Batman is a character than lends himself to many different flavors, from corny and campy to super dark and gritty.
The latest iteration, “The Batman,” cranks the dial hard towards the darker end of the bat-spectrum and gives us a pretty cool (if unnecessarily overlong) take on the citizens of Gotham City.
As with any Batman movie, the attention goes directly to the man behind the cowl and the eternal fanboy question of “Yea, but can he pull it off?”
Michael Keaton’s left-field casting as Batman way back in 1989 set the bar for keeping your preconceived notions of an actor in check until you actually see the movie.
Even still, I had my doubts that Robert Pattinson’s Emo-Batman would actually fly. Pattinson is best known for his star turn in the “Twilight” series, but he’s actually been putting in a lot of work distancing himself from his teen-heartthrob days with some quality, off-the-radar turns with edgy directors like David Cronenberg, the Safdie Brothers and Robert Eggers.
Pattinson proves he is more than up to the task and writer/director Matt Reeves gives him plenty of runway to be successful.
Reeves goes right for a creepy, grimy vibe and never lets up. His vision lands smack in the middle of Batman meets “Se7en,” complete with constant rain and grisly crime scenes.
It was nice to see Reeves focus on the detective side of Batman, something that gets lots of attention in the comics (he’s the star of Detective Comics for Pete’s sake!) but hasn’t gotten much play in the movies.
Batman’s main adversary this time around is the Riddler (Paul Dano) reimagined as a serial killer who leaves cryptic clues at the scenes of his crimes targeting Gotham’s political elite. Reeves does his best to ground “The Batman” in reality, or at least as close to reality as you can with your hero being a billionaire vigilante who dresses up as a bat.
The proceedings in Gotham City are also much sexier this time around with Zoe Kravitz’s Catwoman and her smoldering chemistry with Pattinson’s Batman.
Rounding out the excellent cast are John Turturro as crime boss Carmine Falcone, Andy Serkis as Bruce Wayne’s dutiful butler Alfred, Jeffrey Wright, who should be in everything, as Commissioner Gordon and Colin Farrell, buried under an unrecognizable amount of makeup and doing his best Robert De Niro impersonation, as The Penguin.
The biggest complaint here is that this thing is easily half-an-hour too long, clocking in at two hours and 55 minutes. It feels more like a bloated director’s cut to get die-hard fans to buy the Blu-Ray than a lean, mean theatrical release.
But in spite of these excesses, Reeves has created a version of Gotham City that is a dark and dirty delight that will be a pleasure to revisit, as I can almost guarantee you that we will.
“The Batman” is rated PG-13 for strong violent and disturbing content, drug content, strong language and some suggestive material.