Where to begin a Batman review, are there any opportunities for a new take or is the rich seam of Batman back history mined out?
Wearing Batman’s cowl is Robert Pattinson, initially a surprise choice, joined by his loyal butler “Alfred”, now played by Andy Serkis.
Skipping the usual and played out origin story, this tale goes darker, bleaker even than the Christopher Nolan trilogy. Pattison plays a Goth or Emo type character, monosyllabic for most of the film, relying on his physical presence rather than extensive dialogue.
Gotham is as usual portrayed as a dark, dystopian, corrupt yet unfortunately all to relatable city, populated by self serving politicians, lying and lining their pockets at every turn.
However, stalking those characters is a serial killer known only as “The Riddler” (Paul Dano). No gurning character in green leotard with question marks, this is a serious psychopath. Killing in gruesome ways, albeit largely off screen and seemingly enjoying the hunt.
Whilst not rehashing the origin story yet again, the film toys with the Batman canon later in the film, as Bruce Wayne’s father is held up to scrutiny in a way not seen in previous films.
Gotham is also home to larger than life criminal characters, such as “The Penguin” (Colin Farrell), all but unrecognisable under impressive prosthetics. We get to see more of John Turturro as “Carmine Falcon”, on bad guy duties as the mobs mobster.
The central conceit of Bruce Wayne being unrecognisable as Batman, remains largely in place, although, later dialogue suggests even this sacred cow may be in doubt. The film also teases a well known character from the infamous Arkham asylum.
Pattison is hugely impressive in the role, with the look, feel and overall tone of the film pitched perfectly by director Matt Reeves. Iconic shots abound, a corridor fight lit only by muzzle flares and notably a bravado car chase ending in a upside down shot of an approaching Batman, creating a million meme’s.
Later in the piece “Cat Woman” is introduced (Zoë Kravitz), which adds to the story in a different way from previously shown. Reliable as ever Jeffrey Wright takes over the role of Lt Gordon previously carried by Gary Oldman and does a fine job.
Separate mention to Dano who is an interesting actor and creates quiet menace, before unleashing outright lunacy towards the concluding reel, with an impressive monologue.
At nearly three hours, judicious trimming might have been beneficial to prevent a sense of multiple endings. However, given serious missteps in the Ben Affleck era, it’s good to see the Batman mythology back on track.
Ironically, the film transcends it’s comic book origins and on occasion holds a mirror to real life modern political dynamics. We should not need a caped fictional crusader to do so, but we will take what we can get in these morally ambiguous times.
Despite originally a comic book superhero, these stories represent real grown up cinema. Both Nolan’s trilogy and this new take, providing the template of how these movies should be made.
Quickly dismissing any early casting misgivings, this is a hugely impressive entry and will no doubt lead to further films.