Director Matt Reeves
Screenplay Matt Reeves, Peter Craig
Starring Robert Pattison, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell
To say Matt Reeves nailed the essence of Batman would be an understatement. In fact, anyone who’s thoroughly enjoyed the actual Detective Comics on through present day, or even the Arkham series of video games will find this take on The Dark Knight not only accurate in feeling and depth, but invigorating in the darkest way possible. This one nails it.
I will not endeavor to go deep into the story. It’s a long film (over 3 hours) and there is only a very slight lull in the last 5 minutes. There are about 1000 seeds planted for future installments, but if we only get this film, it feels like we were gifted two films for the price of one spectacular cast and crew.
Suffice to say, there are a series of murders happening in the dangerously beautiful Gotham city (filmed in London, Glasgow and Liverpool). Starting off with the mayor, then the police captain and down the line. All of the murders have clues left behind by The Riddler (Dano, in a role he was born to play) and they are all connected to an increasingly complex narrative.
Along the way, we encounter Selina Kyle (played by an outstanding Kravitz), The Penguin (an unrecognizable Farrell), Carmine Falcone (Turturro) and others. Each plays a vital role in the unfolding story, but give no clue on what is to eventually arrive into The Batman’s future.
As the titular hero, Pattison is perfectly cast. He is young, only 2 years into his project to save the city, and he calls what he does vengeance. We get glimpses of his past, but not so innocous as to replay the scene we’ve gone through in so many earlier iterations of the tale. His butler, Pennyworth, is Serkis playing a somewhat scarred but suprisingly free of makeup compared to the way we are used to seeing him. Thankfully they give him some intelligence, but they don’t make him the second coming of the caped crusader.
As Gordon, Wright continues his streak of underplaying but still fully embracing the character. His work with Batman is fresh and has a real bond of trust that is not thrown to the wind for sake of faux crisises. If they’d done that, it would have been clear they had not as much to go on. As it is, Reeves and Craig’s story is bursting at the seams.
My daughter compares the film to Zodiac. It does carry many similarities to that and Se7en, but it does not rely on any one type of film to carry the weight of seeing this vigilante in his pursuit of solving the mystery presented before him and his allies. The story pops with a freshness only hinted at by the Nolan films and not even in the same ballpark as any of the other attempts.
This Batman is still young enough to land with a thud occasionally and he is also open to new ways of thinking about his quest. While the bad guys string him along, he’s not flummoxed routinely for the sake of a surprise. The film also goes out of its way to present a brave face for Bruce Wayne. Much of the film Wayne goes without the suit, instead wandering through the city a slightly covered face in the crowd.
As for gimmicks, there is a lot more tool belt, and way less floating in the air. The things he has are practical and things that one might see in real life. Except for the contact lenses. Those are incredible. He still lives in the shadows, and Reeves along Fraiser his cinematographer from Let Me In, we get some absolute artwork when it comes to Wayne/The Batman coming in and out of the shadows.
There is something very special about this film. Were it not for Affleck bowing out, we may never have been graced with such a promising start to a new universe. Before The Batman, it was easy to believe there would never be a Gotham vigilante film to approach The Dark Knight. This one beats it, and they’re just getting started.