This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Will Steele’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
The Bat is back. More noir than ever. In one of the most anticipated films of recent times, Matt Reeves delivers his vision of Gotham, and oh boy does he deliver!
Right up top, I must pay due respects to this sublime cast. Robert Pattinson leads and dons the cowl with veritable ease as if we was born to be Batman. The decision to situate Bruce in the suit for a vast majority of this 3 hour epic was a wise one. But then, the hero is only as strong as their villains. Here we have a roster akin to that of the beloved Arkham games. Chief amongst them is Paul Dano as The Riddler lending this film its puzzle-box plot which grounds Batman back in the detective genre he grew from. The remaining cast are an embarrassment of riches and too numerous to note individually here. All I shall say is it is criminal that there isn’t an Oscar, nary a nomination, between the ensemble!
A signature of spellbinding cinema are those sequences which sear themselves onto your brain long after the curtain falls. Whilst The Batman is lengthy and doesn’t quite stick the landing, there are moments that simply stay with you. Personally the car chase between Penguin and Batman was an indelible set-piece. Stripped back to a concrete motorway and the most inconspicuous Batmobile to grace the silver screen, it’s memorability is owed to its bold utility. This is where Reeves shone and his vision was only amplified by Giacchino’s score. Elfman and Zimmer set the bar high, but Giacchino brands this iteration of the Batman with evocative motifs and heightens the tension with notes that sound like haunted industrial whispers.
Story-wise, The Batman gave me just what I expected. The narrative can only delve so deep when it comes to the caped crusader. The character’s very nature lends to stark black-and-white conflicts - Good versus evil - with foes being diametric opponents of righteous justice. Corruption breeds above and below the cit. It filters into the bureaucracy and the underworld as they become indistinguishable from one another. This is the tale told by so many Batman stories before and The Batman fails to break this mould. Instead of reinventing the wheel - or laboriously recounting an origin story - it runs with the trademarks and let’s new moments grow from the seeds of this ecclectic array of reimagined rogues. The world feels wider by way of being flatter with no central exclusive dynamic dominating the narrative.
Matt Reeves commendably weaves shades of contemporary political dynamics into the fabric of his Batman universe. Gone are the manic lycra days of The Ridder who now is contextualised as a social pariah. His reward is the reaction of others. Participation in his puzzles is what drives him, and the minor cult he amasses by broadcasting his crimes online taps into fears emanating from the far-right underbelly of the internet. Differentiating any Batman villain from the Joker is hard, and Reeves almost achieves this but not quite. He can’t help but fall into the trap of imitating The Dark Knight and Heath Ledger’s anarchic antagonist. The comparison is brought into sharp focus in the finale which sees The Riddler and [Spoilers!] The Joker imprisoned side by side: their cackling mania a broken mirror which reminds us how similar these goes end up seeming.
The Batman proves to be a poetic parallel to the pedantic puzzles of The Riddler insofar as being an intricate enigma which so tantalisingly almost assembles. Despite its pitfalls, The Batman is a spectacular beast. It’s jaws open wide to reveal a menagerie of jagged edges. The crookedness is all-consuming. It chews you up and spits you out. Often gruelling and sometimes distressing, you can’t help but revel in the dynamism of Reeves’ Gotham complete with a world-class cast amidst a vast labyrinth of sleaze and intrigue. For me, Batman has never been so electrifying.