Nearly ten years since “The Dark Knight Rises” completed the Christopher Nolan trilogy, “The Batman” brings DC’s most valuable character back to its recently-empty pedestal.
Taking up the mantle from Ben Affleck — who intended to direct and lead the film — Pattinson delivers a more low-key performance than Affleck or Christian Bale. By giving more nuance to Batman’s detective elements than Nolan or former director Zach Snyder did, the former “Twilight” star is his best in the quieter moments.
Unlike Batfleck, jumping headfirst into Pattinson’s portrayal only strengthens his delivery. This version of Bruce Wayne makes mistakes, his gear isn’t what one expects from Batman and he’s completely isolated. The brooding feels more natural here than Bale’s did. Not on the level of Bale or Michael Keaton yet, but Pattinson has room to grow into the cowl.
His co-star Zoë Kravitz, is a step up from past performances. Kravitz’s Selina Kyle and Pattinson have natural chemistry that Bale never had with his love interests. Catwoman’s story could be simplified in future films. There are few too many subplots going on all at once with Kravitz and it makes her motivations confusing.
The rest of the casting is equally incredible. But what’s a Batman movie without an incredible cast?
Heath Ledger may always be the finest villain performance, but Paul Dano’s Riddler is as good as any other adaptation. Dano is a perfect mix of intelligent, scary but just goofy (Riddler’s messages to his fans are hilarious) enough that you think Batman’s got this.
Jeffrey Wright is very good as Lieutenant Gordon, but it’s difficult to understand making him Pattinson’s partner. “Venom” actor Andy Serkis is an improvement from Jeremy Irons’ incredibly miscast portrayal.
Side villains Colin Farrell and John Turturro dominate their scenes. Farrell will have a larger and more important role in the next film, but for now, he’s the funniest part of this movie. Abandoning Penguins’ traditional cockney accent for a “Goodfellas” style New Yorker, Farrell is perfect in every scene. I’m offended on his behalf that he didn’t receive the film’s token F-Bomb.
Turturro, on the other hand, radiates sleaze every second he’s on the screen — you feel the need to take a shower after his scenes end.
The man behind the casting is the real winner of “The Batman.” Known for “Cloverfield” and recent “Planet of the Apes” films, Matt Reeves was born to direct Batman. Reeves is incredible at separating his interpretation from past directors, especially the complicated process of detaching from Affleck’s planned work.
Modernizing the Riddler to make him more intimidating, switching Bruce from a billionaire socialite to a Kurt Cobain type figure and not being afraid to poke fun at Batman show how thoughtful Reeves was in trying to differentiate his film.
Reeves’ strongest contributions come from mixing horror elements into the project. Strange as comparing Batman to a 12-year-old Chloë Grace Moretz is, Reeves uses many of the same techniques he used in “Let Me In” to frame the leads as the most frightening figures of the film. The David Fincher film “Se7en” is also an important influence on the film; Dano and Kevin Spacey’s characters are very similar, as are their methods.
Hiring Michael Giacchino to create the film’s score ranks near the top of the “Felicity” creator’s best decisions. The character scores are wonderful, but the strongest moments are the buildups leading into fights. Nirvana’s iconic “Something in the Way” is featured several times throughout the film as well and it works better each time.
Action is sparse over the film’s three hours, but when Reeves lets it rip, he nails it. Reeves learned several valuable lessons from projects like “Rogue One” and “Daredevil,” mainly that hallway shots of people fighting work 100% of the time.
The car chase that was detailed in trailers, is a major high point. Changing the famous batmobile from super tank to a tricked-out Dodge Charger is an amusing change. The chase is shot incredibly well, keeping the camera with Batman’s target instead of following the protagonist is an excellent way to build tension.
With Reeves directing, Pattinson starring, several other actors returning (potentially including that cameo) and several spinoffs in the works, Gotham has the brightest future it’s had in years.