The Batman

The Batman ★★★★½

A staggering feat of franchise filmmaking, The Batman is one of the most immersive and uncompromised superhero films. It is three hours dedicated not to cameos and action scenes, but instead something focused on character and style. It is complex, it has a vision, and it walks the line between smart and silly without being pretentious. The film isn't flawless, but it stands above most of its blockbuster contemporaries. Films on this budget are rarely so interesting and intricate. The Batman is a stunning achievement.

The prospect of yet another dark, edgy Batman movie did not seem appealing, but The Batman finds a new approach and it totally won me over. It doesn't play as an endless action movie and there's no big half hour action sequence, as you often find in many superhero movies. Instead The Batman is mostly a detective movie, like a noir at times, with shadowy streets, nihilist themes, and even some voiceover. It is paced very slowly and carefully, going for a slow-burn approach that is very rewarding. The plot has shades of Se7en and High and Low, which gives this a different set of inspirations than other comicbook adaptations. The atmosphere resembles a horror film at times, built on tension and disturbing reveals. Mostly The Batman is a small stakes serial killer movie, without global consequences or a whole universe to deal with. Yet The Batman is also not going for realism. It is clearly set in a fantasy world, one of an exaggerated Gotham that exists as a disgusting, grimy harbour of all that is corrupt and broken. There are contrivances and coincidences that defy logic, but that's how superhero movies work. The Batman plays with both what is established and what hasn't been seen in this kind of movie. It's incredibly distinct.

The Batman is a feat of craftsmanship, a showcase of almost impeccable technique. Almost every shot and edit works perfectly. There are times when the film does seem to get lost, such as during a chaotic car chase, but the momentum of the narrative and personal stakes in the story pull it through. This is a film which really explores Batman. It doesn't have an origin story or rely on an established setup, it just presents Gotham and Batman as fully formed. The film also doesn't rehash the death of Waynes, instead investigating the headspace of Bruce Wayne independent of one childhood event. Here Batman is unrestrained, above the law and so close to breaking his own rules. He's an addict, able only to think as the Bat and not able to find peace away from that. The film asks what it is that Batman inspires and the journey of the film is Batman trying to find purpose, to find a way to make a difference. He exists in a symbiotic relationship with his city, depending on them as they depend on him. With the extended runtime The Batman is able to introduce many characters and create a city of people, not fodder to be killed. Yet the film also examines and critiques Gotham, looking at its corruption and wealth inequality. The Batman not a politically radical or progressive work, but it understands only a privileged few could ever fulfil a Batman fantasy. Batman may be a symbol of hope and heroics, but he's also the symptom of a very broken society.

The Batman shocked and amazed me. I was enraptured all the way through and there wasn't a single second where I didn't feel immersed in the experience. Matt Reeves has now fully established himself as the greatest franchise filmmaker working. He has constructed a symphony of darkness and superheroism that I have only respect for. Yet it also has the right amount of humour, enough to not make this a totally dour film. The Batman is not depressing, it is ultimately uplifting. The mesmerising style and detailed world-building are then just the finishing touches that elevate this even more. The Batman is a real gem of a blockbuster and one of the finest superhero films I have ever seen.

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