THE BATMAN (2022)
The Batman finds a Gotham City overflowing with trash, crime and corruption. Mob bosses and corrupt city officials rule the city, and a lone vigilante dressed like a bat (Robert Pattinson) tries almost in vain to fight the tide of lawlessness. Enter into the scenario a deranged serial killer called The Riddler (Paul Dano) who is exposing and sadistically killing these corrupt officials and a beautiful cat burglar (Zoe Kravitz) with a vendetta of her own, and The Batman/Bruce Wayne finds himself in a maelstrom of conspiracy, murder and sins of the past!
Newest incarnation of the classic character is well directed by Matt Reeves from a script by he and Peter Craig. It is the darkest and most brooding version yet, with scenes bordering on a horror movie, even opening on Halloween night, as the Jigsaw-esque Riddler claims his first victim and we are introduced to Pattinson’s Dark Knight battling a face-painted street gang. The film has plenty of spectacular action, including a thrilling car chase with Batman pursuing Colin Farrell’s Penguin on a busy highway, and some brutal fight scenes. The film also delves heavily into Batman’s detective work, as Riddler leaves clues for him to solve, and Batman/Bruce Wayne finds he himself is involved in conspiracies from the past. There is a touch of romance with Zoe Kravitz’s beautiful and mysterious Selina Kyle, but otherwise this is three hours of violent action and moody intrigue. That is also the drawback in this otherwise delightfully dark tale. At a 2:56 runtime, the film is overlong, and some parts do drag. It is also a humorless and sullen film which doesn’t help one endure the extensive runtime. Some might find it’s predominately bleak tone exhausting. As for those planning to take the kids, it may be too dark and violent, pushing the limits of its PG-13 rating. Kids will definitely be restless at three hours in length. Overall, it is an intense and bleak film, though the end does manage a glimmer of hope for embattled Gotham and its bat-winged guardian. On a production level it is an epic film with its own look, feel and atmosphere with great production design by James Chinlund. There is also a perfectly moody score by Michael Giacchino and sumptuous dark, gritty and shadow-filled cinematography by Greig Fraser.
There is a wonderful and eclectic cast. Pattinson is the darkest Dark Knight yet, with a young, brooding emo Bruce Wayne and an even darker and violent hero than we’ve seen on screen. He is very good as both, though the film does focus more on Batman than the reclusive Master Wayne. This Batman has some anger issues and the Riddler is pushing him to his limits. Zoe Kravitz is purr-fectly cast as Catwoman/Selina Kyle. She has her own reasons to brood, and she is sexy and mysterious, and she and Pattinson make a good team in both gothic romance and action sequences. Paul Dano is very creepy as The Riddler. He is quite different than any version, being more Saw inspired than Frank Gorshin. A couple of times he goes a bit too over the top but is mostly low-key spooky and has a chilling sadistic streak. In support we have Jeffrey Wright making a great James Gordon, Colin Farrell as a sleazy and effective Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot, John Turturro as gangster Carmine Falcone and Andy Serkis is endearing as a feisty Alfred. A great cast in a very dark and intense spin on a classic character.
In conclusion, this was a delightfully adult version of Bob Kane’s classic character making him more dark, brooding and violent than we have seen him before. The portrayal of Gotham is bleak with even Batman bordering on hopelessness at cleaning it up. It skates close to horror with its serial killer-like villain and has only the briefest moments of romance to break up all the darkness. Only thing that holds it back is a mammoth three-hour runtime that drags in a few spots, and as it is humorless and bleak most of the time, it can be a very gloomy sit for some. Once again DC Films is refreshingly pushing the boundaries of its characters.
Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) bat signals!