Justice League The Batman

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

The Batman
dir Matt Reeves
scr Matt Reeves, Peter Craig
prd Dylan Clark, Matt Reeves
with Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, Colin Farrell, John Turturro, Andy Serkis, Peter Sarsgaard, Con O'Neill, Alex Ferns, Rupert Penry-Jones, Barry Keoghan
release US/UK 4.Mar.22
22/UK Warners 2h55

kravitz dano wright
See also:
Batman vs Superman (2016) Justice League (2017)

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The Batman
A beefy, stylised approach and committed performances make this take on the Dark Knight worth a look, even if the film fails to break out of the usual cliched lack of light and colour. Filmmaker Matt Reeves creates an intriguingly gritty tone, hinting at a noir mystery that never quite coalesces but gives the actors some gristle to chew on. Even so, a relentless murkiness undermines the story's impact.
Gotham is gripped by a crime wave during a mayoral campaign, so millionaire Bruce Wayne (Pattinson) offers vigilante justice, keeping lawbreakers in a state of fear by lurking in the shadows as his bat alter-ego. Then the masked Riddler (Dano) starts bumping off corrupt city officials, engaging the Batman in a series of gruesome puzzles. Working with Detective Gordon (Wright) to stop the Riddler, Bruce links the killings to a massive conspiracy while also becoming entangled with the cat-like Selina (Kravitz) as he takes on crime boss Carmine (Turturro) and the thuggish Penguin (Farrell).
An overcomplicated script includes subplots and references that stretch the running time further than was strictly necessary, while leaving threads dangling and characters underdeveloped. Almost everyone in this story is either a villain or an antihero, which adds plenty of weight and nuance to pull the audience in. It's an ambitious style of storytelling that allows Reeves' skilful direction to amp up the emotional stakes in ways far more involving than the twists in the plot. So it's frustrating that the constant nighttime and whispered dialog feel so gimmicky.

Pattinson gives Bruce a soulful intelligence that makes him surprisingly engaging for such a sulking loner. Even in his unnecessarily restrictive costume, he conveys both deeper personal issues and a knowing perception of events around him. He also sparks some lively chemistry with Kravitz, who gives Selena a nicely impulsive sense of energy. The surrounding cast adds jolts of gravitas, with Turturro providing a hint of scene-chewing glee and an unrecognisable Farrell bringing plenty of glowering menace. While Serkis is superb in an underwritten role as Alfred.

While the story's thoughtful angles hold the interest over the long running time, they also leave the action set-pieces feeling oddly irrelevant, and rainy darkness makes them incoherent. In the end the film feels offbeat and smart enough to connect with our curiosity. And its high-quality production values add intrigue to the achingly cool posturing, even if the over-serious tone and tiring visual style leave us underwhelmed. But some originality might have added appeal to non-fans.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 4.Mar.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall