Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” isn’t a superhero film. Probably not. All the trimmings are there: the Batmobile, the rugged swimsuit, the devices courtesy of trusty butler Alfred. And naturally, on the heart, is the Caped Crusader himself: brooding, tormented, in search of his personal model of nighttime justice in a Gotham Metropolis that’s spiraling into squalor and decay.
However, in Reeves’ assured arms, all the pieces are breathtakingly alive and new. As director and co-writer, he’s taken what would possibly appear to be a well-recognized story and made it epic, even operatic. His “Batman” is extra akin to a gritty, ‘70s crime drama than hovering and transporting blockbuster. With its kinetic, unpredictable motion, it calls to thoughts movies like “The Warriors” in addition to one of many best of all of them within the style, “The French Connection.” And with a collection of high-profile murders driving the plot, it typically feels as if the Zodiac killer is terrorizing the residents of Gotham.
And but, regardless of these touchstones, that is unmistakably a Matt Reeves movie. He accomplishes right here what he did together with his gripping entries within the “Planet of the Apes” franchise: created an electrifying, entertaining spectacle, however one which’s grounded in actual, emotional stakes. It is a Batman film that’s conscious of its personal place inside popular culture, however not in a winking, meta style; fairly, it acknowledges the comedian e-book character’s lore, solely to look at it and reinvent it in an approach that’s each substantial and daring. The script from Reeves and Peter Craig forces this hero to query his historical past in addition to confronting his goal, and in doing so, creates a gap for us as viewers to problem the narratives we cling to in our personal lives.
And with Robert Pattinson taking on the function of Bruce Wayne, now we have an actor who’s not simply ready but hungry to discover this determine’s bizarre, darkish instincts. This isn’t the dashing inheritor to a fortune prowling about, kicking ass in a cool costume. That is Travis Bickle within the Batsuit, indifferent and disillusioned. He’s two years into his tenure as Batman, monitoring criminals from on excessive in Wayne Tower—an impressed change from the standard sprawl of Wayne Manor, suggesting fair better isolation from society. “They assume I’m hiding within the shadows,” he intones in a gap voiceover. “However I’m the shadows.” Within the harsh gentle of day, Pattinson provides us with hungover indie rock star vibes. However, at night time, you may see the frenzy he will get from swooping in and executing his model of vengeance, even beneath the tactical gear and eye black.
As he’s proven in just about every function he is taken since “Twilight” made him a worldwide celebrity in 2008, working with singular auteurs from David Cronenberg to Claire Denis to the Safdie brothers, Pattinson is at his greatest when he’s taking part in characters who make you uncomfortable. Much more than Christian Bale within the function, Pattinson is so expert at making his stunning, angular options appear unsettling. So when he first spies on the impossibly horny Zoe Kravitz as Selina Kyle, slinking into her leather-based motorbike gear and shimmying down the fireplace escape in her personal pursuit of nocturnal justice, there’s an unmistakable flicker of a cost in his eyes: Ooh. She’s a freak like me.
Pattinson and Kravitz have insane chemistry with one another. She is his match, bodily and emotionally, each step of the way in which. That is no flirty, purring Catwoman: She’s a fighter and a survivor with a loyal coronary heart and a powerful sense of what’s proper. Following her lead function in Steven Soderbergh’s high-tech thriller “Kimi,” Kravitz continues to disclose a fierce charisma and quiet power.
She’s a part of an assassin’s row of supporting performers, all of whom get meaty roles to play. Jeffrey Wright is the uncommon voice of idealism and decency because of the eventual Commissioner Gordon. John Turturro is low-key chilling as crime boss Carmine Falcone. Andy Serkis—Caesar in Reeves’ “Apes” films—brings a paternal knowledge and heat as Alfred. Colin Farrell is totally unrecognizable because the sleazy, villainous Oswald Cobblepot, higher referred to as The Penguin. And Paul Dano is flat-out terrifying as The Riddler, whose personal drive for vengeance gives the story’s backbone. He goes to extremes right here in an approach that’s paying homage to his startling work in “There Will Be Blood.” His derangement is so intense, chances are you’ll end up unexpectedly laughing simply to interrupt the stress he creates. However there’s nothing amusing about his portrayal; Dano makes you’re feeling as when you’re watching a person who’s really, deeply disturbed.
This isn’t to say that “The Batman” is a downer; removed from it. Regardless of the overlong operating time of almost three hours, this can be a movie that’s persistently viscerally gripping. The best Batmobile but—a muscle car that’s straight out of “Mad Max: Fury Road”—figures prominently in one of many film’s most heart-pounding sequences. It’s an elaborate automotive chase and chain-reaction crash ending with an upside-down shot of fiery fury that actually had me applauding throughout my screening. Throughout combat at a thumping nighttime membership, punctuated by pulsating purple lights, you may really feel each punch and kick. (That’s one of many extra compelling components of seeing this superhero in his early days: He isn’t invincible.) And a shootout in a pitch-black hallway, illuminated solely by the blasts of the shotgun hearth, is each harrowing and dazzling. Vastly magnifying the facility of scenes like these is the rating from veteran composer Michael Giacchino. Greatest recognized for his Pixar film music, he does one thing completely totally different with “The Batman”: percussive and horn-heavy, it’s large and demanding, and you’ll really feel it deep in your core.
Working with artists and craftspeople working on the high of their recreation, Reeves has made a film that manages to be ethereal but weighty on the identical time, substantial but impressionistic. Cinematographer Greig Fraser pulls off the identical type of gorgeous magic trick he did together with his Oscar-nominated work in Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune”: Via pouring rain and neon lights, there’s each a gauziness and a heft to his imagery. His use of shadow and silhouette is masterful and does a lot to convey a way of foreboding and pressure. I might write a whole, separate essay on the movie’s many makes use of of the color purple to recommend power, hazard, even hope. And the costume design from the nice Jacqueline Durran—with Dave Crossman and Glyn Dillon designing Pattinson’s rough-and-tumble Batsuit—put simply the best of completion on the movie’s cool, edgy vibe.
That is essentially the most stunning Batman film you’ve ever seen—even when it’s probably not a Batman film in any respect.