The Batman

The latest incarnation of the dark knight proves not only that there is still room for new variations on the mythos, but it confirms that The Batman is the most valuable weapon in DC's arsenal, especially when done right.

It is no secret that Christopher Nolan's trilogy and especially The Dark Knight has set the bar very high, when it comes to adaptations of Batman comics. While the 2008 film still stands as the best Batman film, in terms of its perfect pacing, tightly contructed plot, flawlesss thematic reimagination, character arc depth, Matt Reeves' version gets pretty close at taking over the title. In fact, there are several aspects and elements that are borrowed from Nolan: the live video threats, certain iconographic elements and even exact frames, certain characterial choices (e.g. Gordon, once again, is not a commisioner at the beginning of the film), even certain lines or the score, which will be dealt with in a different paragraph.

As the marketing campaign has extensively pointed out, this Batman is heavily focused on the investigative aspect of the comic book character. A consequence of this choice is that Reeves' version is able to convey the exact atmosphere and style of the original comic books, which is an unprecedented factor in the so-called comic book movies - except for the Frank Miller inspired 300 and Sin City. Thus, Greig Fraser's cinematography works greatly in depicting an artificious Gotham (opposed to the very ground-based Gotham of Nolan's films), enhanced by the gothic production design. Next to the comic-inspired aspects, The Batman clearly homages a set of cinematic works aswell: Fincher's serial killer films, Schrader's voice overs for Taxi Driver, etc.

Pattinson's Batman is younger than the other versions. His recluse Bruce Wayne is well characterized, but there is very little room left for actual character development, if not few minor hints. When compared to the arc that Bruce Wayne undergoes in Nolan's The Dark Knight, the emotional journey of Pattinson's Batman is rather mild. In its appearance and portrayal it is nonetheless an excellent Batman. It does however lack to fit the popular epithet "best detective of the world": while this Batman does have wit and proves his skills, he does not manage to "solve" the case, he merely shows exceptional talents in following the trail. This is not however uncommon to the comics either, especially in the case of this villain, the Riddler.

Paul Dano's Riddler is a heavily reimagined villain, that has more in common with the Zodiac killer than the original comic book character. Clearly, Dano's uparalleled talent at portraying psychotic characters leads him to an outstanding performance, mostly conveyed only behind a mask - but not less impactful for that. A different mask - a prostethic one covers Colin Farrel's face, turning him into a Penguin that reminds partially of a Robert De Niro in his 40s. A consideration must be made about how this film once again exploits italian american stereotypes by belittlening the identity, but that is a matter not to discuss in a film review. Either ways, Colin Farrel works surprisingly well as the Penguin, and similar surprise strikes when seeing Andy Serkis as Alfred: the backstory of this particular version of the butler makes the casting choice more believable. With Jeffrey Wright and Zoe Kravitz completing the ensemble, hardly any flaw can be detected in this aspect of the film.

A major aspect out of tune is the score: Michael Giacchino's theme for The Batman is painstakingly similar to Hans Zimmer's work on Nolan's films, to the point that Giacchino's version seems to have done a slightly less complex orchestration and omitted a few notes from Zimmer's theme. The re-elaborations on Schubert's Ave Maria (which has an in-story connection) slightly save most of the rest of his score, without however leading to anything entirely original and fresh.

At three hours of length, it was inevitable that eventually the plot would derail from the main storyline: The Batman is not a self contained film, it clearly sets up a whole series of mysteries and inter character relations that are to be central in future projects. That is indeed what The Batman does best: it sets expectations. In leaving the screening, the audience will be longing for more, not out of dissatisfaction but because The Batman is only the first chapter in a new storyline, much more exciting than any other active CBM or superhero film project currently in production.


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