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MOVIES: The Batman - Review

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In short - I loved this one. It understands the character of the Caped Crusader better than almost all Batfilms before it, and works wonders showcasing what a single authentic vision can bring to the table. David Fincher fans will, to nobody's surprise, find themselves right at home - Zoe Kravitz/Robert Pattinson are both sensational, and the gothic atmosphere is perfect and leading the way of one of the highlights of the movie itself, Greig Fraser's cinematography is perfection.

As someone who has been going through comic book movie - and big blockbuster movie in general - fatigue where movies have been more stripped of an individual narrative voice than ever lately in favour of a collective shared universe, I'm glad to say that The Batman exists with that pantheon of films like The Matrix Resurrections, No Time to Die and The Suicide Squad that are getting increasingly rarer - a film clearly made under the guidance of one director - rather than feeling straight off the production line. It helps give The Batman a sense of personality and a voice that isn't stripped down, isn't invested in building a cinematic universe, and allows itself to tell its own story for a change - it remembers to be a movie, rather than screaming at you: hey - have you watched five billion other things before coming in?

The opening narration feels ripped straight from the first issue of Snyder/Capullo's run essential to establishing a great early look and feel of Matt Reeves' Gotham - but it earns that praise - aided by Fraser's cinematography which creates some striking imagery that makes it as ever, feel like a character itself - which is quite the cliché thing to say about Gotham, the film spends its time investing in some truly brilliant locations and the Wayne Manor in particular is a highlight. Parts of Liverpool and Glasgow are deployed with care as well as familiar settings that you've seen used in Batman films before to make a city that feels truly grand.

The mystery element at the core of The Batman is unpredictable and compelling enough with plenty of twists and turns along the way that deal with the history of Gotham. It's an inward-looking film that turns its eyes directly on Bruce Wayne's past - although the Court of Owls don't feature a lot of influence is drawn from Snyder's run, and the film gives Gotham a sense of history that makes it feel real as a place. It thrusts The Batman into it when he's barely been operating in the field, has a working relationship with James Gordon but the rest of the GCPD are more sceptical about his involvement. Thugs don't know who he is - yet - and he's still figuring himself out. That's why the fight sequences feel rawer and more clumsier than before, intentionally so - this isn't Ben Affleck taking out multiple people in a warehouse, it's a different kind of grit. It pushes the 15 rating boundary at times that it recieved in the UK and it's very clearly not a family friendly film (without being too unrelentingly bleak), the tone makes it feel like Reeves watched Zodiac or Se7en on repeat and ensured that all the crew did too - but the film has a lot of DNA in common with the rich Arkham game universe - and there's a heavy shadow of Blade Runner lingering over this too. It's plenty easy to spot the many references that this film calls to even looking beyond that - Michael Mann's Heat has featured as a calling card for The Dark Knight trilogy and the director once again makes his presence felt as a key influencer behind what shapes this iteration of the Batman universe.

The length of Matt Reeves' The Batman was a massive talking point at three hours but it turned out to be a nonissue, I didn't notice how long I was in the cinema for and that's a good thing - the pace moved superbly right the way throughout and immersed me fully in a complete experience that the film has to offer. Part of this is to do with how much it cares about its characters - it's a Batman movie, not a Bruce Wayne one - it addresses the character of Batman rather than Bruce Wayne whilst exploring his relationship with Alfred and what makes that work, just as much as what makes his relationship with Selina Kyle work - she's introduced early on in the film and has a strong presence in Batman's life, but is never stripped of her own agenda and always has a role to play - it's an ensemble and really acts like one. Kravitz has an in-built chemistry with Pattinson that feels completely natural, and his shadowy gaze gives off a haunting look that he's spent much of the 2010s acing in the Twilight franchise - Edward Cullen really was the perfect casting choice for Bruce Wayne. Those who doubted him even after that will be proven wrong and be fast converts, but his great performance will come as no surprise to those who have seen The Lighthouse and High Life. The fact that this film can be romantic at times is also saying something - comic book movies have been so stripped of romance nowadays it's rare to see it crop up at all but The Batman has a burst of effortless charisma to it that means it soars, aided by its sense of shared lonelieness that comes between the two characters.

The villains are superb and are among the main draw - Colin Farrell is transformative as usual - on the back of a spine-chilling performance in The North Water he plays something more old-school mob boss here, but his interactions with Batman and Gordon are great in particular - he's a real joy to have around. Paul Dano's Riddler feels like a Joker stand-in at times rather than an actual Riddler but makes his quiet, smart and clever persona work for him well - committed to his cause right the way through.

That said - There's maybe one scene in this film that I groaned at, and was arguably enough just to lower my rating of it a bit as it was doing so well up to that point - its nature of sequel-bait feels entirely like a case of been there, done that - in fact, the finale at times can feel underwhelming compared to what has come before, but I still mostly vibed with it on a thematic link - it goes for the humanistic approach over the grand, showy structure of say, The Dark Knight Rises - and whilst it means that it can never truly rival Reeves' Apes franchise installments, it feels like one of the best movies to come out of the genre in a long time.

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