THE BATMAN Review: The Dark Knight Returns For A Bleak, Brutal, And Very Serious Reboot

At long last, Matt Reeves' The Batman is set to hit theaters next week, and you can find our verdict on the surprisingly horror-tinged reboot right here.

Reviews Opinion

The Batman is Warner Bros.' latest big-screen reinvention of the iconic DC Comics hero, which depicts the Caped Crusader - and, crucially, Bruce Wayne - as a ruthless, vengeance-fuelled vigilante who has taken it upon himself to rid Gotham City of crime at any cost - even his own soul.

We find The Dark Knight (Robert Pattinson) in year 2 of his "career," spending his nights beating low-level thugs to a pulp, and his days moping around his makeshift Batcave being a bit of a dick to Alfred (Andy Serkis). When a serial killer known as the Riddler (Paul Dano) begins murdering members of Gotham's elite and leaving clues for The Batman himself, Wayne is drawn into a sinister conspiracy involving Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), his right-hand man The Penguin (Colin Farrell), and possibly even the entire GCPD. Joining forces with honest cop Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and Iceberg Lounge waitress/cat burglar Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz), Batman starts to piece together a plot that threatens to bring the criminality he's fought so hard to extinguish closer to home than he could ever have imagined.

While Ben Affleck's previous version of Batman existed in the same universe as the superheroes of the Justice League and was a lot closer to the character's comic book counterpart, writer/director Matt Reeves dials everything back for a stripped-down, standalone take that owes a lot to Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy - only this movie is even more grounded in reality. Though it does contain some outlandish elements, at its core, Reeves' film is a noirish detective story that's primarily interested in getting under our hero's skin in order to discover what drives a man to dress as a creature of the night to strike terror into criminals.

It's an intriguing approach, but it does present a slight problem.

As any self-respecting fan will know, there are actually three sides to Batman: the brooding vigilante, the philandering playboy, and the real Bruce Wayne. This movie ditches the playboy, but doesn't really do enough to distinguish the other aspects of the character's personas from one another. So, when Bruce takes off the cape and cowl, he's basically just the same guy with a slightly less gravelly voice. This may not bother everyone, but it does mean we lose a lot of the humor associated with the more laid back, witty socialite Bruce Wayne. I'm not someone who believes levity is a requirement of every superhero movie, but if you're going to take the concept this seriously, a few lighter moments would have been a welcome respite.

4 New The Batman Posters Dropped by Director Matt Reeves - The Illuminerdi

This is not to suggest that there's no fun to be had. Farrell, unrecognizable under a mountain of prosthetics, is a riot as the sleazy, but oddly likeable Oz, and Kravitz's Catwoman in-training takes the Bat down a peg or two with a few sharp observations. The set pieces are also an exciting diversion (the Batmobile chase is a standout), although some may be surprised/disappointed by the relative lack of action.

Reeves chooses to focus on the mystery at the heart of this tale, and introduces a rather terrifying new incarnation of The Riddler, who is, in many ways, a dark (well, darker) reflection of Bruce Wayne - the thing Batman could become if he ever allowed himself to be fully consumed by vengeance. Though Dano spends most of the film under a mask, he delivers a creepy, unnerving performance, and quite a few of his scenes actually come close to crossing over into the horror genre.

Yes, The Batman really does push the boundaries of that PG-13 rating with some intense, at times surprisingly vicious moments. Reeves also does a great job of highlighting the fear Batman strikes into Gotham's underworld, with the vigilante almost being perceived as an elemental force whose appearance is heralded by an ominous light in the sky. "I can't be everywhere, but they know I'm somewhere," intones Pattinson's narration (another nice little touch for comic book aficionados).

And so, we come to it: How does the sparkly vampire fare in the role? Very well, actually. Of course, anyone who's seen Pattinson's work outside the Twilight franchise already knew he was more than capable of pulling this off, and he does so with aplomb. He is somewhat limited by not being able to fully inhabit the contrasting sides of the character's psyche, but we're sure he will get the opportunity to do so down the line.

The stellar work by composer Michael Giacchino and cinematographer Greig Fraser must also be commended for helping to bring Gotham to life. The former's pulse-pounding piece takes inspiration from previous Batman themes, but is very much its own thing at the same time, and may well go down as one of the best superhero movie scores of all time.

While it's not without a few issues (which, to be fair, are sure to bother some more than others), The Batman triumphs as a reinvention of one of cinema's most enduring comic book heroes. Matt Reeves has crafted a bleak, brutal new vision of Gotham City and its tormented protector, and Robert Pattinson fully commits to a more cerebral incarnation of The Dark Knight who might be just as unhinged as the villains he opposes.

File:4 stars.svg - Wikipedia

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