Matt Reeves’ The Batman is a brooding, noir’ish interpretation of the DC Comics superhero, focusing for almost three hours on a sorrowful, conflicted Dark Knight, haunted by serious psychological issues involving his late father.
It’s Halloween when the Caped Crusader (Robert Pattinson) arrives on a grisly crime scene. Going back to his detective roots, he examines taunting cypher left by the rampaging Riddler (Paul Dano) – a.k.a. Edward Nashton – who has a politically-motivated Master Plan, fiendishly focused around an election, to take over corruption-drenched Gotham City.
Underneath the frightening mask, the vengeful vigilante is Bruce Wayne who, as a 10 year-old, witnessed the brutal murder of his billionaire parents. But now, succumbing to his own darkness, he’s questioning who he is and what he does.
“They think I am hiding in the shadows,” he declares. “I am the shadows.”
Along with the requisite Batmobile chase, a new motorbike and attendant rain-soaked spectacle, this glowering, gloomy Batman character-study introduces embryonic versions of Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz) – a.k.a. slinky, thieving Selina Kyle (building on a comic-book bisexual backstory) – and prosthetics-enhanced Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin (Colin Farrell).
Plus there’s Andy Serkis as his surrogate father/butler Alfred, Jeffrey Wright as the incorruptible Lt. James Gordon, along with John Turturro as mob boss Carmine Falcone and Peter Sarsgaard as the local District Attorney.
Working with cinematographer Greig Fraser (Dune) and production designer James Chinlund, director/writer Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes) bathes the film in a bleak, inky blackness, enhanced by Michael Giacchino’s symphonic score.
Collaborating with co-writer Peter Craig, Reeves also adroitly sets up possible sequel. Plus there are franchise plans for an animated series, along with a live-action HBO Max show about the Penguin.
FYI: Previous inhabitants of the Batsuit: Adam West (1966), Michael Keaton (1992), Val Kilmer (1995), George Clooney (1997) and Christian Bale (2005). Previous Catsuit-wearers: Julie Newmar (1966), Eartha Kitt (1967), Michelle Pfeiffer (1992), Halle Berry (2004) and Anne Hathaway (2012).
On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, The Batman is a strange, squalid, sinister 7 – dark and deadly.