Films

The Batman

Written by Omair Alavi

For once Batman is portrayed as the world’s greatest detective and that elevates the film’s status!

Karachi: It might be three-hour-long, but the way the Caped Crusader is presented in Matt Reeves’s The Batman, even five hours wouldn’t have hurt. For once, ‘the world’s greatest detective’ angle of Batman’s storyline was explored, with the masked vigilante solving the most challenging case of his life. The thrill, the fear, the excitement, and the ‘saving the city alone’ comes next and doesn’t disappoint.

The audience knew before entering the cinema that before the Dark Knight’s entry, life would become chaotic in Gotham City and that’s what happens here. The Batman (Robert Pattinson) arrives in style, beats the crap out of those who destroy the city’s peace, and unveils himself as the saviour, even though many don’t believe his intentions. He teams up with Alfred (Andy Serkis) at home, and with James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) on the streets to solve horrific murders of those who wronged the city but didn’t deserve to die.

Add to that another vigilante The Riddler (Paul Dano) and you have an action-packed thriller where ‘justice’ is the key to the solution. He sends cryptic messages to Batman, believes that he is doing the city a favor, and thinks of himself as a savior. No one knows who he is, just like no one knows who Batman is, but things get interesting when he targets someone close to Batman.

And then there is the Cat, Batman’s ally here who is known to cross over to the other side. Zoë Kravitz’s Selina Kyle aka Catwoman comes around as someone who is not much different from Batman himself and tries to ease the tension around the new superhero in town, without making it obvious that he needs her help. Needless to say, the film takes place in Batman’s second year as a superhero, and the way Robert Pattinson portrays inexperience takes the character to a whole new level.

Director Matt Reeves must be congratulated for doing an excellent job as the captain of the ship, for had he leaned on the past, he might have remained stuck in the past. He chose not to take any help from the DC Extended Universe and came up with his own version of Batman, one who likes to solve crimes, stay away from the media and keep the city safe. His approach is neither like Christopher Nolan nor does it remind the audience of Zack Snyder, because his Batman is young, his Batman is inexperienced, and his Batman is on a learning curve. The only thing he is sure of is that if he is able to control the grime, the crime in the city will go down.

Both Bruce Wayne and Batman are blokes with a personality that is scarred from the inside, neither likes to go out and socialise and don’t have many friends. This world of Batman is dark, and that’s why most of the movie is shot in the dark; one can even remember the scenes in broad daylight on their fingertips. Kudos to Greig Fraser’s cinematography who keeps the focus on what the director wants the audience to see, and not what the audience would like to see.

Among the performers, the biggest winner here is Robert Pattinson who has shed his identity as the ‘Twilight’ guy and will now be known as The Batman, for many years. Most of the Batman fans who didn’t approve of his selection are now eating their words, for Robert Pattinson gives the kind of performance that would have made Bob Kane, the creator of Batman proud. He is what every kid visualises when they think of the Dark Knight, and one sight of him is enough to make bad guys tremble.

While it may seem odd that Batman has time to romance with Zoë Kravitz’s Catwoman, it is not out of character. She is shown as a desirable woman who has an effect on men; the way she manages to ‘flex’ her body makes her the perfect Catwoman, although it would be hard to make the audience forget Michelle Pfeiffer and Anne Hathaway after just one performance. As for The Riddler, Paul Dano doesn’t look the part at all when he is unmasked, but when the mask is on, the game is on. Not looking the part makes him more dangerous than any other actor who has taken the mantle of The Riddler. Thankfully, he makes the viewers forget the terrible Jim Carrey in Batman Forever who played himself rather than the character he was supposed to play!

You can’t forget Jeffrey Wright’s Commissioner Gordon who has just one scene where he delivers the kind of performance associated with him; in other scenes, he plays second fiddle to the Bat, just like in the comics and previous books. It was nice to see an African American in the character instead of veterans like Pat Hingle or JK Simmons, who might be good actors but weren’t Gary Oldman, so far, the best Gordon to partner Batman. Andy Serkis’ youngish Alfred could have been more impactful, but he fell in the same line as Michael Gough’s version, who may have done the highest number of films but wasn’t as impactful as Michael Caine or even Jeremy Irons.

The one actor who surprises all with his performance besides RP is Colin Farrell, the yesteryear hunk who transforms into the master villain in such a way that not even his ardent fans would be able to pick him easily. He walks like the Penguin, he looks like the Penguin, and he behaves like the Penguin of Batman’s initial years when he was nothing but Carmine Falcone’s henchman. Talking of the boss, John Turturro might have fewer scenes than others but the impact he leaves is enough to make you fall in love with his interpretation of the character. Being part Italian helped him, but being a brilliant actor came to his aid more than his ancestry.

No review or analysis of the movie could be complete without mentioning Michael Giacchino’s outstanding background score, especially the one that follows Batman around. Be it on an orchestra or even guitar strings, that tune adds a haunting feel to the flick without trying hard. It is there when Batman makes his entry, his exit and everyone in between where he fights the bad guys, the corrupt cops, and even his friend who wants to take matters into her own hands.

There is more to The Batman than meets the eye, for there is an election going on, a police commissioner is to be replaced and corruption is to be curbed. One film wouldn’t have been enough for Matt Reeves, and although The Batman was launched as a standalone film, it will have sequels without any doubt. Yes, it will be followed by Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck’s appearances in DC Universe, but there is no doubt that Robert Pattinson is the new Batman. He has done an extremely good job, and comes as an amalgamation of both Christian Bale and Ben Affleck, in a good way.

Omair Alavi – BOL News

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Omair Alavi