Director Matt Reeves deserves immense credit for veering from the stereotypical tried-and-tested superhero formula – and his risky gamble pays dividends.
The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Cloverfield helmer provides a gritty detective noir take on the Caped Crusader – more comparable to the likes of Se7en and Zodiac than your average comic-book flick.
It’s dark and brutal palette takes it one level higher into the dingier side of Gotham than Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed The Dark Knight Trilogy (and from a 12A to a more cut-throat 15 certificate) – as Robert Pattinson takes over the cowl from Ben Affleck’s latest iteration of The Bat.
It’s a more grounded (and ultimately more depressing) approach that literally forgoes any humour, as Pattinson’s Batman goes full-on detective for the most part – more akin to the Batman Arkham series of games and the Dark Knight’s comic-book origins – as his tries to unravel the murders of key political figures in the city at the hands of sadistic serial killer The Riddler (The Girl Next Door’s Paul Dano), despite being in the fledgling years of his alter-ego.
Even his relationship with family butler/mentor Alfred Pennyworth (The Lord of the Rings’ star Andy Serkis) – after the death of his parents twenty years prior (but this isn’t an origin story) – is strained, his gadgets and vehicles cruder and less hi-tech, and his fighting skills mightily impressive, but far from flawless. This is a Batman that can be hurt more easily.
But with uneasy alliances to Gotham police officer James Gordon (No Time to Die’s Jeffrey Wright) and cat burglar Selina ‘Catwoman’ Kyle (Divergent’s Zoe Kravitz), he must cross paths with Gotham crime lord Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) and his chief lieutenant The Penguin (played exceptionally by a barely recognisable Colin Farrell) in the iconic Iceberg Lounge, as he investigates the city’s hidden corruption, and question his father’s involvement in the process.
It could probably do with twenty minutes shaved off the run-time – you can see where this is possible – and it’s ending is more formulaic than the tonality of the first two-thirds of the film, but this undoubtedly hits way more than it misses by a long shot.
With a gloomily brooding musical score accompanying it, Reeves and the entire cast – Pattinson, Kravitz, Dano, Wright and Farrell all deserve kudos – definitely pull off what was intended, by raising the bar for what can be achieved for taking a superhero movie ‘outside the box’.
Whether it’s enough of a departure, or better, than Nolan’s much-loved trilogy will come down to how you like your Batman served up, and will be open to much conjecture. For me, it’s an impressive ‘on par’ sideways step into a new era for Bats.
And it will be exciting to see where Reeves takes the Defender of Gotham next, with a truly vast array of Arkham Asylum degenerates at his disposal that he can throw into the playground with Pattinson for the inevitable sequel.
As it stands, this was a high-risk move that – even though maybe too profoundly dark to potentially satisfy everyone – definitely pays off.
ESP Rating: 4/5
Showcase Cinema De Lux Peterborough, Out Now
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Colin Farrell, Jeffrey Wright, Paul Dano, Andy Serkis, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Jayme Lawson & Barry Keoghan
Running Time: 2 Hrs 55 Mins
Director: Matt Reeves
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