In Review

Film review: The Batman

The superhero movie reinvented as noir-ish detective thriller

Since 1989, five live-action Batmen have “slunk in and out” of our cinemas, said Robbie Collin in The Daily Telegraph – so you might wonder if a sixth could offer anything new. But for this latest instalment, director Matt Reeves has done something fresh and surprising: The Batman is less a superhero movie than a “sinuous” detective thriller with the plotting of a film noir. 

We meet the young reclusive Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) when his “Gotham Project” still mainly involves combating muggers and assisting a local police detective (Jeffrey Wright) in the decaying city. But that changes when the two find Gotham’s mayor battered to death with a coded message beside him. It’s from the Riddler (Paul Dano), a villain who in this film is given chilling plausibility. 

The acting is superb, said Charlotte O’Sullivan in the London Evening Standard. Pattinson’s Wayne is spoilt and immature, but also intelligent, and full of self-doubt: “Basically, Hamlet in a balaclava.” Zoë Kravitz is glorious as Catwoman, while Dano delivers a performance that is “breathtakingly” intense and nuanced. It’s one of the most audacious films of the year: I was amused, entertained, intoxicated and shocked. 

To add to the pleasure, this “darkly splendid” movie looks like a work of art, said Tom Shone in The Sunday Times, with “an enveloping mixture of roasted colours and noirish shadows”. And the action set pieces are thrillingly executed, said Christina Newland in The i Paper – among them a roaring car chase down a steamy, orange-lit highway at night. There’s some clunky over-explaining in the second half, but with its intriguing plot and hero fraught with contradictions, it should be one of the year’s “blow-your-hair-back” hits. 

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