REVIEW: The Batman

Every once in a while, something happens to you that changes your life forever, like a marriage – not that I’d know; I haven’t had a wedding – or the birth of your first child – not that I’d know; I’ve ran away from all of my bastard offspring.

Or a screening of a film that you have eagerly been anticipating for nearly a decade.

I am, of course, talking about Hotel Transylvania: Transformania The Batman.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of the Caped Crusader; some of my favourite video games are from the Arkham franchise; I’ve watched The Animated Series more times than I care to think; even at my last day at an old job, I insisted that me and my colleagues dressed as characters from the comics.

(It’s a bit annoying upon reflection. It was my leaving do, and I still had to go as Robin.)

What I’m trying to say is that I have a crush on and/or quite enjoy Batman projects. As a fan, you’d forgive me for being worried about The Batman, but, boy, were those concerns unnecessary? I’d go as far to say that The Batman is the second best Batman movie to-date, behind The Dark Knight. Obviously. But even if I played Batman in a movie, I’d still think it was rubbish in comparison to The Dark Knight.

With a runtime of nearly three hours, I would say that if you are just a casual comic book movie fan, maybe you won’t get as much of a thrill out of The Batman, and find yourself slapping your bum to regain some feeling in your cheeks, but for the the most part, I think audiences will go nuts for Robert Pattinson’s debut.

The Batman is such a grown-up, eerie movie. From the very beginning, before we see any main characters, we are watching, for minutes on end, through a window via some binoculars. All that can be heard is some operatic music, and the distant sound of heavy breathing. I was already getting creeped out, and all I’d seen was some windows. Those things aren’t usually that scary.

But kudos to Paul Dano, who makes a brilliant Riddler. His reveal is just terrifying. Much like the Batman, he appears out of nowhere, from behind his victim. He stays silent for a while, standing motionless, until he strikes. Of course, previous iterations of the Riddler have varied – we’ve had Tommy Lee Jones’ fucking bizarre attempt to out-Jim Carrey whilst starring opposite Jim Carrey; to a more subtle – yet still wired – version in the Arkham video games. But there’s something so real about Paul Dano’s outing; he could very much be a serial killer in the real world, which is what makes him so scary. (It also helps that Paul’s performance is incredible, and I dare say I would put it on parr with Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning portrayal of the Joker.)

Maybe I’m saying that because I was genuinely in awe of Paul’s acting abilities, or maybe I’m saying it because I’m just scared that the Riddler’s real, and I hope this will get me some brownie points.

It’s not just the Riddler who seems grounded; in fact, for a film about a millionaire who pretends to be a half-man, half-bat hybrid, as he chases a green-suited man, it’s a very mature, realistic film. The Batman opens with Robert Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne explaining how that – while he is attempting to protect Gotham – crime will still happen; that he can’t be across every incident all the time. This is something I can’t really remember being addressed; we actually see muggings and fights happen, without the help of the Batman.

I’ve seen quite a few people moaning and whining on Twitter – the home of moaning and whining – about the fight sequences; saying how they look unrealistic, but – much like the rest of this film – I think they’re effortlessly easy to believe. They look and sound brutal. Genuinely, at times, I actually winced at several impacts of punches; it felt real. Batman’s tech wasn’t over-the-top; his Batmobile seemed more like a souped-up car than some mad, industrial tech. I think Matt Reeves, the director, is a true fan of Batman, and studied how he should fight.

Not to get too fan-girly here, but he understood the assignment. For the first time, in a standalone film, we haven’t watched Batman’s backstory. I think everyone at this point knows how Bruce became the Batman. Hell, Thomas and Martha Wayne probably know his backstory, and they’re dead. Matt knew to skip past that and get straight into the action. He knew to really utilise his fear tactics; a method that Batman prioritises himself on. Even hearing him in interviews about Batman’s mantra of not killing; and what that could possibly mean, shows that The Batman is truly a passion project for him, and not just something exciting to be a part of.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Matt hadn’t watched every bit of Batman media out there – I reckon The Batman was heavily influenced by The Animated Series; both giving off that film noire vibe. In The Batman, we see a greyscale Gotham City, with the only flash of colour coming from neon lights on buildings and theatres. We hear a grizzled voice over explaining the city, as Bruce Wayne walks through the rain in slow-motion. For me, personally, one of the few downfalls here was just how dark the film went. I get it; the Batman isn’t positive. He went through his fair share of shit. If I stub my toe, I act like the world’s ended four times over, so I get what being overly dramatic is, but…

I felt like this version of the Batman was maybe stylised a bit too dark. Bruce Wayne had a moody fringe, which would have made 14-year-old me cower in fear from; and you best believe 14-year-old me rocked a huge fringe. Everything he did was ripped right from Tumblr; as he drove off, moodily into the sunset on his motorbike, on empty street after empty street. Get him a pink and black chequered iPod playing My Chemical Romance already. Even his manor was too emo – the gothic architecture in his place actually got a laugh from the people in my screening. We get it. The Batman’s edgy. Jeez.

But that is not to downplay Robert’s portrayal. He is so good as Batman. His fight sequences are amazing; he nails the gruff nature of Batman, but also the fragility and desperation of Bruce Wayne. Zoë Kravitz was almost born to play Selina Kyle, and do not get me started on Colin Farrell. Oop. You got me started. I could wax lyrical about how Colin deserves every Oscar – even the ones that the stupid Academy aren’t televising – for his portrayal. He lived and breathed Oswald Cobblepot, and I will honestly pay anyone £50 who did not enjoy his performance.

(I won’t pay anyone £50 who did not enjoy his performance. I know what the moody gonks of the internet can be like.)

I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, because I pretty much worship the ground he walks on, but the only performance I wasn’t totally enamoured with was Jeffrey Wright’s. He made an okay James Gordon. I just wanted to reach through the screen and give him a throat lozenge. During scenes where he shared the screen with Batman, it was like they were in a competition to see who could get the most gravelly voice, and I found that quite distracting.

Of course, there were some classic clichés in The Batman. Is it really an action film if there isn’t a violent fight sequence set in a night club to some obnoxious trance music, as every punch lands to strobe lighting? Or if the gunmen involved didn’t all attend the Stormtrooper School of Target Shooting? But that can all be forgiven for just how incredible the fight choreography was. During one scene – which was shown in the trailer – Batman fights down a pitch black corridor of goons, all firing at him, with the gunfire illuminating him throughout. It’s a really gorgeous film.

What I really loved about The Batman is that it felt so different to all of the various outings we’ve seen previously. I genuinely watched it thinking “How is Batman going to resolve this?” which, again, I don’t remember thinking in any other movie, recently. This version of the Batman is grittier and more raw and more real. Just stop reading this and watch The Batman already.

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