A success of incarnation and undeniable aesthetics, but a scenario that struggles to rise to the same level. Review without spoilers, or almost.
After attempting to mingle Batman with the rest of the superhero populace (batman v superman and Justice League), Warner Bros. returns to the initial formula of the encapé solo, already ten years later The Dark Knight Rises. At the controls, Matt Reeves, director of Cloverfield and the last two parts of the reboot of The Planet of the Apes. Objective clean slate: exit the Burtonian carnival, the Bondian solemnity of Nolan’s Batman or the virile concern of Zack Snyder. It is a question here of dismantling the icon to keep only the essence (necessarily black), and to give him back his license as a gifted detective of which the cinema has always deprived him.
We therefore meet a blue Batman (Robert Pattinson), who has been in office for only two years. Twenty-four months walking the streets of Gotham at night to chase away the spleen of the death of his parents (which we will not see yet another time, don’t worry), and to encrust himself on the crime scenes of his only friend, the lieutenant – not yet commissioner – James Gordon. The solitary vigilante acts in the shadows and his very existence is enough to instil fear in the minds of the thugs of the city, as the second scene of the film supports it a little heavily. Revenge personified finds herself investigating a serial killer who is eliminating the powerful of Gotham one by one. And at each murder site, the mysterious Riddler leaves clues for Batman… An investigation that will put him on the trail of Selina Kyle (graceful and disturbing Zoë Kravitz) and will lead him to the slums of the city, gangrene by mafiosos Carmine Falcon (John Turturo, fantastic as godfather) and Oswald Cobblepot, alias the Penguin (Colin Farrell, unrecognizable and flamboyant).
The Batman: “We capture the inner bubbling of the character” [interview]
Obsessive jaw breaker
Built like a film noir lo-fi and bombastic at the same time, The Batman first amazes with its vision of Gotham, more alive than ever. The impeccable artistic direction gives birth to a real city, garish and disreputable, whose “reality” cannot be doubted. Robert Pattinson evolves there as an evidence, big charisma without doing too much, firmly anchored, he finds his own way without plagiarizing his predecessors. An obsessive Batman, a true vigilante, slayer between shadow and light (which is pretty much the entire film project), sublimated by the director of photography, Greig Fraser (Dunes, RogueOne, Cogan, Zero Dark Thirty…). Visually, The Batman also escapes any past cinematographic influence, Matt Reeves doubling his efforts to reinvent the myth by drinking at the source of the comics. A racy vision that unfortunately no longer quite holds when the scenario gets into the hard: the darkness evoked in interviews seems diminished despite the brutality of the action scenes, and the promise of a tortured Dark Knight is not kept. The fault, in part, of a minimalist characterization of his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, with whispered trauma, barely nourished by summary discussions with Alfred (Andy Serkis, present ten big minutes out of nearly three hours).
A clear choice on the part of Reeves, who seeks to compensate for this ghostly Bruce by focusing on the torments of Batman, and especially his personal involvement in the treasure hunt with the Riddler. Nice idea on paper, except that the investigation itself skates quickly. We expected a Zodiac or one mindhunter superheroic, but the “Batman detective” abandons the field of suspense and thriller to turn into a gimmick: the envelope hidden at the crime scene, the little enigma to decipher… The repetition of the process ends up boring and the Batman’s final interweaving in this whole affair is, to put it mildly, a disappointment.
There remains the filmmaker’s desire to confront the figures of the Dark Knight and the Riddler through a mental combat where their respective madnesses collide. A duality feverishly carried by the staging (especially the binocular shots) but which forces Batman to question his own limits. Pattinson internalizes this disorder, while Paul Dano throws it in his face, without hesitating to make crates of it. Two actors not quite in the same acting energy, as if out of order, which creates a strange impression while nourishing – implicitly – an interesting discussion on the vision of justice carried by these two characters.
More than in its demonstrations of force or its stubbornness to never resemble what preceded it, it is in these rather too rare interstices where The Batman is at its best: when he finally decides to show his hero’s inner turmoil instead of theorizing it.
The Batman, by Matt Reeves, on March 2 at the cinema. Trailer :