Piako Post

RPatz a shining light in gloomy Batman reset


It was said in 1989 that Tim Burton and Michael Keaton’s re-invention of Batman had forever made Adam West and the 1960s TV show redundant.

And, in 2005, Christophe­r Nolan’s and Christian Bale’s brooding and wholly unexpected Batman Begins surely, in turn, made Keaton and Co look as camp and ridiculous as the TV show had seemed to the generation before.

So, when the reviews are in, the fan forums have had their say and there is nothing left to do except count the receipts and vacuum the popcorn from the carpet, will we say the same about what Matt Reeves and Robert Pattinson have achieved here – that they have made Nolan and Bales’ films into artefacts – and that this is the new, true Bat? Well, maybe.

What follows might be a mild spoiler, but it’ll be common news soon. The Batman plays out like a thought experiment. And that thought was, ‘‘What if David Fincher’s Se7en was re-staged as a superhero/supervilla­in movie?’’

Fincher’s 1995 noir has been an immensely influentia­l film for many years. It has been imitated, seldom bettered and raised the bar forever on just how gritty and tough-to-watch a police thriller could be.

Reeves sets The Batman in a world that is explicitly a homage to the unnamed city of Se7en. Reeves’ Gotham is a place of perpetual night, constant rain, grimy clubs and a subterrane­an river of sleaze that turns the most optimistic citizens into weary cynics.

Like Fincher’s city, Gotham is a place where the cops range from corrupt to mostly disinteres­ted in anything except a pay-cheque and a pension.

Into this melange of bad people doing bad things comes a serial killer. He is preying on the elite, especially those connected to a bust from a decade earlier, that allegedly put a dent in organised crime in Gotham, but – in reality– seems to have just driven it a little further undergroun­d.

Jeffrey Wright’s good-cop James Gordon and Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne/Batman are in no way the Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt of The Batman, but the story that unfolds and the settings in which it does so, are a palpable and enjoyable nod to Fincher’s film.

I was expecting to see many things, but a blunt salute to a 27-year-old classic was not one of them. It makes me wince to think that somewhere in a dusty recess of Reeves’ laptop, there could be a draft of the script in which Zoë Kravitz’s head finishes up in a box in a courier van.

Any Batman film comes preloaded with expectatio­ns. This film at least manages to avoid showing us Thomas and Martha Wayne being gunned down in an alley. But it does allude to the crime and eventually the plot begins to revolve around the much vexed question of who did it – and why.

Likewise, Alfred the butler, one or a few from an establishe­d bench of villains and a selection of Gotham’s best-known criminals must all feature.

Andy Serkis is perfect here as Alfred, continuing the nice exsoldier toughness that Michael Caine establishe­d so well.

John Turturro is reliable, if a little restrained, as Uber-villain Carmine Falcone, with an unrecognis­able Colin Farrell as The Penguin – played like a slightly fantastica­l out-take from Robert De Niro’s Al Capone in

The Untouchabl­es.

Pattinson is, yes, absolutely superb, managing to locate his Batman somewhere other than in Christian Bale’s shadow. Which is, itself, a hell of an achievemen­t.

So I think this was my problem with The Batman. Until the finale turned up, we had sat through a ponderous, but quite well thoughtthr­ough detective movie. It recalls Chinatown, of all things, but shot with a Se7en aesthetic. But the big set pieces feel tacked on, muddled and underwhelm­ing. A superhero film needs to send you out into the night fizzing at what you have just seen. But the best moments in The Batman all occur in the first and second hours, not in the last 15 minutes, where a few of them surely needed to be.

The Batman looks and sounds fantastic: Australian cinematogr­apher Greig Fraser is as good a shooter as anyone in the world. He made his feature debut right here in New Zealand, on Rob Sarkies’ sublime Out Of The Blue (2006). In the last two years, he has lensed both this and Dune.

Listen, The Batman is a solid outing for DC. But, by focusing on the early, comic-book detective iteration of Batman, it sacrifices some of the potential fun of the character. And when the film manages to be fun, it falls out of step with the film that Reeves seems to want to make.

Looking back over the last trilogy and whatever the hell the three films that came after Burton’s Batman were, I still reckon the only film that got the balance exactly right was Nolan’s Batman Begins. But The Batman is a brave thrash at a re-set. Love it or not, I’m glad it’s here.

The Batman

is now screening in cinemas nationwide.

 ?? ?? Robert Pattinson is absolutely superb, managing to locate his Batman somewhere other than in Christian Bale’s shadow. Which is, itself, a hell of an achievemen­t.
Robert Pattinson is absolutely superb, managing to locate his Batman somewhere other than in Christian Bale’s shadow. Which is, itself, a hell of an achievemen­t.

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