Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” isn’t a superhero film. Not likely. All the trimmings are there: the Batmobile, the rugged go well with, the devices courtesy of trusty butler Alfred. And naturally, on the middle, is the Caped Crusader himself: brooding, tormented, in search of his personal model of nighttime justice in a Gotham Metropolis that’s spiraling into squalor and decay.
However in Reeves’ assured fingers, all the things is breathtakingly alive and new. As director and co-writer, he’s taken what would possibly seem to be a well-recognized story and made it epic, even operatic. His “Batman” is extra akin to a gritty, ‘70s crime drama than a hovering and transporting blockbuster. With its kinetic, unpredictable motion, it calls to thoughts movies like “The Warriors” in addition to one of many best of all of them within the style, “The French Connection.” And with a collection of high-profile murders driving the plot, it typically feels as if the Zodiac killer is terrorizing the residents of Gotham.
And but, regardless of these touchstones, that is unmistakably a Matt Reeves movie. He accomplishes right here what he did along with his gripping entries within the “Planet of the Apes” franchise: created an electrifying, entertaining spectacle, however one which’s grounded in actual, emotional stakes. It is a Batman film that’s conscious of its personal place inside popular culture, however not in winking, meta vogue; somewhat, it acknowledges the comedian ebook character’s lore, solely to look at it and reinvent it in a means that’s each substantial and daring. The script from Reeves and Peter Craig forces this hero to query his historical past in addition to confront his function, and in doing so, creates an opening for us as viewers to problem the narratives we cling to in our personal lives.
And with Robert Pattinson taking up the function of Bruce Wayne, we’ve got an actor who’s not simply ready however hungry to discover this determine’s bizarre, darkish instincts. This isn’t the dashing inheritor to a fortune prowling about, kicking ass in a cool costume. That is Travis Bickle within the Batsuit, indifferent and disillusioned. He’s two years into his tenure as Batman, monitoring criminals from on excessive in Wayne Tower—an impressed change from the same old sprawl of Wayne Manor, suggesting a fair higher isolation from society. “They assume I’m hiding within the shadows,” he intones in an opening voiceover. “However I’m the shadows.” Within the harsh mild of day, Pattinson offers us hungover indie rock star vibes. However at night time, you may see the frenzy he will get from swooping in and executing his model of vengeance, even beneath the tactical gear and eye black.
As he’s proven in just about each function he is taken since “Twilight” made him a worldwide famous person in 2008, working with singular auteurs from David Cronenberg to Claire Denis to the Safdie brothers, Pattinson is at his finest when he’s enjoying characters who make you uncomfortable. Much more than Christian Bale within the function, Pattinson is so expert at making his lovely, angular options appear unsettling. So when he first spies on the impossibly horny Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle, slinking into her leather-based bike gear and shimmying down the fireplace escape in her personal pursuit of nocturnal justice, there’s an unmistakable flicker of a cost in his eyes: Ooh. She’s a freak like me.
Pattinson and Kravitz have insane chemistry with one another. She is his match, bodily and emotionally, each step of the way in which. That is no flirty, purring Catwoman: She’s a fighter and a survivor with a loyal coronary heart and a powerful sense of what’s proper. Following her lead function in Steven Soderbergh’s high-tech thriller “Kimi,” Kravitz continues to disclose a fierce charisma and quiet energy.
She’s a part of a assassin’s row of supporting performers, all of whom get meaty roles to play. Jeffrey Wright is the uncommon voice of idealism and decency because the eventual Commissioner Gordon. John Turturro is low-key chilling as crime boss Carmine Falcone. Andy Serkis—Caesar in Reeves’ “Apes” films—brings a paternal knowledge and heat as Alfred. Colin Farrell is totally unrecognizable because the sleazy, villainous Oswald Cobblepot, higher often known as The Penguin. And Paul Dano is flat-out terrifying as The Riddler, whose personal drive for vengeance offers the story’s backbone. He goes to extremes right here in a means that’s paying homage to his startling work in “There Will Be Blood.” His derangement is so intense, it’s possible you’ll end up unexpectedly laughing simply to interrupt the stress he creates. However there’s nothing amusing about his portrayal; Dano makes you are feeling as in the event you’re watching a person who’s actually, deeply disturbed.
This isn’t to say that “The Batman” is a downer; removed from it. Regardless of the overlong operating time of almost three hours, this can be a movie that’s constantly viscerally gripping. The best Batmobile but—a muscular automobile that’s straight out of “Mad Max: Fury Street”—figures prominently in one of many film’s most heart-pounding sequences. It’s an elaborate automotive chase and chain-reaction crash ending with an upside-down shot of fiery fury that actually had me applauding throughout my screening. Throughout a battle at a thumping night time membership, punctuated by pulsating crimson lights, you may really feel each punch and kick. (That’s one of many extra compelling parts of seeing this superhero in his early days: He isn’t invincible.) And a shootout in a pitch-black hallway, illuminated solely by the blasts of shotgun hearth, is each harrowing and dazzling. Vastly magnifying the facility of scenes like these is the rating from veteran composer Michael Giacchino. Finest recognized for his Pixar film music, he does one thing completely totally different with “The Batman”: percussive and horn-heavy, it’s huge and demanding, and you’ll really feel it deep in your core.
Working with artists and craftspeople working on the high of their recreation, Reeves has made a film that manages to be ethereal but weighty on the identical time, substantial but impressionistic. Cinematographer Greig Fraser pulls off the identical kind of beautiful magic trick he did along with his Oscar-nominated work in Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune”: By means of pouring rain and neon lights, there’s each a gauziness and a heft to his imagery. His use of shadow and silhouette is masterful, and does a lot to convey a way of foreboding and stress. I may write a whole, separate essay on the movie’s many makes use of of the colour crimson to counsel vitality, hazard, even hope. And the costume design from the good Jacqueline Durran—with Dave Crossman and Glyn Dillon designing Pattinson’s rough-and-tumble Batsuit—put simply the fitting final touch on the movie’s cool, edgy vibe.
That is probably the most lovely Batman film you’ve ever seen—even when it’s not likely a Batman film in any respect.