The Batman is a triumphant success, made complete by fantastic performances and electrifying action writes Film Critic James Evenden
As Batman (Robert Pattinson) emerges from the shadows with booming footsteps for the first time, it is clear that The Batman will more than live up to the hype. Director Matt Reeves crafts a Batman film that feels like nothing we have seen before in live action. It feels unafraid to show Batman and Bruce Wayne for who he is, as someone who has been through trauma and is trying to come to terms with it through vigilantism. Along with a slew of fantastic performances, electrifying action, and above all expert character work, The Batman will go down as a modern classic of superhero cinema.
The Batman sees a Batman two years into his crime-fighting career face The Riddler (Paul Dano), as he targets Gotham’s elite. Matt Reeves directs The Batman with both a slow-paced fitting of its noir inspirations and a fast-paced anger in its action scenes. This works very well; we get to see Batman as a detective. These scenes showcase Reeves’ brilliant attention to detail in the staging of crime scenes and his focus on people’s reactions to Batman. The action scenes feel restrained in the best way. Reeves chooses to show just enough of Batman when fighting. He keeps him in the shadows, which makes every punch he throws hit with purpose. The action feels violent, despite it not being too violent at all.
All of this is elevated by a stellar performance from Pattinson. He is able to make so much out of little dialogue, using silent glares to portray just how much pain he is in. His physicality, coupled with how Reeves frames him, makes him as terrifying as he should be. At the same time, he can go from controlling a situation to having it feel like he is improvising as he goes. The Batman makes the smart decision to show Batman not as a slick hero, but as a man who can make mistakes when in combat. Pattinson as Bruce Wayne is given equal importance to understanding his character. He treats them as two separate entities. As Bruce, Pattinson feels like a teenager. He looks unsure of himself, which makes the audience genuinely worried that he might not make it out clean.
Pattinson is complemented by a multitude brilliant supporting performances. Standouts include a Joe Pesci-like performance for The Penguin (Colin Farrell) and a truly terrifying Riddler. Farrell uses his lack of screentime brilliantly. He goes just big enough to be believable in Reeves’ version of Gotham. His prosthetics did look more noticeable in the daylight, but given his performance, one shot is very easy to forgive. Dano embodies the Zodiac killer and brings the Ridder into the modern day. I was slightly disappointed by the lack of overall attention paid to a wonderful Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz). Her chemistry with Pattinson is palpable, and their dynamic is a highlight. I hope she is explored further, because she is not given enough to fully escape the femme fatale archetype. I also was not a fan of the choice to have Batman and Catwoman kiss. It felt out of place and was the only instance where I was taken out of the film.
The best part about The Batman is the character development of the character, Batman. He is forced to confront his demons and ask himself what he needs to be for the city of Gotham. This is not the first time he has been confronted with these questions in live action. But because this is the youngest we have seen Batman; The Batman feels equal parts coming-of-age story too. Reeves takes him in some very interesting places. For the lack of character development for Catwoman, Reeves more than makes up for it with his focus on peeling back the layers of his main character.
There are not enough words for how much I love The Batman. A near-perfect film, if not for some minor issues with the romantic dynamic between Batman and Catwoman, Matt Reeves has pulled off the impossible in finding fresh ground for one of our most recognisable cinematic figures. It will leave you satisfied and desperate to go back for a second watch.
The Batman is out now in cinemas
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