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The Batman | movie review

The start of something great?

 

Movie summary: When the Riddler, a sadistic serial killer, begins murdering key political figures in Gotham, Batman is forced to investigate the city's hidden corruption and question his family's involvement. (IMDb)


The Batman is a fantastic movie that I instantly rate as my favourite live-action Bat-Movie - I have to add that 'live-action' there because Mask of the Phantasm looks unlikely to ever be unseated. Saying that, this is such a great first entry in what I desperately hope will be a long-running series of movies from this creative team and cast that I may have to reconsider that opinion if any sequel can improve on this movie.


To begin with, Robert Pattinson is fantastic as a rage-filled Batman who thrives on causing fear across Gotham to the point of criminals running scared from shadows if the Bat-Signal is in the sky. He's not the 'Bat-God' the comics often portray him as, but he has a clear goal in mind and is intent on achieving it no matter the cost to himself.


I have seen some criticism of Pattinson's Bruce Wayne, which isn't really fair I think, as the movie does make it clear that this is still very early on in this Batman's career and he is clearly more obsessed with his vigilantism and making criminals suffer than trying to live a double life. This approach does change after the events of this movie, so I think it'll be fairer to judge his Bruce after another movie than one in which he is deliberately avoiding his 'civilian' identity.


The new Bat-Suit is also pretty damn cool too, looking armoured enough to justify bullets not being fatal while still light enough for the movement to feel real too. It'll be interesting to see what changes - if any - are made going forward as I think adding any more bulk may drift too far towards Iron Man and I feel that the cowl-and-collar combo work incredibly well to create a distinct profile enhanced by what feels like a sturdy cape rather than science-fiction glider fabric.


Throw in the Batmobile too - which is revealed in incredible fashion with the bass really rocking the chairs in the screening I attended - which takes part in an incredible car chase with the Penguin that ends in spectacular fashion, plus the range of equipment feeling far more grounded than even the Nolan movies and there's a lot of room for development while still making The Batman feel like it's never lacking in the technology stakes.


To be fair, this is helped by Greig Fraser's incredible cinematography of Gotham, which really does come across as a failing city that even a superhero would struggle to stop sliding in the abyss. I was reminded of the nameless city from Se7en with how much dirt, grime and muck there is, never mind the similar constant torrential rain that acts here as hundreds of tiny light sources to illuminate what is a very dimly-lit movie.


Which brings me to a first negative point, which is that you enjoyment of The Batman may depend on how well your cinema projects the image, with a lot of the darker scenes here feeling washed out in my screening and leaving me longing for the home release so I can see the proper range of colours. It wouldn't be that big of an issue if this wasn't such a dark movie, but it's a Batman movie so of course a lot is going to happen in the shadows!


And just to get my second issue out of the way: this is a long movie and it does approach breaking point on two to three occasions. These moments aren't particularly long - probably totalling less than ten minutes of the movie's near three hours running time - but it does just about break the atmosphere and sense of deep immersion which pervades the rest of the film.


But those are my only genuine issues with the actual movie, even if I would've liked to see more of some of the characters - Andy Serkis' Alfred and Colin Farrell's Penguin among them - than we got here, but the latter is getting his own spin-off show apparently set after the events of this movie and Alfred is obviously going to return to continue helping so I'll get what I want eventually.


And the only reason they get so little time here is because this is a first movie for a new incarnation of one of the world's most popular fictional characters: there's the cat-and-mouse game between Paul Dano's excellently twisted take on the Riddler taking the main stage, but then countless side stories and relationships - such as Zoe Kravitz's Catwoman and her complicated relationship with men - that also need fleshing out more than two guys who are bound to get more screen time later.


I also want to praise Michael Giacchino for his main Batman theme here, which I'm still humming to myself days later. The rest of the score isn't exactly shabby either, but it's more functional than anything else, serving to help enhance the visuals as it should, but not much beyond that. Credit also has to go to director Matt Reeves and his editors William Hoy and Tyler Nelson far making sure it is used appropriately regularly without feeling like it's being over-used.


The Batman is genuinely fantastic movie and easily surpasses Burton's Batman and Nolan's Batman Begins as first chapters in a Batman series - and I like both of those movies! I'm really looking forward to Pattinson's next outing as the caped crusader - apparently, so is he - and with so much world-building already done while telling its own story, this movie has laid some very, very sturdy foundations for potential future greatness.


The Batman is a fantastic start to what it seems like the director, cast and - most likely - studio want to be an on-going franchise. There are no complaints here, with this being an exceptional movie that at least stands shoulder-to-shoulder with The Dark Knight for big-screen-bat outings and feels like it can only get better when making a sequel uninterrupted by a pandemic.

[9/10 - Great]

 

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