Starring Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, Collin Farrell, John Turturro,
If the façade of Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy was inspired by Michael Mann’s “Heat,” then Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” is influenced by David Fincher’s “Seven.”
Why do we need another Batman film? We don’t, but Reeves (“Cloverfield,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) gives us a version we haven’t seen before. “The Batman” is arguably darker than previous iterations of DC’s most bankable comic book hero, both literally and figuratively. Aside from embracing a gothic motif, Reeves takes Batman out of the action genre and puts him firmly inside a detective crime thriller.
Reeves’ script doubles down on every effort to make Batman and everyone inside Gotham City human, realistic and desperate. Studied fans of Batman films will note influences from Tim Burton’s “Batman Returns” as well as “Batman Begins.”
Batman has been around for a while, responds to the bat signal, compares notes with Commissioner Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), and even the beat cops have formed sides against the man in black. Batman sightings are far more common than reclusive Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson). Everyone refers to the masked vigilante as “Vengeance,” a shadowy figure who works his mind on cases more than his muscle.
“Fear is a tool,” and Gotham is a frightful place to live, with most elected officials on the payroll of various criminals like Oswald Cobblepot (Colin Farrell) and Carmine Falcone (John Turturro). A mysterious citizen is exposing the corruption in elaborate riddles that have authorities, criminals and Batman scrambling to stop the bloodshed. Only Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz) can get behind the doors of the men with the most to hide; the Bat must rely on the Cat in order to solve this puzzle.
Dano nearly is for Riddler what Heath Ledger was as Joker: a master at the unhinged performance.
Within moments of his first onscreen appearance, Pattinson, who has long since proved his skill beyond “Twilight,” disappears into the role. His version is a man of few words, tormented by the past and fearful of the future.
Thankfully, Reeves doesn’t waste time with the Wayne murders we have seen play out in every version until now. Most cast members get enough screen time in the three-hour running time to mark their mark on the story. Paul Dano certainly leaves us wanting more of his creative madness. Roles like “There Will Be Blood” or “Prisoners” have been preparing him for this performance his entire career. Dano nearly is for Riddler what Heath Ledger was as Joker: a master at the unhinged performance.
Michael Giacchino’s original score borrows inspiration from Danny Elfman’s Catwoman theme in “Batman Begins” to great effect. Redesigning something Hans Zimmer seemingly perfected with Nolan’s “Knight” is no small task. Giacchino lands an intricate balance of present and subdued with his work in “The Batman” that should be one of the year’s most memorable scores.
With only two action sequences, the film has more time to develop the unfolding mystery. You won’t find any sunlight in the entire film; the production design team use a claustrophobic atmosphere whether inside or out conveying the theme “things will get worse before they get better.”
Matt Reeves’ innovative makeover reimagines “The Batman” as a modern-day noir murder mystery, abandoning the action genre.