Movie Review: The Batman

Yeah, yeah. I know I’m coming late to the party but the film only opened here in Hong Kong yesterday so I didn’t have a chance to see it until now.

Unless you’ve been hibernating or just hunkering down for the past two years, you’re no doubt aware that THE BATMAN is the latest reboot of this hit-and-miss franchise. This time around, Robert Pattinson (the TWILIGHT saga: THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME; TENET; GOOD TIME) dons the cape and cowl, a casting choice that left more than a few comic book fans scratching their heads. The film was originally scheduled for release in June 2021 but the pandemic had other plans. With cinemas in many countries reopened, Warner Bros. finally released the film in early March. Here, however, our cinemas remained closed until last week, which is why we’re only getting it now.

In this version, Gotham City is on the edge. The mayor, who is running for reelection, is murdered in his home just days before the voting takes place. The killer has left some cryptic clues behind so Police Lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright, NO TIME TO DIE; THE FRENCH DISPATCH; TV’s WESTWORLD) asks the Caped Crusader for help, much to the anger of his boss, Commissioner Savage. Savage sees Batman as nothing more than an untethered vigilante. Back in the Batcave below stately Wayne Manor, reclusive billionaire Bruce Wayne and his trusted butler/advisor Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Sirkis, the STAR WARS franchise; BLACK PANTHER; the PLANET OF THE APES franchise) solve the riddle but it’s not long before the killer strikes again, taking out another high profile government official. Batman follows the trail of clues, which leads him to Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz, the FANTASTIC BEASTS franchise), a waitress at a lounge run by crime lord Carmine Falcone (John Turturro, TV’s THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA; FADING GIGOLO), and to one of Falcone’s associates, Oswald “Penguin” Cobblepot (Colin Farrell, WIDOWS; THE BEGUILED; THE LOBSTER). As the killer leaves more riddles and puzzles for Batman to solve, Bruce realises that all roads lead back to him and the Wayne family’s shady past.

Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne/Batman is wonderfully moody and broody, character traits that the actor has down pat thanks to his years of playing Edward Cullen. I’m a fan because his characterization is perfect for director Matt Reeves’ (WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES) vision of a superhero tale cloaked as a film noir. Though the film is insanely long, clocking in just short of three hours, Reeves keeps the pace moving just fast enough that it’s never boring. The supporting cast is all excellent but it’s Paul Dano’s (12 YEARS A SLAVE; THERE WILL BE BLOOD) performance as Edward Nashton that takes the cake. Dano’s take as the disaffected white male who is mad as hell and is not going to take it anymore is downright creepy. With its major shades of the Zodiac Killer, Q and armed insurrection, one has to wonder how Reeves and the other writers got it so right when the FBI got January 6th so wrong. (Relax. I’m not a conspiracy theorist.)

Of course, being a comic book film, the story leaves plenty of questions unanswered when the closing credits roll. Selina has left Gotham City but will she return? Will Penguin take over running crime in the city? And what about the jokester (voiced by Barry Keoghan, ETERNALS; DUNKIRK, ’71) who is in the cell next to Edward? He seems to have a plan brewing. Stay tuned, Bat-fans! BATMAN 2 has already been greenlit.

THE BATMAN is playing in cinemas now. I saw it in IMAX and it’s definitely worth the extra cost of admission. Although it will test your bladder control, it’s a great film.

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