When DC dropped its first look for ‘The Batman’ by Matt Reeves starring Robert Pattinson, a lot of us (including me) went ‘WTF is this emo Batman look?’. Kohl eyed Pattinson looked more like a serial killer on the loose, than the caped vigilante pursuing a cold-blooded murderer wreaking havoc in his beloved Gotham city. But I decided to watch the film anyway, because some cleverly made Marvel trailers turned into seething disappointments, so maybe a badly edited DC teaser could trump expectations?
The film starts with the villain’s gaze – a pair of binoculars zoomed into the home of Gotham’s mayor on Halloween night. The mayor’s kid is dressed as a hero, he mock-attacks his dad, then leaves for trick-or-treat rounds with the mom. Next thing we know, the mayor’s brutally murdered and a serial-killer leaves a trail of riddles for the Batman, letting the city know more heads will roll. Director Reeves jumps into conflict from the word go, ensuring the viewer’s eye is glued to the screen for every detail.
In a welcome departure from flashy entries, Robert Pattinson gets a rather humble first appearance as Batman, fighting a bunch of goons bullying a random dude at a metro station. Reeve’s depiction of Gotham City comes closer than any other adaptation in capturing the essence of a metropolis infested with drugs & an alarming crime rate. It’s dark, yes, but not the oppressive kinds that will leave you feeling bummed. Instead, you have an engrossing crime noir, filled with elements, emotions & tropes we’ve seen in previous Batman films, but with cohesive direction and smooth execution. However, one major car-chase scene felt poorly done, it resembled a first-person-shooter game, with the player in a moving vehicle, while a drone view would’ve made it more exciting to watch. In-fact, most action sequences were slightly underwhelming, and the violence too mild for the sadistic-psychotic Riddler… perhaps to keep the PG-13 rating intact.
Nevertheless, an interesting (even if familiar) tale, with a talented star-cast and an incredible music score, keeps the momentum building in ‘The Batman’. At no point of the ambitious 2 hour 55 minutes runtime does the pace wane, and Pattinson impresses as Bruce Wayne. He adds a certain vulnerability to the Billionaire character, something very few actors have been able to achieve for their superhero alter-egos. In this version of Wayne, you recognize a young boy who witnessed the double-murder of his parents and the wounds he continues to carry into his adulthood.
Zoe Kravitz makes a great Catwoman, but in the larger scheme of things, she is but a pawn, so she doesn’t get to kick much butt. She reminded me of Halle Berry, and hopefully someone will give Kravitz her own solo Catwoman gig with a decent script. Andy Serkis felt like an unusual choice for Batman’s faithful butler Alfred, but he gets minimal screen-time and delivers his lines convincingly. Paul Dano as The Riddler is low-key entertaining, an amusing villain who keeps his enemies guessing through and through, but under a mask until the very end. For the few seconds that Dano does get to take off a mask, his eyes exudes a madness befitting his evil actions. Jeffrey Wright as Batman’s cop-sidekick Lt. James Gordon just disappears into the supporting role, leaving no impression, but serving as a worthy cog in the wheel of the story.
The makers manage to make this live-action reboot give off a very contemporary comic-book vibe, without using other-worldly special effects. The cinematography is brilliant parts, the camerawork cleverly playing with shadows, giving viewers frames that can be frozen into wallpapers. One of the bigger strengths of the film is the very subtle humor infused into the script. “What are you? Bad Cop and Batshit Cop?” a villain hilariously asks when cornered by Gordon and Batman in a scene. Such witty little one-liners are peppered evenly in the movie, with the writers finding a harmonious balance between Marvel’s slapstick comedy and DC’s dark broody style.
After a great build-up, the climax felt lacking… the ending wasn’t weak, but the action scenes weren’t impressive. After all the mental trauma Pattinson’s Batman is put through, he doesn’t get to throw that one good fucking punch that’ll make you go ‘Yassss, kick some ass!’. But go watch the film if you are a fan, and maybe we will get to see a more befitting climax in a sequel.
It’s a satisfied 8/10 from me. (The film is only playing in theaters for now)
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Ep 66: 5 Things That Keep ‘All Of Us Are Dead’ Alive