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The Batman

With the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT trilogy, it was difficult to conceive of anyone else tackling tales of the caped crusader. Surprisingly, audiences didn’t have to wait long to see Bruce Wayne in action once again, however, as Ben Affleck joined DC shortly thereafter to a luke-warm response. Never fully engaged (though, to be fair, the material provided didn’t come close to approaching the quality of work that Nolan had churned out) his tenure was short-lived.

After Affleck abandoned the solo BATMAN film he had been scheduled to write and direct, it was taken over by the incredibly underrated Matt Reeves. Reeves was an intriguing choice, having already delivered modern classics like CLOVERFIELD, LET ME IN, and two of the PLANET OF THE APES installments. Casting news soon followed, with Robert Pattison pegged to play Wayne and his crime-fighting alter-ego. Pattinson, obviously, is no stranger to popular franchises. Before magnificent turns in films like GOOD TIMES and THE LIGHTHOUSE, he played Cederic Diggory in HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, and perhaps even more famously, Edward Cullen in the TWILIGHT series.

Clocking in at nearly three hours, THE BATMAN doesn’t disappoint. Rooted by an unsettling sense of realism, it feels a lot less like a superhero adventure than an atmospheric noir that happens to feature guys in costumes. While it seems impossible to imagine a BATMAN villain ever approaching the revolutionary turn by Heath Ledger as The Joker in THE DARK KNIGHT, Paul Dano’s Riddler is uniquely disturbing and captivating.

As has been the case from the character’s inception, Bruce Wayne is a billionaire by day and a vigilante by night. He works alongside of Detective James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) to not only fight crime, but to instill fear in those who dabble in debauchery. Emerging from the shadows to pound bad guys into submission, his fury is fueled by the brutal murder of his parents. Like Travis Bickle, he longs to clean up the streets and provide citizens with the protection that they can’t seem to provide for themselves.

When the maniacal Riddler kicks off a killing spree and broadcasts his crimes to the world, both the police and Batman frantically search for the man behind the mask. As high-level bureaucrats are dispatched in particularly brutal ways (think SAW for the PG-13 crowd) it becomes painfully apparent that Riddler has an agenda, and will stop at nothing to see his plan through to fruition. The only problem is, no one can figure out exactly what the master plan is, or how many bodies will pile up along the way.

There are numerous classic BATMAN characters who play prominent roles in this profoundly dark tale. As always, Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis) shows an unwavering loyalty and familial-like love for the tortured billionaire. Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman-Zoe Kravitz) is not yet a villain, and the duo forge a personal and professional relationship as they work in conjunction to uncover the truth behind the vast conspiracy that is threatening the entire city. Oswald Cobblepot (an utterly unrecognizable Colin Farrell) also known as Penguin, has his hands in all aspects of crime within the city. At this point he is merely a gangster who can at least give the false impression that he is on the straight and narrow, and has yet to make the leap to top-notch supervillain.

Despite its daunting run time, THE BATMAN never lags. Gotham is not a cheery place, Bruce Wayne is not a happy dude, and all aspects of every storyline is drenched in despair. Sounds like a great time at the movies, huh? Oddly enough, it certainly is. Each performer fully embraces their role, as if they understand how important their characters are to the fans. There was no attempt to tie THE BATMAN into the DC Universe, which I think was a masterful stroke that allowed this story to be told without the specter of Aquaman springing out of the sewers or Superman dropping from the sky. Reeves has crafted a film that stands on its own and doesn’t need to mold itself to follow an ever-expanding story arc that ties it to multiple other franchises.


RUN TIME: 2h 56min
GENRE: Action, Crime, Drama
STARRING: Robert Pattison, Zoë Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright
DIRECTORS: Matt Reeves
WRITERS: Matt Reeves, Peter Craig, Bill Finger

Brian Miller