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The Batman

The Batman

Matt Reeves take on the Caped Crusader trades comic book tropes for a exciting, tangling crime thriller.

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It's been a messy couple of years for the Batman character on the big screen. Ben Affleck was set to both pen and direct a solo movie, and the seeds of that very script were already planted in the original Justice League, which now seems like a lifetime ago. That movie never got made, and Affleck is expected to formally withdraw from the character with a major send-off and retcon in the upcoming The Flash movie.

At the same time, the DCEU, or rather DC Comics' superhero movie universe has, in and of itself, been in a weird place for a while, letting some heroes interact and connect, while others, like Shazam, and The Suicide Squad, largely stay in their own, separated realities. Matt Reeves' Batman movie won't make this duality any less understandable, seeing as this is completely separate from any wider reality we've yet seen. It is, at least for now, its own thing.

What a mess, right? That's what you get in a world where interwoven narratives are expected rather than surprising. But The Batman is, in its very essence, its own, and for many fans, that's exactly how it needs to be.

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The Batman is not a Year One-esque story, but it's pretty close. This is a Year 2-3 story, taking place in a Gotham City where superheroes and masked vigilantes are rare, and totally bizarre occurrences. This symbol of fear has rocked the underworld, but not enough to bring down the spiking crime rate. Gotham is morally bankrupt, deeply compromised and filled to the brim with mob-controlled government officials. "It's a powder keg, and Riddler is the match", Batman and Commissioner Gordon say, and so he is. In a few weeks he lights a fuse, bringing both a melancholic, brooding and emotionally frosty Bruce Wayne on a wild goose chase across the city, with the enigmatic Riddler one step ahead at all times.

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First off, while this reverbs in and out of the expected superhero trope territory we've come to know so well, this is, mainly a dark, brainy crime thriller, where just a couple of honest law enforcers attempt to gradually unravel a mystery so entangled in corruption, death and intrigue, that it seems nearly impossible from the offset. It's very much a genre film in that particular regard, effortless weaving a tapestry of exciting action, satisfying puzzle-solving (most of the time) and an effective portrait of how expansive and deeply rooted crime can fester, and infect institutions and systems from the ground up.

Most importantly, this is a superbly acted piece of cinema, with Robert Pattinson bringing both punk rock gravitas as the iconic Batman, as well as nailing the hopeless and almost depressive Bruce Wayne. Around him we almost find even better performances, such as Paul Dano's frankly Zodiac-like turn as Riddler, Zoë Kravitz as Selina Kyle and particularly Jeffrey Wright as Gordon. Sure, some characters turn out to be a tad underutilised, such as Andy Serkis' grounded portrayal of Alfred, and John Turturro's muted version of Carmine Falcone, but overall, the actor's bring their A-game, and have, quite obviously, received top notch direction throughout.

The Batman

It's a stunning looking movie too, fully committing to the dank, grimy and dirty Gotham that we, to some degree, saw in Batman Begins. Every single shot is packed with contrast, and while some have been spoiled through trailers, we can very easily assure you that throughout it's almost three-hour running-time, it's a feast for the senses, even if the colour palette is rather strictly in the browns and blacks. Michael Giacchino also delivers a score for the ages, grabbing obvious inspiration from The Animated Series with a forcefulness to be reckoned with. It's powerful, it's charismatic, it's perfectly utilised throughout.

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So those who want the superhero genre to evolve will be pleased, seeing as the fact that it's a Batman movie that can take a backseat to unravelling Riddler's tangled mystery, and establishing a new version of Gotham. Those who simply want Batman to punch bad guys and stalk his "prey", will probably feel like the movie spends a lot of its running time doing other things, like establishing crime scenes and connecting clues.

There are some systematic errors though, which viewers of all dispositions will notice. For instance, three hours is a tad too long, and while not all long movies are bad, there is a bit of frivolous excess, particularly in the third act. Also, not everyone will be satisfied with the particular untangling of the central puzzle's various pieces, and while we cannot spoil them here, some wordplay did cause a few chuckles amongst reviewers in the cinema. A tad too long, sure, but some may also feel like the hope, or the heart, is lost in all the brutality, the grime, the death and despair, and some of those elements, like Alfred's relationship with Bruce, is downplayed to allow for more time to be spent on... well, you know, all the above.

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When all that's said, The Batman is a superbly crafted, different kind of superhero movie, that hopefully is only the beginning for Pattinson and Reeves. It has the looks, the sound, the fury to be counted amongst the best iterations of the character, and while it stumbles here and there, and is generally a better opener than it is a closer (as many big-budget movies are), they're small in the grand scheme of things.

The Batman is back, his symbol sits in the cloudy sky above the cesspool that is Gotham. He's back, and yes, it was worth the wait.

09 Gamereactor UK
9 / 10
overall score
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The Batman

The Batman

MOVIE REVIEW. Written by Magnus Groth-Andersen

Matt Reeves take on the Caped Crusader trades comic book tropes for a exciting, tangling crime thriller.



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