Director: Matt Reeves
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Jayme Lawson, Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell
Runtime: 2 hrs 56 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence and Drug References)
Released By: Warner Bros
Opening Day: 3 March 2022
Synopsis: Two years of stalking the streets as the Batman (Robert Pattinson), striking fear into the hearts of criminals, has led Bruce Wayne deep into the shadows of Gotham City. With only a few trusted allies—Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis), Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright)—amongst the city’s corrupt network of officials and high-profile figures, the lone vigilante has established himself as the sole embodiment of vengeance amongst his fellow citizens.
How do you reinvent Batman after Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy? To Matt Reeves, the answer is to return to the character’s reputation in the comics as the ‘world’s greatest detective’. And indeed, over the course of a preternaturally gripping three hours, ‘The Batman’ sees our titular caped crusader play detective as a serial killer terrorises Gotham City by murdering some of its most prominent officials, including its mayor, police commissioner and district attorney.
The opening scene both sets the tone and comes as fair warning for what is to come – whilst this is rated PG-13, the murders are brutal and shocking. The mayor is pummelled to death with an unidentified, clawlike object, with his thumb cut off while still alive as one of the twisted puzzles that the killer intends for Batman. That Batman is involved in the investigation is no coincidence, given how the killer had left a card at the scene addressed “To the Batman”, along with elaborate cyphers that reveal his motive as well as his seething rage.
Only in his second year of donning the cape, Batman (Robert Pattinson) remains yet oblivious to the extent of corruption within Gotham’s elites, not least because his family (we’re talking about the Wayne family) is among them. The trail of clues deliberately left in the wake of the mayor’s murder will lead Batman to discover how, despite his family image, he had been a regular patron of a sleazy rich boys’ club whose proprietor is Oswald Cobblepot, otherwise known as The Penguin (Colin Farrell).
Not surprisingly, the ensuing murders will further tear open the conspiracy among the Gotham City government and its seedy underbelly. In particular, the latter is masterminded by the suave, menacing mob boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), who in one of the few scenes that Bruce Wayne appears as his own self, is reminded by Falcone himself that there is history between them. Suffice to say that the later events will lead to some personal revelations that, as the trailer hinted, even the faithful Alfred (Andy Serkis) had kept hidden from him.
Reeves, who co-wrote the movie with ‘The Town’s’ scribe Peter Craig, plots a sprawling and twisty noir detective story that had us gripped to our seats for the entire duration. There is not a boring or wasted moment here; every single scene and minute has its purpose either towards the larger plot or to shed light on the choices and motivations of the characters within – and besides those already mentioned above, the notable others include Selina Kyle aka Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz), whose paths, agendas and feelings will cross with that of Batman, and Lt James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), Batman’s ally in the police department.
Only in the last third does Reeves nudge the confrontation between Batman and the Riddler (Paul Dano) – on one hand, Bruce’s family legacy finds him unwittingly being targeted to repay “the sins of the father”; on the other, the Riddler more explicitly proclaims Batman not his nemesis but his partner, executing what the bespectacled terrorist could not do without the suit, gadgets or muscle. The one-on-one between them is a genuinely thrilling standout scene that will send chills down your spine, not least because of Dano’s demented embodiment of the villain.
Knowing better than to try to top Nolan’s command over spectacular set-pieces, Reeves eschews such blockbuster tendencies, save for a pulsating Batmobile sequence; instead, ‘The Batman’ unfolds as part-procedural, part-mob drama, and part-superhero action. Even so, Reeves sustains a tense and enthralling mood throughout, carefully balancing between gritty realism and heightened pulp. That it remains compelling and atmospheric throughout is also credit to the ace low-light photography by Grieg Fraser, the vivid production design by James Chinlund, and a pitch-perfect score by Michael Giacchino (easily one of his very best).
We liked how ‘The Batman’ is an origin story without explicitly being one, with our titular hero examining the very nature of his existence and mission without having to start right from the beginning. We liked how ‘The Batman’ is structured like an intricate puzzle, taking its time to methodically and meticulously stitch together its parts into a labyrinth but marvellous whole. And most of all, we loved how ‘The Batman’ is grim and dark but yet different from the classic Nolan trilogy. We dare say this is a Batman you’ve never seen before, and one definitely worth seeing on the big screen – in fact, we’d even go as far to say this will be one of the very best movies of the year.
(Part-procedural, part-mob drama, and part-superhero action, 'The Batman' is brilliant, compelling and tense from start to finish)
Review by Gabriel Chong