Riddle me this, riddle me that, who won’t enjoy this big, black, bat?
From Adam West to Michael Keaton to Val Kilmer to George Clooney to Christian Bale to Ben Affleck, Batman has been an iconic DC hero finding himself in live-action formats on film. I’m no comic book expert, but I can sense when an actors knows how to be committed to the Dark Knight role and his true identity-the billionaire heir Bruce Wayne. Now, we have Robert Pattinson, in his first role since “The Devil All the Time,” as Batman in “The Batman,” directed by Matt Reeves of “Cloverfield” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” fame.
The movie may run for nearly three hours, which might lose you attention at times, but it does have a vibrant look and feel to the new reboot that splices the qualities of a superhero movie with a psychological thriller. As an intro, it has the potential to start a franchise, just as long as it knows the stakes.
For one thing, the look of Gotham City is dazzling, whether we see it outside or inside through the windows. Most of it was filmed in England, UK., and even part of Chicago, and it looks as though the city combines New York City with London and Chicago. Cinematographer Greig Fraser, who just made “Dune” look remarkable, captures the scope and atmosphere of a gloomy city during the 2020s with a tone that resembles something out of the 70s/80s. I was reminded of how well Tim Burton made the city look riveting in 1989.
Another thing is how Batman struggles to overcome with the realities of what his late father Thomas Wayne got himself into, and what he’s now getting himself into. Before he puts on the mask, he puts on black makeup for his eyes, and wears a contact lens that works like a video camera. Pattinson, who started off as a teen idol in “The Twilight Saga” and continued to expand his horizons in various features (“Water for Elephants,” “Tenet,” etc.), is able to match the scope and depth of the vigilante.
The villain, this time, is the Riddler, who is portrayed by Paul Dano with a leather mask and glasses. He treats his victims almost like John Doe in “Seven,” but not as graphic, since this is rated PG-13. Anyway, he leaves Batman codes of his next targets and plans. Dano, whose breakout role in “Little Miss Sunshine” changed my life, can specialize in disturbed characters as seen in “There Will Be Blood” and “Prisoners.” And as the Riddler, he really scares himself in what the character does. And he does a lot of horrible things.
After Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, Lee Merriweather, Michelle Pfieffer, and Anne Hathaway (we don’t talk about Halle Berry, no, no, no), Zoe Kravitz, who voiced her in “The Lego Batman Movie,” is now taking on the role of Catwoman, a cat burglar, who is trying to protect her friend who is in danger. Batman requires her help to get closer to the people involved with the inside jobs of Gotham City, such as her boss, Oswald Cobblepot-Penguin (Colin Farrell, disguised by makeup). There’s also a kiss between the Cat and Bat, and a certain kind of chemistry that makes fans admire those two.
The best looking action sequence is when Batman pursues Penguin in a high speed chase. Penguin tries to block Batman’s path by making some trucks explode, but Batman and his Batmoblie both manage to survive that explosion and subdue him. The special effects and the execution of that scene really keeps us at the edge of our seats, because you know Batman won’t give up without a fight.
The supporting cast also includes Andy Serkis as Bruce Wayne’s butler and mentor Alfred Pennyworth, Jeffrey Wright as detective Jim Gordon, Peter Sarsgard as district attorney Gil Colson, and John Turturro as crime lord Carmine Falcone. Pennyworth wants Bruce to keep his family’s image in tact, Gordon helps Batman with the recent cases, Colson is among those with with corrupt behaviors, and Falcone is more trouble than we’re lead to believe.
I’ve admired the performances from Pattinson, Kravitz, Dano, Wright, Turturro, Serkis, and Farrell; I was dazzled by the art direction and the cinematography; and I was trying to figure out where the recent murders were going to lead to. This is a mind-boggling “Batman” movie, directed with humanity by Reeves, and I’m glad I gave myself time to think about my overall opinion.