Batman, The: Matt Reeves’ Noirish Grim Reboot of the Iconic Crusader, Played with Gripping Intensity by Robert Pattinson

The Crusader is back on Gotham City’s crime-infested streets, exposing corruption in Matt Reeves’ reboot, which also features Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano and Colin Farrell.


Grade: B+ (**** out of *****)


The new Batman is a brooding genre piece with touches of personal vision from director Matt Reeves.

With his Planet of the Apes movies, Reeves showed that big studio franchise series based on iconic screen properties could be intelligent, multi-nuanced, emotionally involving—and also entertaining.

In his gripping interpretation, the superhero trappings of cape and cowl, Batmobile and cool gadgetry are folded into the noir textures of an intriguingly plotted detective story.

Led by a dazzling performance from Robert Pattinson, as the latest Dark Knight burdened with father issues, this reboot is grounded in a recognizable reality (with allusions to the present), in which political distrust breeds vigilantism.


The Batman
More balanced in its bleak realism than the 2019’s Oscar winning Joker, it’s shaped by the perspective of a hero, rather than villain.

His arc takes him from being tool of vengeance to crime-fighter, who hopes to make a difference despite daunting odds against him.


There’s excitement and thrills, notably in a chase on a bridge in which the Batmobile withstands explosions and fire.

There’s sexual tension in the allure between Pattinson’s Batman and Zoë Kravitz’s Selina Kyle, a slinky creature of the night with a rockin’ rubber fetish-wear wardrobe, and kickboxing moves.

That said, this version lacks human humor, grounded in dialogue or characterization. Edward Nashton (Paul Dano), the alienated geek accountant known as the Riddler has some witty and nasty lines.

The dour self-seriousness began in 2005 with Nolan’s Batman Begins, which is probably truer to the original DC Comics vision of creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger, and to the 1986 rejuvenation by Frank Miller.

Even when Pattinson sheds the bat drag to make rare public appearance as reclusive billionaire Bruce Wayne, he still looks too serious.

Even so, this tale of crime and punishment is meticulously crafted, vividly inhabited storytelling with a coherent, thought-through vision.

Reeves and co-writer Peter Craig have decided not to rehash the origin story, or to continue with the DC Extended Universe explored by Zack Snyder.

For once, Batman is a more psychologically compelling character than his nemeses. He even moves differently as he materializes out of the shadows, slow and purposeful.

The action starts more than a year after he has begun stalking the Gotham streets and pulverizing felons. The bat signal is already in use in the sky to call for his assistance, but Batman remains an enigma in a city falling apart after two decades of violent crime.

His sole law-enforcement ally is the future Commissioner Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), here still a lieutenant in police force rife with corruption.

The arresting opening unfolds to “Ave Maria,” with an unseen figure watching through binoculars as the young son and wife of Mayor Don Mitchell Jr. (Rupert Penry-Jones) step out on Halloween night while he stays behind, glued to news coverage of the election race in which he’s up against progressive candidate Bella Reál (Jayme Lawson).

An intruder in the room in a combat mask and army surplus gear dispatches the Mayor with a blunt instrument. When police arrive at the scene they find the dead politician with his face wrapped in duct tape scrawled with the words, “No More Lies.” A note attached to the corpse addressed to the Batman identifies the killer as the Riddler, providing a cryptic clue to future assassinations.

The glance exchanged at the first crime scene between Batman and the Mayor’s son (Archie Barnes) evokes painful history, given that Bruce Wayne lost his parents at a similar age. But the integrity of his father, Thomas Wayne (Luke Roberts), is called into question later in the movie as the Riddler reveals ties to the past that explain his obsession with the Batman. He decrees that it’s retribution time for “the sins of the fathers.”

The murderer directs Batman and Lt. Gordon to the Mayor’s mistress Annika (Hana Hrzic), a waitress at the Iceberg Lounge. That nightclub and drug distribution hub is owned by mob boss Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) and run by his sleazy stooge Oz (Colin Farrell), who will become the Penguin.

Gotham’s rich and powerful meet in VIP club, called 44 Below. It’s there that Batman first encounters Selina, who has her own father issues and her own score to settle.

The plotting is less invested in following the standard superhero model than in spinning a detective yarn, pumping up intrigue about the identity of a stoolpigeon instrumental in taking down Falcone’s chief underworld rival while raising questions about the misuse of the $1 billion City Renewal Fund endowed by Thomas Wayne.

The Riddler’s manipulation of online conspiracy theorists to build a fanatical following to help execute his fiendish plan to bring Gotham to its knees, which feels all too real. Reeves is savvy about tapping into the anger festering in the aggrieved margins of contemporary America, and Dano makes a creepy instigator for that flock of insurgents, a seething incel with the smarts and tech skills to wreak havoc. That the Riddler’s charges of corruption are legit doesn’t make him any less evil.

As Reeves showed in War for the Planet of the Apes, the director is skilled at shifting between genres, which explains why the final act to morph into disaster-movie action, with large-scale destruction.

For all its seriousness about the threat to lawful democracy, however, it’s the film’s intimate moments, manifest in the human interactions, which are the movie’s most resonant moments.

The interludes between Batman and Selina explore the intersections and the divergences in their respective ideas of justice.

And the surrogate father role of Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler and chief advisor, Alfred (Andy Serkis), is conveyed in a moving hospital scene after he is injured.

The archvillains Catwoman and the Penguin are represented only in their embryonic stages. But in the case of Kravitz’s hardened Selina, the attention to character adds to the pixie cut and the white claw manicure.

Farrell will have more to do in coming installments, when there’s less standing in the way of Oz’s hunger for power.

Another unmistakable superstar from Batman’s gallery is introduced in shadowy cameo near the end, indicating major role in the next movie.

Pattinson plays the dual role as a sorrowful man, indifferent to his wealth and aware of his limitations–that he can do only so much to reverse the course of a society that’s incredibly and incurably rotten and corrupt

That makes his moral and physical resilience in the climactic action more stirring. It’s also refreshing to see a Batman who doesn’t just walk away unharmed from every scrape, but takes knocks and feels the hurt. He is even allowed to show human feelings of anxiety ant of fear as he activates his wing-suit and prepares to leap off the roof of Gotham police headquarters.

Following his spectacular work on Dune, cinematographer Greig Fraser gives the film a moody look to match Batman’s tortured soul.

Production designer James Chinlund impressively weaves together elements from real cities and sets to form a Gotham that resembles New York while establishing its own gothic identity, defined by allure, menace, and mystery.

The intricate use of sound is key to the film’s immersive effect, and so is the score by Michael Giacchino, in its incorporation of specific themes for Batman and Selina, as well as the use of pre-existing music ranging from classical pieces to Nirvana.



Release date: Friday, March 4


Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Colin Farrell, Paul Dano, John Turturro, Andy Serkis, Peter Sarsgaard, Barry Keoghan, Jayme Lawson
Director: Matt Reeves
Screenwriter: Matt Reeves, Peter Craig, based on characters from DC, created by Bob Kane with Bill Finger

Rated PG-13

Running time: 156 minutes