“The Batman” is palpably drenched in sheer darkness and grittiness from the beginning to the end, and I admire and appreciate that even though I have some reservation on its relentlessly grim style and rather sprawling narrative. I am not sure whether this can be described as fun or entertaining, but I must admit that I was often enthralled by its considerable style, mood, and details in addition to being more interested in the story and characters. Therefore, I guess I can conclude that the movie does work fairly well despite its several notable weak aspects.
As a reboot, the movie is thankfully being disconnected from any recent DC Extended Universe (DCEU) movie for now, and its early part establishes the uneasy status of Bruce Wayne/Batman (Robert Pattinson) in Gotham City. It has been two years since he began to fight against crime on the streets and alleys of Gotham City, but the city is still getting worse and worse due to poverty and crime, and Wayne wonders more about whether it is really worthwhile to continue his secret nocturnal activity.
While Wayne struggles with his growing conflict, there comes a horrible incident which shocks the whole city. A certain prominent figure is brutally murdered, and the perpetrator behind this incident does not hide at all his intention. It is apparent that he is going to strike again, and, not so surprisingly, his diabolical plan happens to include Batman, who must deduce his opponent’s ultimate goal from a series of riddles and clues left by his opponent before it is too late for him and everyone else in Gotham City.
As it gradually turns out that there is the long shadow of past all over the case, Wayne delves more into the underworld of Gotham City, and the movie naturally becomes quite noirish as evoking a number of neo-noir films ranging from Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown” (1974) to David Fincher’s “Se7en” (1995). As a matter of fact, many key scenes in the film are as murky and rainy as “Se7en”, and the main antagonist of the film, who is chillingly played by Paul Dano, will surely take you back to not only “Se7en” but also “Zodiac” (2007), Fincher’s another neo-noir movie about serial killing.
Struggling both internally and externally, Wayne comes to depend more on the only two people whom he can trust in Gotham City. His loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis) often provides assistance and advice as usual, and Lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) lets Batman help his ongoing police investigation even though, unlike Alfred, he does not know the true identity of Batman just like many others in the city.
And there is Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz), a masked cat burglar who is virtually the Catwoman of the story and also quite determined to find out what really happened to a close friend of hers. The answer seems to be held by her sleazy boss and a certain powerful crime figure behind that dude, and that is how she comes across Batman. As he tries more to figure about what these two shady figures are hiding behind them, he finds himself getting more involved with Selina, and it goes without saying that there comes a point where both of them come to realize that they are attracted to each other more than they can admit. After all, as two troubled black-clad figures, they look like a pretty good match to each other, don’t they?
Meanwhile, the screenplay by director/co-producer Matt Reeves, who previously impressed us a lot with “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (2014) and “War for the Planet of the Apes” (2017), and Peter Craig keeps things rolling as before, and Reeves and his crew members including cinematographer Greig Fraser, who was recently Oscar-nominated for Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” (2021), gives us a series of intense moments including the stupefying action sequence where the Batmobile in the movie makes its first appearance. Although I must point out that the movie frequently looks a bit too dark and murky (I really recommend you to watch it in a big Dolby Cinema screening room, by the way), its action scenes are presented well with enough physical and dramatic impact, and Michael Giacchino’s brutal orchestral score adds extra thrill and excitement on that.
The main cast members of the film are believable as the gloomy inhabitants of Gotham City. Robert Pattinson, who has been quite more interesting since he left those Twilight flicks, conveys to us his character’s emotional conflict well even though he is mostly masked throughout the film, and his intensely brooding performance is certainly an improvement over Ben Affleck’s rather colorless acting in those recent several DCEU flicks. While Zoë Kravitz, who recently demonstrated more of her acting talent in Steven Soderburgh’s “Kimi” (2022), holds her own place well in addition to having a nicely understated chemistry between her and Pattinson, Andy Serkis and Jeffrey Wright are dependable as usual, and John Turturro and Colin Farrell, who is quite unrecognizable under lots of makeup, have some nasty fun with their respective supporting roles.
Despite its glaring flaws including its overlong running time, “The Batman” does not reach to the greatness of Christopher Nolan’s monumental Dark Knight trilogy, but it is still an interesting superhero hero packed with style, ambition, and personality, and that makes it much more distinctive than most of recent superhero movies. When a friend of mine asked whether he could show it to his little young son, I recommend him not to do that because it is a bit too dark and intense for kids in my humble opinion, but his son may admire it a lot when he grows up enough to watch it several years later.