The Batman

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Robert Pattinson in The Batman.
Robert Pattinson in The Batman.
Photo: Warner Bros


The Batman


DStv Box Office


5/5 Stars


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.


Do we need another Batman movie? You might be asking yourself this as the newest reincarnation of the Caped Crusader hits the big screen this week. But you shouldn't discount The Batman as another shameless Warner Bros./DC moneymaker - although it absolutely is that as well. It's a superhero film that reaches out beyond the glitz of a blockbuster and pulls back something from the darkest parts of the imaginary Gotham City, always characterised as the worst of the worst where crime, corruption, and despair forms part of the city's DNA. With it, we get a Bruce Wayne just as dejected with his efforts to make a difference and add to his family's legacy. Something we've all perhaps been feeling over the last two years. It's the rawest portrayal we have ever seen of the Bat - and by far the best.

In this version, we find Bruce two years after he started becoming the masked vigilante, a juggernaut of justice yet mentally exhausted at the inadequate effect his actions have on crime in Gotham. A mysterious Riddler starts killing high-profile people during the mayoral elections, and Batman is dragged into the investigation as the killer leaves clues just for him.

Far from the shiny gadgets and perfectly choreographed fights, director and writer Matt Reeves (Let Me In, War for the Planet of the Apes) opted for the detective Batman and noir aesthetics that goes with it. Bruce is unsure about Batman's place in the grand scheme of things but desperately holds on to a flicker of hope that he's on the right path. We rarely see him outside of the mask, turning Bruce more into an alias than his real identity.

While the Christian Bale fans will probably wither in their souls when I say this, Robert Pattinson is the best version of Batman ever to hit the screen. Bale's acting shined outside of the suit, but Pattinson can render an Oscar-worthy performance through that mask with just the use of his eyes. He's a bat of few words, but his stoic performances lay within the physical, and his chemistry with Zoë Kravitz as Selena/Catwoman pulses hot and heavy in every scene they have together. Again, he does this with just the way he stares at her, and she matches every step perfectly in their delicate dance. Her character is much-expanded with a lot of backstory that slowly unravels throughout the film, and their moral duality adds a unique depth to the characters and story.

As for the villains, Colin Farrell's Penguin is spot on with a dash of light comedy, although I really need to know who looked at that man and thought right there is the perfect Oswald Cobblepot. The transformation is phenomenal, not just in looks but also in accent and character. Then there's The Riddler, played by Paul Dano, who always looks unhinged in real life to me. He's a creepy rendition of the puzzle man, modernised in the sense that he's an amalgamation of the type of people that believe in QAnon and has an unhealthy search history regarding ammunition. The Batman, vested heavily in the darker range of comics, is very much influenced by the state of society today, and while grim still offers a semblance of hope that one person can indeed make a difference even when everything is falling apart. As for the rest of the villains - well, that would just be spoilers.

Then there's the general genial craftsmanship that went into the film. Lately, there's been a growing call for the Oscars to better honour this side of filmmaking, and The Batman is just another example of the artistic brilliance of this overlooked crew. Nothing is out of place, from set and costume design to the music editing. Incredibly grounded in reality, the action packs a heavy punch in Imax, intimate in its cinematography and incredibly reminiscent of how action would be depicted in the comics. Batman falters and shows his humanity in many fights but still delivers exquisite kicks and punches that will make you say 'yoh' out loud in the cinema, including a mad yet realistic car chase seen in actual traffic. Partnered with the best cinematography I've ever seen in a superhero film, thanks to the director of photography Greig Fraser (his IMDb is impressive), Martin Scorcese will have to eat his words bitterly when it comes to its merits as 'cinema'.

(But for the love of my back and bladder, can we just reel it in with the three-hour cinema movies. The Batman, and any other blockbuster movie, does not need to be three hours. Please.)

Pattinsons' Batman is a perfect accompaniment to Joaquin Phoenix's Joker and would have loved for the two to have squared off in the upcoming sequel, as their stories line up and build a strong foundation for their abnormal relationship. Unfortunately, that seems unlikely for now. However, it gives you an idea of the type of Batman film to expect, but even then, it will surpass anything you thought it would be in your head. It might not have been the Batman you thought you wanted, but it's the Batman we definitely need right now.


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