There’s no comic-book character with quite the power and legacy of Batman, still going strong 80-odd years later. Many people of a similar age would love to have his vitality, we’re sure. May 1939 was the debut of Bruce Wayne in Detective Comics #27 and ever since he’s become the most iconic man and hero in the world of superheroes and shows no signs of slowing down, especially now as he has been re-energised and re-vamped by director Matt Reeves and his interpretation of the character is unlike anything that has gone before, films especially. But do we need another go-around? Does old Batsy need a long-overdue cinematic bit of respite? If this one’s anything to go by, he’s not gonna have a metaphorical day off anytime soon, and for very good reason.
Bleeding his love of Batman onto the screen, Reeves has managed to revolutionise the character in immensely new, unique ways on screen while still maintaining everything we know and love about the characters. Everything feels fresh, exciting, and challenging despite the obvious derivative nature of retreading ground that many have exhausted over the last three decades or more on the big screen since Tim Burton’s first trip to Gotham City in 1989. It must have felt like a herculean task for Reeves and co-writer Peter Craig to take on, having to find a pathway through the endless versions that already exist across all the various films, television series, animations, and comic books that have existed. Indeed, this was even more challenging for them given that Ben Affleck’s version of the character is still so fresh in people’s minds (Reeves took over from Affleck after his solo outing was aborted) but the path cleared and they found their angle: going back to the source, namely that of DC Comics and punctuating the mythology with a serial killer angle and showcasing the greatest detective in his element.
Echoes of Seven, Blade Runner, Taxi Driver, and Serpico permeate through the whole film, from its constant rainy nights as the disenfranchised citizens of Gotham try to stand up to corruption by defacing government buildings, to the events that transpire once Paul Dano’s dazzling yet terrifying new Riddler comes to play in the city. For most of the film, much like John Doe in David Fincher’s masterpiece, we don’t see what lies beneath his green guise that’s a million miles away from those adorned by Jim Carrey and Frank Gorshin, but such disguises and secrecy makes him even deadlier.
Shot by Greig Fraser, fresh from his extraordinary work on Dune and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, he and Reeves’ piercing, intoxicating world is unlike anything we’ve seen The Dark Knight navigate before. Indeed, punctured by Pattinson’s superb turn as the “emo” Batman (it’s much more than that) as well as those of Zoe Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, and an unrecognisable Colin Farrell as Oswald Cobblepot before he transcends into full Penguin mode, it’s a world you don’t want to leave and we cannot wait to return.
The film isn’t without its flaws and much of the early fear was focused on the film’s exhaustive runtime: clocking in at just under three hours, it’s much longer than any Batman film before, and the debate over why films seem to be getting longer raged on social media. But while it will certainly have its fans because of its epic feel, it is slightly to the detriment to the film particularly in the third act which doesn’t feel as tight or as stirring as the previous two despite it going full “blockbuster” as you’d expect. In fact, it feels a little “tacked on” given what has gone before. That, however, doesn’t derail what is a fascinating, beguiling new take on the Batman lore and for many who think we will soon settle into a world of superhero fatigue, this one goes far in making sure things continue to soar.
Action, Thriller | USA, 2021 | 15 | In Cinemas: 4th March 2022 (UK) | Warner Bros Pictures | Dir. Matt Reeves | Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Jayme Lawson, Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell