October 31st. Gotham City. A serial killer is at large and we find a caped vigilante in the second year of his quest for justice. Matt Reeves (of the Cloverfield and the Planet of the Apes franchise) brings us an early-years Batman without treading on the ground of previous appearances, which means no flashbacks to the death of the Waynes and no training montages. All of these are welcome choices.
Speaking of bold decision making, Gotham City has never looked so disgusting and that is a brilliant move. Reeves and director of photography Greig Fraser (Dune) have created a city that feels just as monstrous as the comic-book portrayals of the cesspit. Merging the architecture of Glasgow, Chicago and Liverpool on the big screen makes the sprawl of Gotham feel unlike any place in the real world and it is filled with similarly larger than life characters.
Pattinson’s (The Lighthouse) Bruce Wayne is traumatised, reclusive and brutal, stepping right off the pages of Year One and turning in one of the most emotionally resonant portrayals of the Batman to date. Reliant on homemade gadgets, a roaring muscle-car Batmobile and fragile relationships with Lt. Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and trusty butler Alfred (Andy Serkis), this Bruce Wayne may be unrefined in both his crime-fighting and detective work, but never have the shadows of Gotham City been utilised by a Batman so brilliantly on-screen.
Also working in those shadows is Zoe Kravitz’ (High Fidelity) Selina Kyle, not yet the Catwoman, but still giving Pattinson a run for his money as the standout of this stacked cast, in a role she was born to play. Kravitz carries herself with the elegance and selfishness of comic book Selina, working with Batman and finding her own mission in looking out for those that slip through the cracks of society in Gotham.
In terms of Rogues, the unrecognisable Colin Farrell (The Lobster) makes for an amazing Penguin, both slimy mobster and dark comic relief. He is one of the most exciting players in this new universe. Whereas Paul Dano’s (There Will Be Blood) Zodiac Killer-inspired Riddler is terrifying in both cryptic clues and narcissistic glee. He serves as the personification of modern-day criticism for Batman, questioning his moneyed and unyielding approach to crime-fighting.
The Batman is concerned with the decade-old question of why Batman exists, pitted against the corruption of his surroundings and emerging from a symbol of vengeance into a symbol of hope. The rest is an unrelenting dive into the world of Gotham City that has never been achieved to this standard before, unrivalled in both its performances and visuals.