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Running time: 176 minutes
Director: Matt Reeves
Writers: Matt Reeves and Peter Craig
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Jeffrey Wright, John Turturo, Andy Serkis, and Colin Farrell.
-Singapore (3 March)
-Malaysia (3 March)
-Philippines (4 March)
Three and a half out of five stars
Batman is a character that has been interpreted and re-interpreted so many times across so many different media that at this point, it’s difficult to come up with something truly original. Even when it comes to film adaptations, we've seen Batman in so many diverse incarnations that it's hard to think of a reinterpretation of Batman that hasn't been done before. However, as this film reminds us, he's not just Batman — he's THE Batman. He's an icon, a symbol, a creature that's larger than life.
But behind that all is a man. And that's what The Batman explores.
The superhero film is the latest reboot of the Batman franchise, and it does not take place in the shared cinematic world of the DC Extended Universe (which connects other films like Wonder Woman 1984, Aquaman, and Justice League). It sees Bruce Wayne in his second year of taking on the mantle of Batman as he attempts to thwart the Riddler's plans.
Perhaps the most distinctive part of the movie is how Bruce Wayne (and thus, Batman) has been presented. He's still a billionaire, yes, but he's downright weird. You could charitably call him a goth, since he neglects to clean off his Batman makeup while in his civilian guise and generally keeps to his dark corners, flinching at sunlight. Robert Pattinson does a marvellous job of portraying this version of Batman as written by Matt Reeves and Peter Craig.
We get to see much of the film from Batman's perspective, which at times literally puts us in the driver's seat of the protagonist. This is how the film gets us to identify with Bruce Wayne — whether it be him attempting death-defying feats to escape or chasing down villains in a car chase. And to a large extent, it works.
It humanises Batman to such a degree that you're constantly reminded that he's Bruce Wayne, rather than Batman. He may seem imposing and terrifying, but he's ultimately a man in a black armoured suit with a cape. His foibles come to the fore with such intensity that you remember that he's just a human being.
But Robert Pattinson doesn't have the grizzled, chiselled look to pull these dark emotions without it seeming slightly petulant, with the end result that Batman feels like an emo boy at times rather than a scarred brooder. However, that's not to knock his acting — it's more a function of the writing and the misalignment with appearances. It's still a modern take on the character, which separates it from how Ben Affleck and Christian Bale played their characters. In both guises as a billionaire and a vigilante, Bruce Wayne is unmistakably goth.
The film has a sprawling cast of characters — the Riddler (Paul Dano), the Penguin (Colin Farrell), Catwoman (Zoë Kravitz), James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), and Alfred (Andy Serkis). It's lovely to see the first instalment of a Batman film that starts with him being fairly established and already having relationships with the many characters we're familiar with. Yet the film, with its nearly three hour long runtime, doesn't really shine the spotlight on these characters with the exception of Catwoman (because she's the romantic interest). And that makes their inclusion feel like a waste, because it feels like there was so much potential to be had with all these characters in play.
Zoë Kravitz does an admirable job of portraying Catwoman as written, and she's a good fit. Again, it's not so much Kravitz's performance that leaves one wanting more, but the way Catwoman is written as a character. It feels like this could have been any love interest, rather than a cat-themed femme fatale. Were you to have given her a different name, she might not have been all that identifiable as Catwoman.
That raises the question — what exactly is in the 176 minutes of the film, if it doesn't quite give us a taste of the supporting characters? It focuses on Bruce Wayne, which it rightly should. It sets up the mood, it shows us how flawed he is, it tells the story properly, and it has all the typical scenes you'd expect in a Batman film. However, there's that inescapable feeling that we're being fed information we already know and expect of Batman, and that the story could really have hurried along more. I understand that this is Matt Reeves' Batman, but given the legacy of the character... perhaps just showing us the differences would have worked better, and then letting us get to know how the other supporting characters are different would have made for a more enjoyable view.
Overall, The Batman gives us a modern, different take on the character, with the cast pulling off great performances as written. However, it is lengthier than it should be and the new interpretations of Batman and his supporting cast don't quite hit the mark. Ultimately though, this will be a polarising film — either you love it or you hate it. Stay back for a post-credits scene, because even The Batman has to follow the unwritten rules of superhero movies.