Review: The Batman is 'a dark, weighty thriller'

Robert Pattinson in Warner Bros Pictures’ The Batman 

Robert Pattinson in Warner Bros Pictures’ The Batman - Credit: Jonathan Olley/™©DC Comics

Batman arrives in Saffron Walden this weekend. Saffron Screen will be showing The Batman tonight (Friday, April 1) at 7.30pm, at 2.30pm on Saturday, April 2, and again at 7.30pm on Sunday, April 3. Paul Steward reviews Robert Pattinson in the new Batman movie.

After struggling to emulate Marvel with their own interconnected DC Comics universe, Warner Bros struck awards gold in 2019 with Todd Phillips' standalone Joker film.

Now Cloverfield director Matt Reeves offers his own fresh take on Joker’s long standing nemesis, The Batman.

Robert Pattinson takes on the role of the Dark Knight, who we find in his second year as a masked vigilante, fighting crime in Gotham.

Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle and Robert Pattinson as Batman and in Warner Bros. Pictures’ The Batman.

Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle and Robert Pattinson as Batman and in Warner Bros. Pictures’ The Batman. - Credit: Jonathan Olley/™ & © DC Comics. © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

When a sadistic serial killer known as the Riddler begins murdering the city’s political elite, Batman forms an uneasy partnership with detective Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright).

As the investigation progresses, the pair uncover city-wide corruption, which may have links to Batman’s own father, Thomas Wayne.

Reeves, who wrote the screenplay with Peter Craig, delivers a dark, weighty thriller, which has far more in common with serial killer films like Seven, than your standard comic book fare. 

The Batman

The Batman - Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

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A moody Pattinson voiceover followed by Nirvana’s ‘Something in the Way’ sums up the film's gloomy vibe perfectly. For better or worse, this is a deadly serious iteration of the character.

Accompanied by a fantastic throbbing score from Michael Giacchino, Reeves' version of Gotham is superbly rendered. A bleak, rain-soaked cityscape, which envelopes the audience from the very start.

Pattinson, who had to endure an online backlash when he was cast, answers doubters with a captivating performance as the brooding Batman.

Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne in The Batman, a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne in The Batman, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. - Credit: Jonathan Olley/™ & © DC Comics. © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

His fleeting appearances as alter ego Bruce Wayne are a bit too sulky, but his Caped Crusader is an unnerving presence throughout. Carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, the Brit personifies the hero's tortured soul perfectly as he skulks around the gruesome crime scenes with a world weary intensity.

Paul Dano’s take on the Riddler as a disturbed serial killer is compelling, but bares so little resemblance to the DC Comics version that it may as well have been a new character altogether.

Equally Colin Farrell is completely unrecognisable as the Penguin, under a ton of prosthetic make-up and is another big diversion from the source.

Why it needed to be Farrell in the role at all is unclear, but the Irishman is engaging as a Gotham City mob boss.

Robert Pattinson as Batman in Warner Bros. Pictures’ new movie The Batman.

Robert Pattinson as Batman in Warner Bros. Pictures’ new movie The Batman. - Credit: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures/ ™ & © DC Comics

Andy Serkis is underused in the role of Batman’s butler Alfred, whilst John Turturro seems miscast as the unscrupulous crime lord Carmine Falcone, lacking the threatening persona needed to make the character believable.

Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman and Jeffry Wright’s Jim Gordon complete the strong supporting cast and both are excellent foils for Pattinson’s Batman.

Why the film needed to be an epic three hours long is unknown. Whilst it’s engrossing for two of those hours, the film is relentlessly dour and the final third becomes a bit of a slog.

The Batmobile in a scene in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure 'The Batman' 

The Batmobile in a scene in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure 'The Batman' - Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures/ ™ & © DC Comics

An underwhelming finale means the film won’t be regarded in the same league as the excellent Christopher Nolan trilogy. It takes inspiration from the real-life invasion of congress in 2019, but fails to deliver a wholly satisfying conclusion.

Having said that, there is still plenty to like here. Matt Reeves has a clear vision and is uncompromising in his delivery of it.

Atmospheric and unsettling, The Batman will entertain enough people to warrant a sequel, and despite not being totally convinced, I for one will be keen to see where the story goes from here.