Matt Reeves‘ The Batman is a very different beast when compared to other past takes. It doesn’t outdo Nolan’s excellent trilogy and that’ll be a debate amongst diehard fans. He’s no longer that character from long ago where it’s about comic book style aesthetics or terrible one-liners. While I can profess a huge love for Burton’s gothic take, this version is moody, nihilistic and grungy. It’s also neo noir in its cinematographic design.
Robert Pattinson is great as the next iteration, but his appearance may have some wondering if he’s channelling Kurt Cobain. He hasn’t completely shed his moody Twilight persona, but I can buy into the new type of gravitas infecting the reclusive Bruce Wayne; the origins get rewritten. His father was a mayoral candidate for Gotham City and his mom…. Well, is troubled. Nearly everyone knows how their death affected the young boy who would become the bat, but in this case, the discovery of why they were murdered sets him down a slightly different path.
The reasons come down to the two families who were pivitol in the founding of this city. These two oligarchies did more to affect all its citizens, and to have someone wanting to upset the delicate balance makes for a different type of milieu of the Matt Reeves universe. Much of the story development comes from The Long Halloween and Dark Victory–to which not everyone has read.
This film delivers in the traditional action we’re familiar with seeing in the later acts, but it’s a long road to get to those moments. The only problem is that it clocks in at nearly three exhausting hours, and it doesn’t build to a clean finale.
The theme about hiding behind masks is light. Bruce puts on the cowl to repress some of those daddy issues so he can become a crimefighter. But he’s labelled a vigilente and has to do something truly heroic before he gains that title. The Riddler (excellently played by Paul Dano) suggests the opposite. It’s a symbol of power; hidden aggression brought out because the victim doesn’t know what they’re facing. In an interview with CBR.com, this actor said, “Power, because you don’t want the person wearing that mask walking toward you… And for somebody [like the Riddler] who felt powerless in their life, that’s a big feeling to be given.”
This detective story gets deep and much of it feels like it’s drawing from Nirvana’s Nevermind album. Most of those songs were written about Cobain’s dysfunctional relationship with Tobi Vail; “Come as You Are” and “Lounge Act,” work as bookends but isn’t heard. Another song, “Something in the Way,” is heard in two scenes and is very appropriate. I suspect Reeves is injecting more than just a casual reference in the soundtrack design.
A few things that don’t make sense is that Bruce Wayne and Alfred (Andy Serkis was very underutilised) are not alone in their penthouse estate. This mysterious ‘aunt’ like figure may well be a nod to a certain past take, and she had no role at all but to connect the dots. Even introducing another mainstay villain was absolutely unnecessary. He better have a large role in the next film if that scene was included on purpose.
This reboot is a bleak look at society for those wanting more of Alan Moore’s (Watchmen, V for Vendetta) style on the big screen. It’s rare to give a team the creative freedom to do what they want, but for newcomers, this film isn’t likely to make them instant fans.
4 Stars out of 5