With a long, long, long running time, its back to GOTHAM CITY, with a new face under the cowl, some familiar baddies and a director aiming for a new vision, with a hint of Nolan and a touch of Fincher…
There was a time when a BATMAN movie felt like a huge event. Those who were around in 1989 will say it but won’t fully be able to describe just how huge Tim Burton’s film was back then when Michael Keaton’s donned the famous batsuit, an entry that spawned three sequels before Clooney and co killed it off by flashing some nipples and displaying a bat credit card as you “really can’t leave the cave without it!”.
Since Christopher Nolan brought the character back with his gritty and realistic critically acclaimed Dark Knight Trilogy. it feels that Bruce Wayne has been in our lives every month of the year. If its not Ben Affleck trying his best to win over the non Zynder fans, we have had the prequel TV Show GOTHAM and of course Bruce Wayne himself has appeared in both ARROW and the TITANS popular shows.
The problem new director Matt Reeves has is a massive one. Perhaps the biggest riddle of them all – “How do you make The Batman feel fresh?” to an audience who now know all they need to know about a man who uses his vast amount of wealth to dress up like a bat to fight off eccentric criminals during the night.
Unlike Burton whose entries in the late early 90’s more or less concentrated on the villains and their origin, Reeves decides to put the main character on the screen for most of the running time, a decision that means Bruce Wayne more or less takes a backseat for his caped crusader.
Thankfully there is no image of some white pearls falling in slow-motion down a dark alley as much like what John Watts did for Spider-Man, we join this superhero in the early stages of his crimefighting duties, with the city aware of his deeds and already an ally of the GOTHAM Police force Lt. James Gordon (Jeffery Wright).
With the booming iconic voice of Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana serving as some kind of soundtrack, Robert Patterson brings a total different dynamic to this Dark Knight. Young, reckless, unsure at times and consumed with rage, the moment he steps out of the dark to beat up some street hoods and utters “I am Vengeance!“, he immediately wins over all those who doubted that the guy from Twilight could carry off such a demanding role.
With the eye shadow in place (a first for Batman film) and bruises covering most of his body, there is a much needed vulnerability on show, a damaged human whose grief drives him to do what’s right, despite the stakes. This Batman bleeds and much like Nolan did in his interpretation, this guy is not a superhero from Krypton or from the depths of the ocean bed, but an ordinary guy who becomes a vigilante in a city that feels like the aftermath of Arthur Fleck’s antics in the different universe entry JOKER.
As always you can’t have a Batman without one of his nemeses not far from him and while there are a few of the rogue’s gallery on show with the likes of the charming and delightful take of the character of Catwoman by Zoe Kravitz which oozes chemistry with Patterson’s Bat. We also have the total unrecognizable appearance of Colin Farrell as the Penguin, a performance that makes us all excited for the planned TV Show spin off.
But its Paul Dando’s Riddler that takes centre stage, a masked psycho, heavily influenced by the true life Zodiac Killer who is more than happy to murder his targets while leaving a riddle behind, a far cry for a character once played by Frank Gorshin and Jim Carrey, a nasty thug who hides in the shadows, stalking his prey and creating enough horror moments that will make the little ones watching, squirm underneath their cushion. Yes there will be comparison’s to Heath Ledger and rightly so, but Dando does more than enough to make his take on a beloved villain memorable one.
This hero among the bad guys are placed in one of the best looking GOTHAM CITYS on record. A vast area of pulp imagery with the smell of decay in the air, a place where corruption is rife and a caped crusader awaits. Yes, the film is way too long and for all its hard attempt not to make it feel like a superhero film, the climax does revert to the usual big spectacular set-piece, but at its heart this is a detective story in which you wouldn’t be surprised if Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman turned up half way through asking “what’s in the box?”.
Not quite an origin story but for Reeve’s Begins, its a stunning introduction that surpasses what Nolan first brought to the franchise but does leave us with one riddle in that can the inevitable sequel match the power and the quality The Dark Knight managed to pull off way back in 2008?
Its a burning question that we can’t wait for it to be answered in a few years time….
4 HATCHETS OUT OF 5