COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – The character of Batman first appeared in May 1939 in Detective Comics Issue No. 27. On the big screen, Batman is most frequently portrayed as a vigilante, a lone dark figure fighting for justice when law enforcement has failed. We’ve never seen Batman as a detective which is ironic given those comic book origins.
The Batman, the new film from writer-director Matt Reeves starring Robert Pattinson as the Caped Crusader, brings a fresh perspective to the character by making him not just a crime fighter, but also a crime solver. In the opening scenes of the film, an influential member of Gotham City has been murdered in his home. Batman is present with law enforcement at the crime scene, reviewing forensic evidence and pointing out clues. Some of the officers grumble that he’s being treated as their equal while James Gordon (played by Jeffrey Wright) proclaims “He’s one of us, fellas. He’s one of us.”
This most recent iteration of The Dark Knight wisely begins in a world where Batman is already known to the general public. The audience doesn’t have to suffer through the fourth or fifth staging of Batman’s origin story. The murders of Bruce Wayne’s parents may be ever-present in the mind of their son, but they are blessedly absent from the big screen this time around. The creation of the costume, the Batmobile and the Bat Cave are in the past. They are simply part of Batman’s everyday world.
Writer-director Matt Reeves knows how to write a blockbuster with brains, and he knows how to film one with visual flare. From a fight scene in the dark lighted only by the muzzle flashes of machine guns to a stunning highway chase that culminates with upended big rigs and walls of fiery explosions, Reeves’ action set pieces are a cut above (way above) the average CGI superhero visuals. It’s as if Reeves knows what you expect him to do and then takes a more inventive route. The Batman should send film fans to streaming and rental sites to re-watch Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) and War for the Planet of the Apes (2017), two under-appreciated gems that likely got Reeves the gig directing this film.
The performances are uniformly excellent. John Turturro as a local mob boss proves that he would have been perfectly at home in the cast of Goodfellas. Zoe Kravitz plays Catwoman without all the campiness employed by Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry in previous films. Kravitz’s approach makes her a nice counterpart to Pattinson’s stoic, square-jawed performance which is required of every Batman. Jeffrey Wright gives my favorite performance of the film. His work as soon-to-be-commissioner Gordon grounds the film with a gritty sense of realism that’s so often lacking from comic book films.
Speaking of grittiness, it’s worth pointing out that The Batman is a very adult version of the character who populated the Saturday morning cartoons of yesteryear. The film is filled with profanity and (mostly bloodless) violence. The film has more in common with dark crime movies like Seven and Zodiac than the schtick of the Tim Burton films from the 1980’s. So parents, beware. This movie may scare the devil out of smaller children.
The final scene of the film (which I will not reveal here) lays the groundwork for a sequel. That’s certainly no surprise. What is surprising is it’s a sequel that I’m actually looking forward to.