Harangued by a rise in crime figures and now at the end of his tether following the brutal murder of a mayoral candidate, police lieutenant Gordon is finally forced into revealing his secret weapon; he is in league with the masked vigilante known as Batman. Of course, its no coincidence that the murder victim came with a note addressed to the Batman himself. And not just a note, but a Riddle…
And so here we are; all the hype, all the delays, all the press, and we’re finally seeing Matt Reeves’ “The Batman”, starring controversial casting Robert Pattinson (quickly dubbed Battinson, because the worlds media couldn’t let Batffleck go unanswered), in a story involving…presumably, the Riddler; a villain unseen in the Bale trilogy, or indeed in the Battfleckiverse. Oh and we’ve all seen Colin Farell in makeup as Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin. And Zoe Kravitz looking amazing on her motorbike in leather as Catwoman / Selina Kyle.
Spoiler free. The film is dark, brooding and murky, full of lots of bleak, shadowy dioramas and encroaching blackness. In the first few moments (alongside a gripping narrative POV of the Batman himself, we are introduced to the concept of Fear as a weapon. Batman can’t be everywhere at once, but he can be ANYWHERE. And that has to be enough, for now. Its an excellent, new way of playing the Bat as yet not seen – a shadowy figure of the imagination, punctuated by odd moments of physical presence, meaning the bad guys are never entirely sure that this night isn’t their night for Vengeance.
Battinson is brilliant in the role, but to try and answer the inevitable…no, its not comparable. He is a very different Bat to Ben Affleck / Christian Bale / George Clooney / Val Kilmer / Michael Keaton / Adam West. Each of the above have their own ways of doing it, this is his. He owns the role, makes it his own in a way the others couldn’t. But similarly, the others do it differently too. Like Dr Who or James Bond, this is just the current representation of the character and has its ups and downs as any other.
We do see Bruce Wayne in a different light this time; a rather disinterested, almost boring billionairre; a man with no interest in the public arena, despite Alfred (Andy Serkis)’s encouragment. His long unwashed emo-hair and darkened eye makeup (is this the first time we see the Batman eyes makeup controversy approached??) give his Bruce a trashy, grungy look that’ll no doubt grab the attention of fans.
The Bat’s relationship with Catwoman is once again more protagonist than anti-hero – and by that i mean more Anne Hathaway than Michelle Pfieffer. Then we come to Colin Farrell’s Penguin and i couldn’t help but think…did it have to be Colin Farrell? I mean, did he audition for it and just nail it, because he is so utterly unrecognisable under the makeup. The Riddler is, although welcome as a cinematic villain…i mean he just doesn’t really light up the screen like Batvillains of old. True, he’s far more true to reality bad and a whole degree away from Jim Carrey’s previous incarnation of the role…but…a bit more campiness wouldn’t have gone amiss, ie Heath’s Joker or even Hardy’s Bane.
Some of the set pieces are spectacular; in particular the obligatory Batmobile scene in the middle. And the villain is terrifying…but at the same time, really really annoying. He’s that person that just squeals with an annoying tone of voice and refuses to listen to you when you’re negotiating. And to be honest, his motive was a little bit boring… i mean, who doesn’t want to punish a corrupt government and police force, this is nothing new. The finale, however, despite the rather boring build up, is sudden, comic-genius cinema.
Conclusion then; its good, gripping, but as it appears with every other Batfilm of the new era, bloody long. Long periods of nothing except murder investigations and long, moody staring…then patchwork, exceptional action.
Oh and i have to say, as a local, some of Glasgow looked stunning in the film. Dark, fucked up and pouring with rain. True to life, then…
So now i can talk about the huge letdown of Penguin’s inclusion, and the open-ended conclusion. Yep, Catwoman is away off going her own way, so its down to being moody and lonely again for the time being. But now Gotham is a flooded holocaust city, leading us to feel this was written as a trilogy starter (also considering we are introduced to another villain in the closing moments), which i think spoils the satisfaction in a movie. Why do films now do this? None of Bale’s trilogy did. Granted, Batman Begins ends with the Joker, but the film has by that point ended. If we’d never seen The Dark Knight we wouldn’t have mourned its loss, but now, if we don’t see the next Battinson we’ll feel shortchanged, because we’ve been promised the next part of the ongoing story. Not, crucially, another story with the same protagonist.