only one on the side of the vigilante. They both appear to rely on each other’s brains as they try to deduce the various maps, puzzles and clues that have been left behind by an unknown figure bent on bringing down Gotham’s corrupt system in the wrong way. As more is uncovered we get a true sense of Pattinson’s Batman being a true defender of the city. The location feels detailed in terms of the places we visit and the shady characters who lurk there. On many occasions we’re thrown in to the scenario with only enough context so as to develop information alongside the titular hero – blurring the lines between himself and the somewhat little-seen billionaire Bruce Wayne, who has become something of a recluse over the last couple of years.
This is a Batman still to tackle his demons, afraid to properly confront them, and carrying that in the back of his mind as he goes about trying to locate the Riddler before he kills again. Much of the film is spent as a gradually paced investigation, already allowing for a tonal difference to more recent outings of the caped crusader. The elements combine to create something that feels rather fresh for the character, and simply brings you in for the ride. One which, thanks to the consistent tones of darkness that run throughout, never feels like the almost three hours that it actually goes on for.
Amongst everything at play there’s still time for beats of action. Plenty of heavy, swift punch-ups to truly show the power of this take on the character; not to mention an exhilarating car chase with Colin Farrell’s Penguin (Farrell seemingly having taken to some of De Niro’s classic mob roles for inspiration). There’s real violence and impact when it comes to the fights within this film, sparingly used to further add to the impact and the way in which this Batman’s mind works. He’s a mysterious figure himself, which simply helps to enhance the noir feel that lies in many scenes, alongside the visual style that certainly creates an engaging flare, trying to hide himself as much as possible – largely as Bruce Wayne – while getting on with saving the city. Pair him up with the bold and determined nature of Zoë Kravitz’s Selina Kyle, AKA Catwoman; never underplayed and matching up well to Pattinson’s central figure, and you have a fine mixture of characters who push the themes and story along with ease.
The narrative develops and flows with precision thanks to the finely edited nature of the film. Editing which you barely notice thanks to the flow which it creates and the consistent tone, meaning that your level of engagement only deepens as things unfold. It certainly feels the case that narrative has been put first, with the character’s being allowed to lead the narrative to further your connection with them and the piece. Interest and intrigue grow and develop as does the increasingly worried hunt for the Riddler; a villain who poses a true threat and sense of darkness that fits right into the world that Reeves and co have created. One which stands out from other live-action takes on Batman and Gotham City in its decision to be a punchy, slow-burn, character-led detective thriller above anything else. And much like being in a room with Batman himself, it both knocks you back and commands your attention.
An undeniably impressive achievement The Batman is a strong, character-led detective tale that commands your attention throughout its gradually paced narrative. Not forgetting equally engaging action, it flows with ease and consistency, never forgetting its streak of sinister threat and darkness.