Batman ventures into Gotham City’s underworld when a sadistic killer leaves behind a trail of cryptic clues. As the evidence begins to lead closer to home and the scale of the perpetrator’s plans become clear, he must forge new relationships, unmask the culprit and bring justice to the abuse of power and corruption that has long plagued the metropolis.

Editing: William Hoy, Tyler Nelson
Michael Giacchino

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturro, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell

Director: Matt Reeves
Writers: Matt Reeves, Peter Craig
Based on: Characters from DC
Cinematography: Greig Fraser

It has been almost ten years since we have gotten a stand-alone Batman film, the longest stretch since Tim Burton’s original version in 1989. Since Michael Keaton first donned the cowl in that film, we’ve had many iterations of the caped crusader on film. Hyper-stylised and gothic, over the top and campy, dark and realistic or as part of a team of superheroes, we’ve seen many different sides to the Dark Knight that some would believe that we didn’t need another iteration, but after seeing Matt Reeves’ vision, those people will surely have changed their minds. 

Bruise Wayne (Robert Pattinson) is in his second year as the Batman (or in year two of the Gotham Project) and has already made his presence in the city known as a masked vigilante that the criminal element of the city should fear. Batman is brought in on the murder of the mayor of Gotham by Lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) as the killer, who is calling himself The Riddler (Paul Dano), has left his a personalised message filled with riddles and ciphers. As more high profile figures find themselves targets of The Riddler, Batman’s investigation soon finds him crossing paths with Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), a thief who has her own ties to the case, and the Penguin (Colin Farrell), the owner of the Iceberg Lounge and a key Gotham criminal figure.

The Batman takes this hero in a new direction, grimy and gritty and with a clear focus on being a crime thriller in the vein of films like Seven, Prisoners and Zodiac. The film feels like it is pulled straight out of pages of Detective Comics with the mystery of why the Riddler is killing these political figures masterfully told as if part of a lengthy comic book arc. While it does have a  176-minute runtime, it never felt like it as I was rapt up in the twists and turn and what would have surely been final page-turn reveals of a single issue.

The comic book feel is amplified by segments of narration akin to narrative boxes, a device that I wish was used even more, and the great style of the film. Beautifully shot by Australian cinematographer Greig Fraser, the film is filled with incredibly impressive shots like the first appearance of Riddler or a hallway fight only lit by muzzle flashes. The film doesn’t shy away from shadows and darkness, fitting for the city in which the Dark Knight resides. Gotham feels like a character, with recurring locations, an ensemble of recurring characters and a history that the film gives to it. 

Robert Pattinson’s interpretation is unlike any we’ve seen yet. Unlike Christian Bale’s suave and articulate Bruce Wayne, Pattinson‘s Bruce is one who’s cut himself off from the outside world for so long there is a certain amount of social awkwardness to him. Definitely the strong but silent type. His sole focus is on his mission and when he is addressing that, he seems most confident. When dealing with other people, not so much, especially with Selina.

This version of the Batman is far more lo-fi than we’ve seen this far, with only a contact lens camera the most technologically advanced item in his arsenal. While other iterations have seen Batman attack primarily from the shadows, this version is more than happy to come out of them, with heavy booted steps, to kick some ass. Pattinson’s version is aided by a more streamlined suit that seems to give him a great deal of flexibility while also being reasonably bulletproof.

Zoë Kravitz is fantastic as Selina Kyle, able to kick serious ass but also proving a fantastic modern-day femme fatale. While at times proving to be incredibly vulnerable, she has her own agenda and will do whatever it takes to see it through. The romance and chemistry between Batman and Selina was beautifully done, with so much of it being unsaid but definitely felt. The romance is greatly assisted by Michael Giacchino’s score which amplifies the chemistry between them, adds to the action sequences and increases the eerieness surrounding the villain.

Paul Dano’s turn as the Riddler is absolutely riveting. The less said about it the better but he proves to be a perfect adversary for this version of the Batman at this time and Dano knocks the role of the park, especially in their final confrontation. A truly unsettling iteration of the character in many ways. Jeffrey Wright proves to be a perfect foil for Batman as he works as his partner throughout the film while Colin Farrell is unrecognisable in his role as the Penguin but is great as a source of information and an obstacle in Batman’s way. The weakest member of the cast is Andy Serkis’ Alfred, though not because of his portrayal, which is good, but because he feels underutilised and so much of his story is told not shown.

With his focus on telling a fantastic crime thriller, Matt Reeves has managed to bring the Batman comics to life in a way no director has and has made a Batman film that should be held in the same regard as the 1989 Batman and The Dark Knight. With amazing performances in front and behind the camera, The Batman deserves to be seen on the big screen. With a few hints as to what may be next littered throughout the film, some more obvious than others for sure, I eagerly anticipate the next time we get to visit this version of Gotham. 

Ashley Hobley attended an advance screening of The Batman thanks to Warner Bros. Entertainment Australia and Event Cinemas.