A Very Dark Knight – The Batman review

Good afternoon, dear readers! Apologies for some recent radio silence: February was a month full of birthdays, my own included, and in March I finally caught the dreaded Covid which laid me out just when this review was due! So, without further ado, here’s my review of The Batman. Enjoy!

As an on-screen character, Batman has been through a lot of changes. From the comic campness of the Adam West show, to Burton and then Nolan’s films, right up to the guns blazing, growling “Do you bleed?” of Ben Affleck’s version, we’ve seen a fair few different versions over the years. Ahead of Affleck’s alleged final portrayal of the character in upcoming movie The Flash (2022) comes a long-awaited solo outing for the caped crusader, directed by Matt Reeves. 

The film follows a relatively new Batman (Robert Pattinson) as, two years into his career as the Dark Knight, he comes up against the mysterious Riddler (Paul Dano). Batman and semi-ally Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz) work with Detective Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) to try and catch up with Riddler’s escalating plans before Gotham, and all of Batman’s work, becomes compromised.

Every actor in the film gives a solid performance. Pattinson, a bit like Affleck before him, doesn’t get the chance to show how he’d play all sides of the character – socialite Bruce Wayne, the real Bruce Wayne, and Batman intentionally bleed into the same person, with the latter being the focus. Pattinson does a good job of bringing a moody edge to his reclusive Wayne, and his body language is sufficiently intimidating as Batman. It’s not quite a career best, in part due to the nature of the incredibly dialled-back performance when compared to his recent movies such as The Lighthouse (2019). Zoe Kravitz does a good job as a sultry, if slightly “noir dame” stereotype Catwoman, and I loved (an unrecognisable) Colin Farrell’s larger-than-life performance as Penguin. Paul Dano’s performance as Riddler is slightly stunted by most of his scenes taking place over video calls. Jeffrey Wright is a great Jim Gordon, getting just enough screentime to show his performance off; the same can’t be said of Andy Serkis, who is good enough as Alfred but feels wasted in the busy film.

The atmosphere of this film is great, with Gotham being portrayed as a grim, dirty and dilapidated city straight out of any noir classic. The movie is set almost exclusively at night, with the odd sunrise/ sunset/ rainy day adding to the dourness. The cinematography keeps you on your toes, throwing plenty of interesting shots your way and trying to stay as low to the ground as possible rather than use the overhead sweeping shots that many superhero films opt for. Patterson’s Batman stomping heavily out of the shadows always looks and sounds great, making you believe the fear of whichever criminal he’s approaching. This is beautifully accented by Michael Giacchino’s score, which has more of a slow and relentless horror-like feel to it.

Some of the key creative choices, such as the portrayals of Gotham and Batman, are the most interesting parts of the film. Here, Batman seems a lot less rich and military surplus than previous adaptions: The suit, the Batmobile and the gadgets have a more homebrew feel about them, and he takes nearly as many punches as he manages to dish out. Batman feels the most like a shadow-shrouded terror that he has for a long time, and in general this is one of the least super feeling takes on the character.

For me, the weakest element of this film was unfortunately the plot. For the most part, it’s good – a slow burn detective story as Batman and Jim Gordon try to keep up with or get ahead of the unfolding mystery behind the Riddler and his plans. However, there’s a lot going on plot wise, and the movie often feels like so crowded that perhaps it should have been two films. The pacing needs tightening up, and a few times the film felt like it was about to end but then soldiered on. Certain elements, like the exploration of the relationship between Bruce and Alfred, feel present only because there were certain boxes to tick. The endgame of Dano’s Riddler seemed a bit at odds with his modus operandi from the rest of the film, his masterstroke being a very generic “set bombs off, cause a disaster” plan which I felt lacked foreshadowing.

Overall, I would call the film interesting but flawed. There’s certainly enough solid ground for further exploration of this take on the character; perhaps with a less bloated story that gives characters more room to breathe and doesn’t drag its feet in a few places. With the strong performances, fantastic atmosphere and some interesting plot elements, The Batman does a good job while not quite being dazzling overall.

Thanks for reading! Content will unfortunately be coming every two months for the foreseeable future, but I will endeavour to post more if I can. On top of life getting busy, I’ve started full-time employment too: Great for the mind and bank balance, terrible for the writing schedule! If you’ve seen The Batman, let me know what you thought of it – or of my review – in the comments below. And don’t forget, if you fancy chucking me a few quid to support my writing, I have a Ko-Fi account which can be found here. Until next time dear readers, take care!

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