The opening minutes of ‘The Batman’ are designed to shock, throwing us into the belly of the beast that is Gotham, while the visceral visuals unfold on screen in painstaking detail.
You will be uncomfortable, perhaps even look away in despair, helpless while your mind draws parallels between the horrors before you and the realities of today’s politically charged world that could burn to the ground with the mere scratch of a matchstick.
Gotham’s visage, clearly inspired by New York City, is a lawless town where mayhem awaits at every turn. Christopher Nolan and the Batman universe he created years ago were the foundation of the world that Matt Reeves has designed for his Dark Knight. Only Reeves rips off the kid gloves to go darker, bolder and, dare we say, more humane with all the supernatural elements left on the wayside to create a Batman that walks the fine line between a hero and a villain.
His actions force you to ask yourself at least once: is one man’s vengeance another man’s crusade?
There can never be a straight answer to this question, nor does Reeves want you to spend precious minutes analysing this paradox while the action is unravelling fast and intense on screen with The Riddler terrorising high profile city officials in Gotham who have been linked to a past drug bust, leaving a trail of brutal killings in his wake and breadcrumbs in the form of ciphers for Batman to decode.
Paul Dano’s Riddler is so genuinely disturbing that he even makes Jigsaw’s brutality in the ‘Saw’ movies appear like child’s play; a prelude to the kind of realism and madness he brings to the character.
With the Gotham PD racing against the clock to hunt down this serial killer, all roads ultimately lead to Robert Pattinson’s Batman. But no Caped Crusader awaits who will swoop in and save the day. For he is a wounded warrior himself, fighting off the darkness that surrounds him, with the scars on his back proving that even a superhero can bleed.
A lot has been said about Pattinson slipping on the suit, with questions being raised whether he was the right man for the job. The answer, dear fans, is a resounding yes. This Batman or Vengeance, as he calls himself, is so much more that any one of us could have envisioned him to be. His bitterness, his pain and the memories that haunt him are the fuel that keep him patrolling the streets of Gotham at night, each of which are etched in Pattinson’s every expression and body language.
The British actor has come a long way from the lovelorn teenage vampire from the ‘Twilight’ series and has gone deep inside himself to find the darkness that we see on screen. Reeves famously told Empire magazine that his Batman has been inspired by the tragic life of Kurt Cobain and it shows in the demons that drive Vengeance deep into the night to fight for justice.
Teaming up with Commissioner Jim Gordon (Jeffrey Wright), the duo desperately race against time to unmask this serial killer, with the help of an unwilling Selina Kyle (Zoe Kravitz) who plays a sassy waitress that moonlights as a cat burglar, when she isn’t playing a modern-day Robin Hood.
Kravitz and Pattinson share a great chemistry, almost engaging in a dance of two tortured souls who are afraid to be standing alone when the music stops. It’s fear what drives both of them, fear of loving and losing, of making meaningful connections in a life that has only ever taken joy away from them. Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne acknowledges this dark reality during a particularly touching scene with Andy Serkis who plays Alfred Pennyworth, a father figure to a lost little boy who remains trapped inside the grown man that is the saviour of Gotham. But even Pennyworth isn’t above reproach with each character in ‘The Batman’, dead or alive, painted in shades of grey that force you to acknowledge that life never truly plays out in black and white.
As the film’s crescendo builds, hurtling towards a taut and explosive finale, all the key players — including an unrecognisable Colin Farrell as The Penguin under all that prosthetic make-up — find their realities ripped apart with the chaos that is unleashed by the actions of one mad man.
‘The Batman’ is certainly no cub scout adventure that Marvel has trademarked through its stream of cinematic superheroes, but Farrell’s Penguin does bring a lively sense of relief to the otherwise heavy proceedings.
When you slice it down, what the audience is left with is a pulpy, noir thriller that harks back to some of the darker adventures the Caped Crusader has embarked on in the comics. And that isn’t really a bad thing going by what Reeves and Pattinson have delivered in ‘The Batman’.
Don’t miss it!
‘The Batman’ is out in UAE cinemas from March 3.