This week, Matt Reeves's brooding superhero epic The Batman is finally being released in the UK, nine months later than originally planned (thanks, pandemic!), and we've seen it. From Robert Pattinson's meme-worthy (but bloody brilliant) portrayal of The Dark Knight to an absolute bat-slapper of a soundtrack, we break down the six biggest talking points from the darkest on-screen portrayal of Batman yet. Let's get to it.
Robert Pattinson's Emo Batman is the take on the Dark Knight we didn't know we needed
Yes, those early press shots of Robert, eyeliner running and floppy fringe matted firmly to his head, were instant meme fodder, but his brooding, moody take on Bruce Wayne is fantastic. We don't need yet another origin story bolted around the murder of young Bruce's parents because Robert makes sure that trauma and stifled anger practically leaks out of Bruce's every pore. He's a deeply troubled, tightly wound rage-bag motivated by vengeance, and it makes every scene Robert steps into, cowled or otherwise, bristle with tension. When he does suit up, Robert carries Bats with an immense sense of physicality - he's an intimidating yet magnetic presence in every room into which he arrives, especially any featuring uneasy cops, bemused Gotham locals or goons unwittingly walking into a beating.
In fact, the whole cast is brilliant
From Zoë Kravitz's vulnerable but defiant Catwoman to Paul Dano's delightfully unhinged (and at times hella scary) Riddler, all the way through to Jeffrey Wright's beleaguered James Gordon and a quite frankly unrecognisable Colin Farrell as The Penguin, the entire cast manages to bring something fresh, interesting and vibrant to characters that we've seen on the big screen up to two or three times previously. While Dano may well get the most plaudits for making a potentially dorky character (sorry Jim Carrey) genuinely terrifying, our favourite might just be Farrell's Penguin - a seedy, smarmy gangster who feels, perhaps more than any other character here, like they were moulded by the very grime seeping through the pavements of Gotham's seedy underbelly. And on that note...
This is the best depiction of Gotham we've seen on a cinema screen
After spending much of Batman Begins lurking in Gotham's shadows, Christopher Nolan understandably opened the city up to make it feel bigger, louder and more befitting a setting for a major Hollywood blockbuster. We even got a broad daylight Bats-scraps climax in The Dark Knight Rises. Matt Reeves, however, takes things back to basics, and in doing so produces the darkest - and most compelling - vision of Gotham we've seen yet. It's dark, it's dingy, and it feels genuinely dangerous - a city constantly on the edge of chaos, where you're never more than two steps from a mugging, a gang-beating or a shop heist. It's a city that perfectly fits Robert Pattinson's Batman, and while it might not make for a fluffy afternoon watch, it certainly makes for an exciting Batman film.
The Batman is visually stunning
Batman movies need to look cool as fuck. It's as simple as that. Following in the footsteps of auteurs like Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan is no easy task, but Matt Reeves has produced a quite frankly stunning-looking film that manages to pack in a variety of visually unique and arresting settings (who knew London's Printworks venue would make for a cracking Iceberg Lounge?!), retina-singeing set pieces (a car chase between Batman and Penguin climaxes in quite possibly the coolest Batmobile visual ever), and a general flavour that feels specific to his vision of Batman while staying as true to the character as we've seen on-screen thus far. Maintaining gritty realism in a world where a man dresses up as a bat to beat on thugs has been an ongoing challenge for filmmakers, but Reeves has pulled it off with aplomb.
And it sounds bloody amazing too
If following up Nolan's groundbreaking take on the character wasn't a daunting enough challenge, The Batman also had Hans Zimmer's iconic Dark Knight score to go up against. Step forward heavyweight composer Michael Giacchino, who has previously contributed scores for the likes of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Up. His menacing, horns-and-all-blaring Batman theme is an instant classic, and he imbues the entire film with a claustrophobic sense of danger and darkness befitting of Reeves's vision for Gotham. Oh, and yes, that version of that Nirvana song is in there too, and it's great. The three-hour runtime means you may not walk out of the cinema wanting to rewatch The Batman straight away, but you'll definitely want to pump the soundtrack.
This film is as its best when avoiding classic blockbuster tropes
If there is a small downside to The Batman, it's that, for a film that spends most of its enormous runtime building a new, exciting, unique vision of Gotham and its inhabitants, it's a shame that it chooses to embrace played-out Batman themes and standard blockbuster tropes for its grand finale. That's not to say there isn't a great pay-off; a final showdown in 'Gotham Square Garden' (who knows where they filmed that...) is exciting, action-packed and a satisfying enough climax for the characters involved.
That said, Riddler's final ploy feels a little 'Supervillains 101', and the tone, pacing and manner in which the film's climax plays out feels like it could have just as easily been written into any of Nolan's films, or indeed just about any film featuring superheroes/James Bond/The Rock...you get the picture. It nowhere near dampens the film as a whole, but should Reeves decide to go more rounds and concentrate on The Batman's unique strengths, this is a take on the character that should have plenty left in the Bat-tank.
The Batman is out in UK cinemas this Friday