The Batman (2022) - 7/10
If you’re here for an in depth look at the theory of this sprawling story. Forget it. I’m not that invested. I also have a general dislike of superhero films. This review is for the skeptics. Can you still enjoy a film like The Batman? Let’s assume we know no back story. Does this still work? We’re in the dark troubled city of Gotham of course. The city is broken. Riddled with crime. Politicians floundering to find a fix. The Batman is the justice. A vigilante picking off the criminals. To set the tone, think Se7en. Dark grimy streets and incessant rain. All captured by suitably epic camera choreography. A quick look at the cast list should quell any fears. It’s stellar to say the least. It’s all about the bat though isn’t it. Is Pattinson up to the expectation of the role? You can drawer your own conclusions, but I think so. His jaw is set firm in that mask, the eyes are locked and the vengeful voice raspy and believable. I like this darker edge these films have taken. Like The Joker, there’s menace on the screen. It’s no where near as grim as Se7en, but the mystery poised around the perpetrator that emerges does feel like we’re on that path. Dead souls and handwritten note pads. The superb Jeffrey Wright plays a cop, sympathetic to our caped hero and teams up in a fashion to catch a eulogising killer with a fondness for riddles… even I know where this is headed and that answers the question as to whether you can come in cold to this. Not really, you do need at least a little back story knowledge. For a second I wonder if we’re gonna go The Crow route, with Halloween circled on the calendar, Bruce Wayne’s lank hair, smudged dark eyes and Nirvana’s ‘Something in the Way’ needle dropped. It feels a bit too cool, but it’s a fleeting moment and there’s more ‘Ava Maria’ than anything else. Andy Serkis shows up as Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s often underused home help. Here though he’s given a bit more to chew on and Serkis is more than capable of chewing the scenery. It’s a bit hokey in places, but it needs the injections of humour to stop it flatlining. The pace is pretty relentless, quite a feet for a nearly 3 hour film. The amount of seedy characters helps. Colin Farrell is unrecognisable as an foreshadowing of The Penguin (he looks more like Depp trying to be De Niro) and Zoë Kravitz easily holds her own as a feisty proto-catwoman. This could quickly just turn into a list of names. Let’s get the rest out of the way, John Turturro, Paul Dano, Con O’Neill, Peter Sarsgaard, Barry Keoghan, I guess films like this, everyone wants in. I don’t blame them though. Before we’ve even really got into the meat of the second act, I’m hooked. The costumes etc. are almost secondary, superficial, certainly not needed for the main plot. This is a straight up crime thriller. Following the clues, digging a little deeper into Gotham’s criminal underbelly with each step. Let’s talk about the car though. Alright there’s lots of fantasy tech in this film, but generally the weaponry and toys are lovingly basic, mechanical. His car stalls for Christ sake and it’s not exactly the Batmobile as imagined before, more of a Mustang crossed with a buggy with a rocket welded to the back. It’s badass. Although I said the pace is punchy. I’m not a fan of needlessly long narratives and this does feel like it would’ve benefitted from losing an hour. I guess time has to be made to get some shirtless shots of Pattinson in. I can’t really point to a weak link though. It all works. The further we get in, the more I’m convinced of the Se7en playbook. It’s twisty with a deep emotive plot, but still nice and easy to follow. Someone call Fincher, he’s been robbed. The finale is chillingly post-modern, but it tapers off rather than explodes. This is an expansive story though and it feels both entertaining and final. It’s not the end though is it. If there’s one thing that’s predictable about these films, it’s the seed planted for the follow up. I’m not excited about that, but on the strength of this, I’ll probably tune in. Skeptics can enjoy The Batman.