“The Batman,” directed by Matt Reeves, is not a superhero film. Not at all. The Batmobile, the tough outfit, and the gadgets courtesy of reliable butler Alfred are all present and correct. The Caped Crusader, of course, is at the centre: moody, troubled, and seeking his own brand of nightly justice in a Gotham City falling into poverty and decay.
Everything is astonishingly alive and new in Reeves’ skilled hands. He’s taken a familiar storey and turned it into something huge, even operatic, as director and co-writer. His “Batman” feels more like a grim 1970s criminal thriller than a soaring, thrilling blockbuster.
Regardless of these markers, this is undeniably a Matt Reeves film. He accomplishes here what he achieved in the “Planet of the Apes” franchise’s compelling instalments: he creates an electrifying, fascinating spectacle that is founded in real, emotional stakes. This is a Batman film that recognises its own place in pop culture, but not in a winking, cynical way; instead, it examines and reinvents the comic book character’s mythology in a way that is both significant and bold. The writing by Reeves and Peter Craig challenges this hero to confront his past as well as his purpose, creating an opportunity for us as spectators to reassess the narratives we hold dear in our lives.
With Robert Pattinson stepping into the part of Bruce Wayne, we have an actor who is not only ready, but eager to delve into this character’s strange, dark instincts. This isn’t the handsome heir to a fortune strutting around in a great outfit beating ass. Travis Bickle is disillusioned and distant in his Batsuit. He’s been Batman for two years, and he’s chasing criminals from Wayne Tower, an imaginative departure from Wayne Manor’s expanse, implying an even deeper seclusion from humanity. In the introductory voiceover, he says, “They think I’m hidden in the shadows. But I am the shadows”. Pattinson gives us hungover indie rock star vibes in the harsh light of day. Even beneath the tactical gear and eye black, you can sense the high he gets from swooping in and carrying out his version of vengeance at night.
Pattinson and Kravitz have an incredible connection together. Every step of the way, she is his match, both physically and emotionally. She’s not your typical flirtatious, purring Catwoman: she’s a fighter and a survivor with a devoted heart and a strong sense of right and wrong. Kravitz maintains her ferocious appeal and quiet strength following her major part in Steven Soderbergh’s high-tech thriller “Kimi.”
This isn’t to imply that “The Batman” is a depressing film. Despite its over three-hour running time, this is a picture that is consistently viscerally captivating. The coolest Batmobile yet—a muscular car right out of “Mad Max: Fury Road”—plays a key role in one of the film’s most action-packed sequences. It’s a complex automobile chase and chain-reaction crash that culminates in an upside-down scene of ferocious rage that had me clapping throughout my screening. You can feel every punch and kick during a fight at a booming nightclub with throbbing red lighting. (Seeing this superhero in his early days is one of the more compelling aspects: he isn’t invincible.) A firefight in a pitch-black hallway illuminated only by shotgun bursts is both terrifying and dazzling. The score by experienced composer Michael Giacchino amplifies the impact of passages like this. He is most known for his Pixar movie music, but with “The Batman,” he does something completely different: percussive and horn-heavy, big, and demanding, and you will feel it deep in your core.
I could write a separate essay about the film’s numerous uses of red to convey energy, danger, and even optimism. The film’s sleek, edgy tone was rounded out by Jacqueline Durran’s costume design, which included Dave Crossman and Glyn Dillon designing Pattinson’s rough-and-tumble Batsuit.
You’ve never seen a more beautiful Batman film than this.