When Matt Reeves cast Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne in 'The Batman', it was quite evident that the movie would feature Batman's early exploits as the caped crusader. However, there were mixed opinions about casting Pattinson as the dark prince of Gotham.
As soon as he appeared on the big screen and uttered "I'm vengeance" in the gruff, baritone of Batman, the audience in the theatre cheered their hearts out.
Batman's introductory sequence may take you back to Keaton's classic one. But this latest Batman, in the near three hour runtime, establishes its own original identity.
The history of Gotham is a trail of tragedies. While the city is being prepared for another election full of fake promises and consumed by corruption, history starts repeating itself.
Matt Reeves introduces a dreary and dark Gotham. All the promises of Thomas Wayne have been warped in the past 20 years by crooked politicians. The city is gripped and governed by terror, their leaders party in V.I.P. back rooms with predatory gangsters.
A masked psychopath starts killing corrupt officials to bring the city back to justice. Batman, who has just started dismantling mob leaders, gangs, and drug addicts (known as 'dropheads'), is faced with a couple of nemeses from his infamous rogues gallery. Pattinson's mission as Batman mirrors his father's ambitions, but with a more hands-on approach.
Our hero, who is less an enemy of the state and more a detective, charts a course that not only sets the tone for his coming ordeals in Gotham; but also publically challenges Bruce Wayne with an existential crisis.
Reeves does not retread the killing of Thomas and Martha in crime alley. Audiences everywhere have seen it a million times. But the billionaire orphan wears the grief and mourning palpably in every introspective sequence. It was a really naive move to use a cover of Nirvana's 'Something in the way' in the background to portray Bruce Wayne's personal complexities instead of flashbacks like every other director does. Michael Giacchino's score however saves all of it.
The movie is built on the foundation of comic references. Yet it sets itself apart distinctly as a slow-burn psychological thriller. Matt Reeves and Peter Craig's script addresses not only a city infested with crime and corruption, but also a prevailing class-based frustration through Paul Dano's Riddler.
Ironically, Riddler seeks to achieve the same ends as Batman, which may sound cliché. But it is the means that sets the two apart, one being the greatest detective in the world and his counterpoint, a textbook psychopath killer. Paul Dano delivers a splendid performance on par with Anton Chigurh in 'No Country for Old Men' and Kevin Spacey from 'Se7en'. The similarities with the real-world Zodiac Killer's methodology goes a long way in imparting that sense of menacing discomfort to the audience. Dano's performance meets the profound bar of a Batman villain set by Heath Ledger's Joker.
Now let us talk about how Robert Pattinson played the iconic role of Batman. This is Bruce's second year as Batman in Gotham. So, the challenging part for the production was developing Batman's craft in its initial phases.
Reeves' Batman is vulnerable and struggling with his own complexities and true nature. Pattinson's main credit is that he makes the iconic character his own by depicting Batman's distinctive layers. Even as Bruce Wayne, he is not a flashy playboy, Pattinson portrays the fact that Bruce Wayne is the mask; when he smiles it does not quite reach the eyes, and is quick to fade.
Many big name mainstays of Hollywood have worn the cowl over the years. Pattinson makes a suitably good case for his casting as Batman in this movie and future instalments. You may feel let down by Alfred Pennyworth's (Andy Serkis) chemistry with Bruce as the actor was given relatively short screen time. Probably in favour of Batman's interactions with Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright) and his forces which showcases Batman's investigative skills.
Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman increases the breadth of the storyline by showing how blue-collared folk feel under the elites' injustice. Her and Batman's aims align momentarily. She anchors Bruce emotionally as truly the only other person than Alfred that begins to see the orphan perpetually and metaphorically trying to save his city's soul, i.e the lives of his parents.
Colin Farrell as Penguin is fairly unrecognisable. Despite the character having relatively less impact on the plot than the Riddler, you can feel his presence in the storyline quite effectively.
Reeves took nearly three hours to develop his own Batman with all the chess pieces in the right positions. It is a balanced mixture of a heady story, action sequences and moody cinematography. Christopher Nolan's trilogy run with the dark knight has rightfully set the highest of bars for any adaptation of Gotham's protector.
Reeves has not only made an original Batman movie but also created a new Batman independent of Nolan's influence. Pattinson's Batman is not up to take down Godlike heroes or sacrifice himself for a greater good. He is someone whom people trust, fear and misunderstand in equal measure.