Once again, DC’s Bat-Man soars for a solo adventure. This time true to the motto “The masks will fall”. Whether they actually do this cannot be revealed at this point. But it does have director and co-writer Matt Reeves THE BATMAN managed to bring out a side of the hero that has never been seen in the cinema before. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: The Batman (USA 2022)
For two years now, Bruce Wayne has been roaming the dark streets of Gotham City as Batman (Robert Pattinson), terrifying the city’s criminals. With Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis) and Lieutenant James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) as his only confidant amidst a corrupt network of officials and high-ranking figures, the lone avenger has established himself among his fellow citizens as the sole authority for retribution. When a killer targets Gotham’s elite in a series of sadistic attacks, a trail of cryptic clues leads the world’s best detective deep underground, where he encounters characters like Selina Kyle aka Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), Oswald Cobblepot aka Penguin (Colin Farrell), Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) and Edward Nashton aka Riddler (Paul Dano). As his investigation takes him closer to his target and the extent of the perpetrator’s plans becomes clear, Batman must forge new relationships to expose the culprit and put an end to the abuse of power and corruption that has long plagued Gotham City.
The theory has been circulating among David Fincher fans for years that the serial killer thriller “Seven,” which has long since become a genre classic, is actually set in Gotham. The aesthetic and tonal overlaps between the film and “The Dark Knight” trilogy simply cannot be dismissed; Although it must of course be noted that this theory would only work if David Fincher had already been able to take a look into the future at the end of the 1990s and look over Christopher Nolan’s shoulder when he was conceiving his “Batman” saga. The rumor is therefore persistent, but it is more than just an amusing, tongue-in-cheek rumor “What if?”-assumption and less as the serious result of a supposedly cross-film conspiracy. Director and author Matt Reeves now presents the antithesis to this theory (“Planet of the Apes: Survival”) and locates a thriller plot in Gotham that is strongly reminiscent of “Seven” and “Zodiac”, so that Fincher lovers no longer have to ask themselves what a “Batman” by Fincher would look like. Exactly like this: Dark, muted colors, constant rain everywhere, two desperate investigators (or better: a good cop and a “Bat Cop”) who follow the perverse clues of a determined mass murderer in a disillusioned city who, according to his own agenda, are big shots in Gotham tortures and kills. And in the middle of it all is the Bat Man, aka Bruce Wayne, who has never been further away from the character type of the classic hero.
Batman (Robert Pattinson) follows the clues of a madman…
“The Batman” begins with a scene in which we observe a previously unknown person observing a family from a first-person perspective. A short time later – the first murder case has already occurred – we see what appears to be the same person, hidden under a motorcycle helmet. And words are heard off-camera, which later turn out to be the lines of a diary. The exciting thing about this start is less the question of who we are actually watching. This becomes clear after just a few minutes. No, it is rather the ambiguity of the voice-over that makes one thing immediately clear: who is good and who is evil in this film is no longer as clear as in all other “Batman” interpretations before it. Only later do we realize who the meaningful sentences actually come from, which could previously have been assigned to both a villain and a hero. Screenwriters Matt Reeves and Peter Craig (“Operation: 12 Strong”) With their version of the winged avenger, they move as far away as possible from the simple portrayal of a heroic character. Your Batman is a violent berserker who even hits villains lying on the ground with full force. Who has set himself the credo not to use (fire) weapons, but uses his fists so accurately that he tramples on his own principle with every moment of his appearance – in the truest sense of the word. It’s difficult to sympathize with the Batman from “The Batman” right from the start – and it’s probably not even intended. Rather, the creatives here are building a world that, in its sadness and hopelessness, could hardly be closer to current events. Even an avenger in costume and mask couldn’t provide a silver lining here…
“Your Batman is a violent berserker who even hits villains lying on the ground with full force. Who has set himself the credo not to use (fire) weapons, but uses his fists so accurately that he tramples on his own principle with every moment of his appearance – in the truest sense of the word.
Christopher Nolan has already done an excellent job of portraying Gotham as a juggernaut of fear, violence, hatred and corruption. Matt Reeves and “Dune” cameraman Greig Fraser give their concerns their own urgency: “The Batman” impresses with the opulence of a classically large-scale blockbuster. Above all, the action scenes, which have a remarkably tactile feel, of which there are only a handful, have a force that is transferred from the screen directly into the cinema. But it’s not just the minimalist color spectrum that contradicts the idea of the opulent comic action film. Instead of reveling in the intoxicating scenery of this Gotham, Fraser gives his audience little opportunity to marvel. Instead, he is always very close to his characters, especially Bruce Wayne. If he does change his picture, for example to capture a spectacular car chase lasting around 15 minutes in the second third of the film, the depressive and dreary image of a city dominates, whose residents have long since lost themselves and their belief in goodness. The Gotham in “The Batman” doesn’t have the evil, forbidden charm of the “Dark Knight” trilogy, nor does it have the crazy likeability of previous film adaptations. Gotham here feels like a ghetto from which you immediately want to disappear, which clearly prevents you from venturing further into its furthest corners – and in which it simply rains constantly.
…and rarely shows up without a mask.
Characterized by this desolation, Batman, who only appears in a few scenes as Bruce Wayne, and Lieutenant James Gordon go through a crime plot whose parallels to “Seven” – a killer leaves clues at brutal murder scenes that the investigators have to follow – and “Zodiac “ – in terms of the design of these same clues as well as the leisurely pace – are unmistakable. But it’s not just these two role models that immediately come to mind; “The Batman” even has slight “Saw” vibes at times (the methods the Riddler chooses to torture his victims would make the Jigsaw Killer proud!) and also takes up motifs from the “Joker” solo film, which… Society’s fascination with a villain was brought to the extreme in the finale. In “The Batman”, in addition to the classic functionality of an underground group à la “Fight Club”, social networks and the value of their media distribution also play a major role. Nevertheless, the cat-and-mouse game between Batman and the Riddler always remains the center of the story, which helps the film to move at a high pace in the first third. But the almost three hour running time also leaves its mark. While the extent of the character involvements that exist here are revealed in the middle section, the actual crime plot temporarily fades into the background. This results in unnecessary lengths, because even without these conspiracy approaches, which are not all consistently thought through, the story would have worked just as well. In places, the impression appears that “The Batman” is providing the first impulses for further films – even though the film as a whole doesn’t really invite a sequel.
“While the extent of the character involvements that exist here are revealed in the middle section, the actual crime plot temporarily fades into the background. This creates unnecessary lengths, because even without these conspiracy approaches, which are not all consistently thought through, the story would have worked just as well.
In view of the potential that further exploration of the Batman character presented here could bring to light, a sequel doesn’t seem like the worst thing that could happen to “The Batman”; on the contrary. Robert Pattinson (“The lighthouse”) plays his bat-man as a physically present fighter at all times, as a disillusioned avenger and stoic loner, whose minimalist facial expressions perfectly reflect the fact that he has not yet found his place in Gotham itself. In “The Batman” he is neither a hope-giving leading figure nor a lawless avenger before whom the villains invariably freeze. Pattinson’s Batman is broken and sad. His soaring to (anti-)heroic deeds is a kind of rebellion under the pressure of powerlessness. It is only when he meets Serena Kyle that he elicits some brief emotional impulses. Even in the presence of his Uncle Alfred, he can catch his breath for a moment before he finds himself in a breathtaking hand-to-hand fight, a chase or other action scene, which in this rather quiet, dialogue-heavy “Batman” hits the audience like unexpected claps of thunder.
Conclusion: “The Batman” is a grandiose thriller of unbridled coldness and emotional harshness. An homage to “Seven” and “Zodiac” with subtle comic book film THEN and still a “Batman” film through and through. The title character has never been further from a hero, and a “Batman” story has rarely been more contemporary in its desolation. Together with the force of the occasional action scenes, the result is a first-class “artbuster” that demands a lot of sitting, but rewards it with an interpretation of “Batman” that has never been seen on the screen before.
“The Batman” can be seen in USA cinemas from March 3, 2022. Some cinemas are already holding previews on March 2nd.