Do we need another Batman film? Probably not, the caped DC comics crusader has graced screens small and large numerous times since the 1940s. But do we WANT another Batman film? Absolutely, and this new, highly anticipated adaptation helmed by Matt Reeves comes with huge expectations. Christopher Nolan directed what's now considered not only possibly the best Batman films, but the one of the best modern film trilogies ever with his take on the Dark Knight. Ben Affleck wore the cowl for Zack Snyder in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, but it's been a while since we've seen good old Bruce Wayne on the big screen.
This time, it's Robert Pattinson who dons the cowl and cape. The film follows Batman as he attempts to uncover the truth within Gotham as a terrifying new villain called The Riddler terrorises the city by murdering high-ranking officials. Selina Kyle (Zoë Kravitz) becomes entangled in the mess after her friend goes missing and the pair join forces to fight the crime and mayhem in Gotham.
Reeves' The Batman doesn't exactly cover any new ground in terms of storytelling or the narrative. It's on one hand a very classic take on Batman as a character, but, curiously, there's not much room here for Bruce Wayne. The story is inherently about Batman becoming a hero, but the most interesting conflict has always been within Wayne himself as he struggles between his two identities and that is completely missing from the film. Pattinson does a fine enough job, but at times, filmmaking choices around him push his performance to appear silly rather than the intended brooding effect. This might be moodiest iteration of the man of the bat, but Pattinson's performance becomes one-note in its broodiness, especially since we only glimpse at Wayne without the batsuit, which is a pretty cool suit by the way.
The star of the film is The Riddler. Paul Dano crafts The Riddler into an iconic, genuinely terrifying villain, because The Riddler feels like something from our own world. Villains in comic book films have been hit and miss, largely due to them being supernatural or fantastical in a way that never feels real nor threatening enough. They're all spectacle, but The Riddler could easily be lurking on the online forums of our own time. Colin Farrell is less well utilised in a surprisingly small role as The Penguin. Donning a fat suit, it seems that the filmmakers could have just hired someone who actually resembles The Penguin's body type as the role just isn't big enough to justify such a big name.
Reeves directs The Batman with confidence. The film is visually dynamic and the violence has weight to it. It's brutal, but the effects of the violence are always felt. The other effect that is certainly felt is the runtime. At nearly 3 hours long, The Batman barely has enough narrative to sustain such a monstrous runtime. The cast is too large, too many characters come and go without meaning or making a lasting impression which leaves The Batman feeling a little aimless at times.
There is much to admire and like about The Batman, but there is also a lot left to be desired. It's a fascinating franchise opener, but much like Nolan's Batman Begins, one hopes that the best is yet to come. Reeves clearly has a lot to offer and Pattinson makes for an unusual, but fascinating Batman so all we can do is wait for the inevitable sequel to hit our screens.
The Batman is in UK cinemas March 4.